The Free Design
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|The Free Design|
|Origin||Delevan, New York, United States|
|Genres||Sunshine pop, baroque pop|
|Years active||1967–1972, 2000–2001|
|Labels||Project 3, Ambrotype, Marina, Light in the Attic|
|Past members||Chris Dedrick (deceased)
Stefanie Dedrick (deceased)
The Free Design was a Delevan, New York-based vocal group whose music can be described as sunshine pop and baroque pop. Though they did not achieve much commercial recognition during their main recording career, their work later influenced bands including Stereolab, Cornelius, Pizzicato Five, Beck and The High Llamas.
The members were all members of the Dedrick family: Chris Dedrick (12 September 1947–6 August 2010), sister Sandy and brother Bruce were the original lineup. Chris Dedrick wrote most of the songs. Younger sister Ellen joined the group later, and youngest sister Stefanie (1952–1999) joined near the end of their initial career. Their father, Art, was a trombonist and music arranger. Their uncle Rusty Dedrick was a jazz trumpeter with Claude Thornhill and Red Norvo. They formed the band while living in New York City. Chris has said the group was influenced by vocal groups like The Hi-Los (who performed in Greenwich Village frequently at the time) along with Peter, Paul and Mary and the counterpoint experiments of Benjamin Britten. Their trademark sound involved complex harmonies, jazz-like chord progressions, and off-beat time signatures, all products of Chris's classical training.
The band released seven albums from 1967 to 1972, the first six on Enoch Light's Project 3 label and the last one, There is a Song, on the Ambrotype label. For the most part, they were accompanied on the albums by studio musicians.
After the band's breakup in 1972, Chris Dedrick recorded a solo album, Be Free, which went unreleased until 2000. He moved to Toronto, Canada, where he became a music producer, arranger, and a classical and soundtrack composer. He worked with directors Guy Maddin and Don McKellar, winning a Genie Award for Maddin's The Saddest Music in the World, and he made music for the Ray Bradbury Theater TV-series. In 1997 Dedrick won a Gemini Award for his work on the television series Road to Avonlea. Chris was nominated a total of 16 times for Gemini awards, winning a total of four, the others for Million Dollar Babies, Shipwreck on the Skeleton Coast and The Great Canadian Polar Bear Adventure. He won a SOCAN award for Tripping the Wire and a Hot Docs award, also for Shipwreck on the Skeleton Coast.
Starting in 1976, Chris, Sandy and Ellen became the core members of The Star-Scape Singers, a classical vocal ensemble led by Dr. Kenneth G. Mills. Chris Dedrick also served as the group's main composer. The group performed and toured extensively throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
Revival of interest and later years
During their career, The Free Design never gained the commercial success they, and their small fan-base, felt they deserved. This plight was noted lyrically in their 1969 song "2002 - A Hit Song", in which they describe how to create a hit, then continue, "there's just one fact that we can't quite shirk/ we did all this last time, and it did not work." They remained in obscurity after disbanding in 1972. Starting in the mid-90s, however, interest in them began to grow as part of a general resurgence of interest in easy listening and sunshine pop from the 60s and 70s. In 1994, Japanese musician Cornelius reissued the Free Design catalog on his "Trattoria" label. In 1997, the band Tomorrow's World covered their song "Kites Are Fun", and in 1998, the Spanish "Siesta" label put out four compilation albums of their music. Stereolab, whose lounge-inspired music clearly showed a Free Design influence, named a 1999 single "The Free Design" (though the song itself had no direct connection to the band). The Free Design song "Bubbles" was covered by Dressy Bessy on the 2000 Powerpuff Girls soundtrack, and performed live by LA power-pop band Wondermints in the late 1990s.
Perhaps inspired by this newfound interest, in 2000 the band re-grouped, after a nearly 30-year retirement, to record the song "Endless Harmony" on the Beach Boys tribute album Caroline Now!. This experience convinced them to record a new full-length album, 2001's Cosmic Peekaboo, which featured the original lineup (Chris, Sandy and Bruce) in addition to Rebecca Pellett, who had previously been Chris Dedrick's musical assistant for several years.
In 2001 the label Cherry Red released a Best of Free Design compilation. The Free Design song "I Found Love" was included on the 2002 Gilmore Girls soundtrack. From 2002 to 2005, the original albums were reissued in the United States by the Light in the Attic label. In 2005, the label put out The Now Sound Redesigned, an album of Free Design remixes from established acts like Stereolab, Super Furry Animals and Peanut Butter Wolf.
Stefanie Dedrick died on April 5, 1999, from the effects of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Chris Dedrick died on August 6, 2010, from cancer, aged 62. According to a message posted on his official site by his wife Moira, Dedrick died “after a week of increasing radiance, yet with rapid physical decline.”[dead link]
In popular culture
The song "Love You" is featured during the credits of the film Stranger Than Fiction (2006) and at the very end of season four on the Showtime hit, Weeds. It is also the theme song to the podcast Jordan, Jesse, Go!.
"Love You" was also featured in TV commercials for Peters Drumstick ice creams in Australia (2007), "Smil" chocolate in Norway (2008)[link to commercial], Toyota (2009), "Cosmote" in Greece (2009), DC's second "Progression" short (2010), in Toyota adverts internationally (2009/2010), and in an animated feature Julius and Friends' episode "I Love You" by Paul Frank Industries.
The song "I Found Love" can be found on Our Little Corner of the World: Music from Gilmore Girls. The song plays as the start of "Sadie, Sadie" (Season 2, Episode 1), and it also features the series Weeds as the ending theme in episode 13th Season 4th.
The song "Kites are Fun" was used as the theme music to the Irish comedy TV show Your Bad Self in 2010.
- Kites Are Fun (1967)
- You Could Be Born Again (1968)
- Heaven/Earth (1969)
- Stars/Time/Bubbles/Love (1970)
- ...Sing for Very Important People (1970)
- One By One (1971)
- There is a Song (1972)
- Cosmic Peekaboo (2001)
- The Now Sound Redesigned (2005)