A few years ago, and like most people, the only song by The Free Design that I was even vaguely aware of was “I Found Love”, but not because I watched “Gilmore Girls”. I actually learned it in my sophomore year of chorus at West Seneca West High School. I thought it was alright, but there was nothing special about it compared to the other fare we were singing. It all happened while we were wearing tuxedo shirts, so there’s that.
So flash forward about a million years, and one day I’m listening, like I did every week, to the Otis Fodder program on Luxuria Music. The song that got my attention was called “An Elegy” and its depth and wisdom, paired with a feeling of innocence completely shattered in the Viet Nam era shook me to the core. To find out that this was the same group that sang “I Found Love” was something wonderful. So I began finding out everything I could about them. It turns out that they were a family act (two brothers, two sisters) that grew up not far from Buffalo, in Delevan, NY. Most of their stuff was light, but also so smart. Immaculate arrangements. Amazing vocals. So much better than their more famous contemporaries The Mamas and the Papas and Peter, Paul and Mary, and their covers (The Beatles along with other contemporary artists of varying hipness) were always interesting. People like Billy Cobham and Randy Becker played on their records.
One man was responsible for their arrangements, all the fugues and counterpoint, the lion’s share of the original songs. His name was Chris Dedrick. And he died in August of this year after a battle with cancer, which he documented in detail on his Facebook page. I was a huge fan, and still am.
If you ever get a chance, pick up the album pictured above, “One By One”. It is an amazing document of an incredible and underrated talent. In fact, if I go like he did, I want them to play “Thank You Friends” at the ceremony.