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Chris Dedrick (1947-2010)

Chris Dedrick was the leader of the New York sibling pop group the Free Design in the 1960s. The Free Design didn't have any big hits, even though they put out a string of excellent pop albums with famous producer Enoch Light, but there was a resurgence of interest in the band's sound in the last decade or so. When their albums were re-released by Light in the Attic Records starting in 2003, I picked them up on a hunch, never having heard the band. The Free Design made an immediate and lasting impact on me with their jazzy but innocent pop songs, bolstered by Enoch Light's immaculate production. I blame the Free Design for my continuing obsession with 60s vocal pop and sunshine pop in particular - in the last week, I've picked up albums by Jan & Dean, Harpers Bizarre, the Mojo Men, and Chad & Jeremy - groups I wouldn't have gotten into without the music of Chris Dedrick. But nothing else is quite like the music of the Free Design. Chris Dedrick was the group's main composer, arranging clever melodies and intricate harmonies for his siblings to sing. The youthful themes and kookiness gave the band a unique perspective as well - songs like "Kites Are Fun", "Daniel Dolphin", "You Could Be Born Again", and "Close Your Mouth (It's Christmas)" come from a unique place, perhaps a reflection of a family culture that the close-knit Dedrick siblings had created together. By the time that the Free Design parted ways in 1972, Chris Dedrick had relocated to Canada, where he continued to work in music, eventually becoming an award-winning composer of film and TV scores. Among his best work is the score to Guy Maddin's excellent movie The Saddest Music in the World. Today, Dedrick's influence can be heard in the music of groups from the Super Furry Animals to Stereolab, and his music can be heard in a variety of locales the band never would have dreamed of in 1967 - for example, the children's show Yo Gabba Gabba (a favorite at my house) has featured several different Free Design songs. The Free Design CDs are mostly out of print at this point, but Light in the Attic Records has them on LP, and high-quality downloads are readily available as well. They are worth tracking down. Dedrick was 62 when he passed away August 6, 2010 at his home in Canada. From Wires and Waves, Nathan J.

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