Fred Rogers (aka Mister Rogers) had a long and storied career and still-growing legacy. He has been celebrated with numerous awards and tributes, while alive and posthumously. There was an acclaimed documentary last year (Won’t You Be My Neighbor, now on HBO). This month debuts Tom Hanks in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.
Musical producer Dennis Scott sought to secure the majesty of Fred Rogers’ more than 200 songs with last year’s collection, Songs From the Neighborhood. Now he is returning to sip from that well with another compilation, Thank You, Mister Rogers. The 13 tracks on this release parallel the earlier CD, but that’s because there are essential tunes in play, such as “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” sung here by the Cowsills, the 1960s band that was the model for the TV series, The Partridge Family.
There should be a natural children’s album in the songs of Fred Rogers. Yet these two releases skew towards adult contemporary artists such as Vanessa Williams on “Many Ways to Say I Love You,” Christian vocalist Sandi Patty on “Please Don’t Think It’s Funny,” country artists Kellie Pickler “It’s Just a Good Feeling” and Lee Greenwood “When the Day Turns to Night.” I found myself needing to explain who was singing every single track to my kids, and then apologizing that 90 seconds of gentle messaging was being turned into three-minute dirges. Off the top of my head, I could come up with a laundry list of currently-recording children’s musical acts to pump some oxygen into the arrangements for this collection.
Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood is available for streaming on PBS and Netflix, but Thank You, Mister Rogers is made for people who stopped watching the show more than a generation ago. It’s hard to fathom another reason Rita Wilson is attached to the project other than her relation to Tom Hanks and his upcoming film – she’s not exactly a top tier performer in the children’s music genre. The rationale is easier with Mickey Dolenz – The Monkees were at one point contemporaries of Mr. Rogers, and Mickey vocalizes the best selection, “Perfectly Beautiful Day,” which doesn’t overstay its welcome. If you want to share your memories of Mister Rogers, the website acts as a fan site as well. So give your thanks there, and find samples of the songs as well.
Here is a short teaser video of the Cowsills singing “Won’t You Be My Neighbor”: