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Music / The Free Design

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"Give a little time for the child within you
Don't be afraid to be young & free
Undo the locks and throw away the keys and
take off your shoes & socks and run, you."
—"Love You"

Most fans agree that if ever there was a group that's never truly gotten their due, it's the Free Design, a jazz-influenced sunshine pop/baroque pop band that formed in 1966. All the members were brothers and sisters from the Dedrick family, originally formed by Sandy, Bruce and Chris. It wasn't until later that younger sister Ellen joined the group, and Stefanie joined late in the band's initial run. Their debut single was the title song from their debut album, Kites Are Fun, and it would be the band's highest charting single at #114. They made numerous appearances on The Tonight Show, The Merv Griffin Show and Captain Kangaroo.

Although they had a difficult time making much of a commercial impact during their career, and remained in obscurity for some time after they hung it up in 1972, the group and their very rich vocal harmonies proved surprisingly influential over the years. Chris, Ellen, Bruce and Sandy got back together for one more album in 2001. By that time, Chris Dedrick had won various awards in Canada from providing the score to Canadian film and TV soundtracks. Stefanie passed away in 1999, and Chris succumbed to cancer in 2010.

The mostly a capella "Love You" from Sings For Very Important People has been included in the credits of Stranger Than Fiction as well as the show Weeds.

Their discography includes:

  • Kites Are Fun (1967)
  • You Could Be Born Again (1968)
  • Heaven/Earth (1969)
  • Sings For Very Important People (children's album) (1970)
  • Stars/Time/Bubbles/Love (1970)
  • One By One (1972)
  • There Is A Song (1972)
  • Cosmic Peekaboo (2001)
  • The Now Sound Redesigned (remix album) (2005)

The Free Design provide examples of:

  • Album Title Drop: Prominent in the title track from Kites Are Fun.
  • Band of Relatives: The Dedrick brothers and sisters.
  • Baroque Pop: What seems at first like cutesy 60s pop actually has a lot of complex chord progressions and lavish production. They did emerge during the Summer Of Love, after all, and the ambition of the hippie era encouraged a lot of musical adventurousness.
  • Christmas Songs: Released a pair of original songs on a 1968 single: "Christmas is the Day" and "Close Your Mouth (It's Christmas)".
  • Cover Version: "Summertime" from Porgy and Bess, "Light My Fire" by The Doors, "Happy Together" by The Turtles, "California Dreamin'" by The Mamas & the Papas, "Eleanor Rigby" and "Michelle" by The Beatles, the theme song from Sesame Street... yeah, quite a few.
  • Epic Rocking: "Friends (Thank You All)."
  • Genre Mashup: Sunshine pop that occasionally dips into folk and smooth jazz (you can hear the latter especially on their reunion album, Cosmic Peekaboo).
  • Greatest Hits Album: There's a couple of them floating around out there.
  • Putting the Band Back Together: Originally they reunited just for a tribute album to The Beach Boys, but they stuck around long enough to record one last record, Cosmic Peekaboo.
  • Vocal Tag Team: Among the finest of their time.