Mill Valley Music Redux

August 27th, 2007 at 11:11 pm
I have a vinyl copy w/original jacket of “Miss Abrams and the 4th Grade Class of Strawberry Point School,” and I wouldn’t take anything for it! I am so proud of it! It wasn’t easy to come by. You and the kids were just wonderful! Where are the kids now–so many years later? Do you still teach?

I play the album occasionally, just to remind myself of simpler times in bygone days! Thanks for a wonderful album!

Betty, a retired teacher/counselor

This lovely piece of prose appears on Tom McMahon’s website

And here’s Rita Abrams in March 2000 reminiscing about her time in the spotlight 30 years earlier:

Then began a storm of disc jockey calls to the school (“Is there really a Strawberry Point School?” “is there really a teacher named Miss Abrams?”). The secretary had a field day, bouncing into the classroom: ‘Washington’s on the phone…long distance from Miami…CANADA’S calling!” Followed by Newsweek, Life Magazine and Rolling Stone. Annie Liebowitz stood on top of the piano to take our picture.

JELLO called for us to do a commercial. And I refused, because it would have been everything crass and commercial for us – a real class and a real teacher – to get up there on national TV advertising a product (and one that had sugar in it, no less). The Steve Allen Show called, The Smothers Brothers (my brother took me to the studio, and there was his idol, Little Richard, on the same show with me!), and To Tell The Truth (“Will the real Rita Abrams please stand up”). And then it was July 4, and when we sang the song for the Mill Valley 4th of July celebration, a camera crew from Warner Bros. followed us around, directed by an unknown filmmaker named Francis Ford Coppola.

And so it went. We recorded an album. Our story appeared in many languages, and fan letters poured in from everywhere. I still have them all. (“Dear Miss Abrams: You have a nice face. Do something with your hair.”) The kids had fun, the parents loved it, my parents loved it, and for me, the fame lasted just long enough to launch a more low-key career as a composer for children’s films, novelty songs, greeting cards, and now stage plays.

As I recount this story, I relive the miracle of it all, and feel so thankful for the gift it has been to me. The memories never stop being gratifying. I’ll always treasure Erik Jacobsen for what he brought into my life. And all the while, I’ve stayed in Mill Valley, where I’ve raised my eighteen-year-old daughter (younger than the children of some of the “kids” who sang on the record). And now, this new chapter. How lucky can one ex-hippie girl be?

You know, I always thought Miss Abrams would prove to be a nice person if i ever met her, and this proves me right. And the song still sounds as fresh and young as it did 34 years ago — it has kind of an “everyman” quality that will remind you of every grade school sing-along you’ve ever been too. A Nice Person, A Nice Song, A Nice Story: What More Could You Want?

10/25/2004 in Music | Permalink