Fred Rogers, the iconic childrens’ television star who appeared on the show “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” for nearly half a century, is being honored with a musical tribute album by such artists as Kellie Pickler, Vanessa Williams and Monkee Micky Dolenz.
The musical tribute celebrates a special side of the man known as “America’s Favorite Neighbor.” The album, Thank You, Mister Rogers: Music & Memories, will be available on October 25th. Rogers died in 2003 at age 74.
“I watched the show with my child, Amy; he made little kids feel safe and happy and warm and fuzzy,” says Dolenz in a new promo for the album.
Dolenz sings the debut single, “Perfectly Beautiful Day,” one of more than 200 from the Mr. Rogers catalog.
“It’s very typical of him and his personality and his show,” the actor, television star and musician says.
The cast also includes Rita Wilson, Lee Greenwood, The Cowsills, Jaci Velasquez, Jim Brickman, Jon Secada, Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis, Jr., Tom Bergeron, and Sandi Patty.
Wilson’s husband Tom Hanks is starring in the upcoming movie, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” about the real-life friendship between Rogers and journalist Tom Junod.
Directed by Marielle Heller based on a screenplay by Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster, the film will also star Matthew Rhys, Susan Kelechi Watson and Chris Cooper.
Rhys plays a journalist for Esquire magazine who is assigned to profile Rogers, played by Hanks.
The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last month and hits theaters in the United States on Nov 22 over the Thanksgiving holiday.
Two-time Grammy winner Dennis Scott, who produced the album, said Rogers was a gifted songwriter and understood how music could serve as an effective way to teach and share important life lessons.
“I live in Nashville. On the day I was scheduled to record Micky Dolenz, I put my bags in the car to drive to the airport. I got into the car and was only halfway down the street when I turned on the radio and guess what was playing? “Last Train to Clarksville.” If that wasn’t a sign, I don’t know what is,” he said.
The album’s arrival also ushers in “Thank You, Mister Rogers Month,” set aside to honor Fred’s legacy by encouraging people to act on his simple but eloquent message: “Be kind.”
Rogers wrote more than 200 of the songs for his PBS television show, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year.
The album was originally going to include both music and interviews with Mister Rogers fans. But because so many artists wanted to be part of the project, it became clear that Fred’s music needed to be the main focus.
The album includes some surprises, Cuban-born pop artist Secada sings in Spanish on the tune “Won’t You Be My Neighbor.”
Wilson sings “Sometimes People Are Good,” a sentiment also reflected in Hanks’ on screen portrayal of Fred.
“Mister Rogers’ melody and lyrics are beautifully integrated together. His words of kindness, acceptance, and peace are a classic message,” she says.
David Newell, who portrayed Mr. McFeely on the show, describes the eclectic and joyful nature of the album:
“Each song in this collection is different from the other…and each singer has made it their own. Fred would be delighted to know that his music lives on to new generations,” he says.
Bergeron is the album’s host and narrator.
“I learned that not only did Tom enjoy singing, but he is an outstanding whistler. So at the session we tried having him do a jazz flavored whistling solo. Everyone liked it so much that it became the centerpiece of the song,” says Scott.
Mister Rogers fans are invited to submit their own happy memories of the show and Fred’s music at a special Web site, Thank You Mr. Rogers.
Check out the videos below, let us know your thoughts and be sure to follow The New York Independent.