40 Years On, 'Free To Be' Still Resonates

Actress Marlo Thomas has been gracing television screens since the 1960s and earned a Golden Globe for her role on That Girl in 1966. i i

Actress Marlo Thomas has been gracing television screens since the 1960s and earned a Golden Globe for her role on That Girl in 1966. Jemal Countess/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Jemal Countess/Getty Images
Actress Marlo Thomas has been gracing television screens since the 1960s and earned a Golden Globe for her role on That Girl in 1966.

Actress Marlo Thomas has been gracing television screens since the 1960s and earned a Golden Globe for her role on That Girl in 1966.

Jemal Countess/Getty Images
Free to Be ... You and Me features such celebrities as Alan Alda, Diana Ross and Harry Belafonte.

Free to Be ... You and Me features such celebrities as Alan Alda, Diana Ross and Harry Belafonte. Free To Be Foundation hide caption

itoggle caption Free To Be Foundation

The children's album Free To Be... You and Me was the brainchild of Emmy-winning actress Marlo Thomas and a bevy of celebrity friends, from Michael Jackson to Rosey Grier, all the way to Carol Channing and Harry Belafonte.

It contained stories, skits and songs that were not your typical children's fare. On it, a football player sang a ballad titled "It's Alright to Cry." Another track featured a long-overdue explanation that housework isn't fun for anyone — mothers, fathers or children.

Forty years after its release, the album, with its themes of gender neutrality and individuality, is still a favorite among parents. Thomas talks with NPR's Rachel Martin about the record's staying power.


Interview Highlights

On the surprising success of the album

"When we were making the album, we figured we were making a little kid's album, and the record company told us we'd be lucky to sell 15,000 copies. And of course the record went gold and platinum and everything, and it's phenomenal, actually."

On the importance of the song "William's Doll"

"So many men have come up to me through the years and said that song really helped them when they were growing up, that it really made them feel they were going to be OK — that song and "It's Alright to Cry" because every boy should be allowed to pick up a doll if he wants to. Every boy should be able to cry if he wants to."

On whether the ideals in the album have been realized today

"They've been realized for those children who are allowed to have them realized. There are still children whose parents may not believe they are free to be whoever they want to be. I mean, if every child was free to be who they wanted to be, then there wouldn't be gay children killing themselves. The whole point is that we don't seem to have completely grasped the idea that every single boy and girl can be whoever they want to be."

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