Introduction to the Schoolhouse Rock interview series (including the list of interviewees).
How old were you when you sang “The Great American Melting Pot” (1977)?
I was 20. It was the first time I had been hired to sing! The production company flew me from LA to NY and put me up at a nice hotel for three days.
What else were you doing professionally at the time?
I had just completed my first LP for Capitol Records and was preparing to go on my first tour…it was a time of firsts!
Where were you living at the time?
Were you already aware of Schoolhouse Rock when you were hired?
I was not really aware of Schoolhouse Rock before I received their call. I had been raised in Switzerland, so it had not crossed my radar.
How were you hired?
The production team got in touch with my managers and we talked about it; it was something I was excited about.
Did you have any say in which song you got to sing?
I was presented with “The Great American Melting Pot,” which was written for my voice.
Did you make any suggestions for the song?
Absolutely not—it was perfect. Lynn Ahrens, who wrote it, was incredibly astute and kind.
Why didn’t you sing any other Schoolhouse Rock songs?
I was really busy performing and recording.
Does that mean they asked you to do more?
No, I wasn’t asked!
Any funny stories from the recording?
Gosh, I don’t remember anything during the recording of the song that was funny other than, knowing me as I was then, I always sang better with a handful of peanut M&Ms during a break—nothing like a good old fashioned milkshake, too! I broke all the rules of your more traditional rules of vocalizing!
What did you think of the song?
I thought it was great. My grandparents also came from Russia, so the song really meant something to me.
What did you think of the finished animated musical short?
I thought the animation was wonderful. It really brought it to life!
What were you paid?
I don’t really remember.
Have you had any fun Schoolhouse Rock moments since (i.e. a reaction when someone you meet discovers you had a role in it)?
Well, actually, everyone [was] pretty shocked when they realize[d] I sang the song—my children especially!
What are you doing these days?
I’m in the process of recording my 16th CD. I’ve continued to write, record, and perform. I [am touring] Europe in June 2014 and I have a big concert at Carnegie Hall on November 8th—a retrospective of my four decades in this business.
Where do you live?
What did your kids think of your Schoolhouse Rock song?
I have three of my own kids and five stepkids; they [all] thought the song was great!
What has been your career highlight so far?
Besides having written a poem about seeing Don McLean at the Troubadour in LA that became [the song] “Killing Me Softly,” which I recorded on my first LP for Capitol Records, I think the highlights are performing at the beautiful and legendary theater the Carre in Amsterdam, the Grammy Museum in LA, and the upcoming Carnegie Hall performance.
What did you think when you first heard from me?
I was interested in your email about the genesis of the Schoolhouse Rock song.
Has anyone else ever interviewed about this? If so, when and for what publication?
I’ve never been interviewed about the song before.
How do you look back on the experience?
It was a great experience. The people were wonderful, the atmosphere was very professional, and I felt really good about it.
Anything you’d like to add?
Only that it’s been a pleasure revisiting the early days with you, and I look forward to connecting in the future.