Monthly Archives: October 2014

“Free to Be…You and Me” featuring Suzi Shelton coming Nov. 18


Kindie Musicians Offer New Take on Iconic Gender Equality Song

MONTCLAIR, NJ – A wealth of childhood memories recently came back to kids-and-family singer/songwriter Jason Didner, resulting in a re-connection with the iconic children’s song “Free to Be…You and Me.” Jason then proceeded to listen again to the original recording and learn it for voice and guitar.

Free to Be...You and Me by Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam featuring Suzi Shelton

Artwork for new single “Free to Be…You and Me.” Illustrated by Hannah Tuohy Illustrations

“This song and the message of the album around it were so important in my own childhood,” Jason said. “I felt growing up that if I wanted to be a nurturing type of dad, I didn’t have to stick to a code that forbids it in order to fit anyone else’s definition of a man.”

This fall, Jason turned that connection to an essential children’s song into a project to make a new recording of the song, choosing producer Marc Bazerman, children’s singer/songwriter Suzi Shelton (, and his own band the Jungle Gym Jam ( to bring new possibilities out in the beloved song, combining Jason’s love for the Jersey Shore sound, reminiscent of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band and his sense of belonging to a larger community of independent kids-and-family (“kindie” for short) artists.

Marc, also a kindie artists, leading his own band Baze and His Silly Friends (, and also a dad, added: “As a parent Free to be You and me is a beautiful message that re-enforces my feelings about how we as a society need to accept, cherish and love our children for who they are and having them be open to all of life’s possibilities. “

Jason Didner of the Jungle Gym Jam and Suzi Shelton recording Free to Be You and Me

Jason Didner and Suzi Shelton recording vocals for a remake of “Free to Be…You and Me.”

Suzi spoke to the vitality of the new recording and what a parent who grew up on the original might expect: “Our version of this song brings new energy! Can you feel the passion in our voices? Jason and I believe in the freedom that we sing about, and the talent and expertise that Baze brings in the studio as producer allows for this mix to be heard in it’s best and truest form. The need to support each other in our journey in this land is so very important. Let’s all sing about it, shall we?”

“Free to Be…You and Me by Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam featuring Suzi Shelton” is set for release as a downloadable single on Tuesday, November 18 on BandCamp and iTunes. It will be featured on various kids-and-family radio stations leading up to the release date. This is the first single for an upcoming Jungle Gym Jam album to be released in spring 2015 to follow-up the band’s current award-winning offering, “Everyone’s Invited!”

The original song “Free to Be…You and Me” was the title song of an album that dealt with gender equality by challenging strict adherence to long-accepted traditional gender roles. The concept was created by Marlo Thomas and Friends; the song was written by Steven J. Lawrence and Bruce Hart and recorded by the New Seekers in 1972. In middle school in the early 80s, Jason’s middle school put on a play of “Free to Be…You and Me;” Jason portrayed Dudley Pippin, a boy who was embarrassed for crying in front of the principal because he was unfairly disciplined for another child’s action and learns that “It’s All Right to Cry.”

For more information or an advance copy of the single, contact Jason Didner at 201-838-1205 or

We’re the People Exhibit at the Zoo!

Jungle Gym Jam to rock Turtle Back Zoo on Sunday 10/26

The Essex County Turtle Back Zoo has been a special place to take my daughter since she was one year old. On our very first visit, the penguins swam up to her and studied her carefully through the glass. We also saw a sign posted that day that a new sea lion exhibit was being constructed. I filed these thoughts away for future use…

On Sunday October 26, the band and I will perform at Turtle Back Zoo for the second time. Last year we gave our first-ever electric performance at this zoo, marking its own 50th anniversary. Our connection with the zoo is special for another reason as well. Three of our songs were inspired by family time spent there, including “The People Exhibit at the Zoo” from the above video. Here’s the story behind the song and the full album track.

Two other songs, “Five Sea LIons” and “Window of the Train” are also inspired by this zoo. “Five Sea Lions” was written with the knowledge that the exhibit was being built combined with happy memories of a trip with Amy to San Francisco, where wild sea lions had taken over Pier 39 and were playfully barking and rolling over each other. “Window of the Train” came from the wonderful train ride around the zoo grounds where you really can “see the sun sparkle on the water out the window of the train.”

JGJ TBZ 2014 Digital Flyer Wide

Last time we performed at Turtle Back Zoo, big kids were doing cartwheels, babies were cuddling with their parents and one little boy declared “Peek-a-boo Moon” to be his favorite song. Our show and our set list have developed by leaps and bounds since then. The band and I are looking forward to making wonderful new memories with this Sunday’s performance.

This Sunday, you’ll see our official lineup:

  • “Rockin’ Ross” Kantor on drums
  • “Cross-Country Casey” McCleary on harmony vocals, keyboard, guitar, and percussion
  • “Amazing Alyssa” Menes on bass guitar and harmonies
  • Yours truly, “Jersey Jason” on lead vocals and guitar

Get Your (Name???) To Mars!

Since I was a child, I was always fascinated with space travel. Star Trek and Star Wars were one thing, but to learn that just one year before I was born, people had begun walking on the Moon…

My younger brother Matt and I used to play the Apollo 11 crew in our backyard. Of course I played Neil Armstrong and Matt was always Buzz Aldrin. My favorite Halloween costume was a very official looking NASA space suit. Speaking of Buzz, he’s originally from my current hometown of Montclair, NJ; he recently got our town’s first ever ‘key to the city.’

Now that we’ve “been there done that” with the Moon, our next sights are on Mars. Today NASA revealed a project where it will send the names of all interested parties from all over the world along on an unmanned mission to the red planet. Here’s my “boarding pass.”

Here’s where you can get your name added quickly, easily, for free.

Other favorite memories include a family trip to Kennedy Space Center in Florida, seeing an exact replica of the Lunar Lander at the Smithsonian, and launching an Estes model rocket with my dad in the school parking lot across the street from my first childhood house. The taste of that freeze-dried ice cream kind of grows on me too. I look forward to sharing these experiences with my daughter as she grows.

What are your experiences with all things space related? Is it a big part of your family’s imagination time? Have you travelled to the Kennedy Center, Smithsonian, Intrepid, Mission Control or anywhere with a space history?

Jason Didner's boarding pass to Mars in NASA's Send Your Name project

My Glasses – one minute song snippet

Now that I got my glasses
I’m ready to rock all of my classes

Here’s a quick one-minute performance (verse and chorus) of “My Glasses.” Do your kids wear glasses? Did you wear them when you were a kid?

Want more of this song? Check out the Story behind the Song, written by Amy, my wife and co-lyricist. You can also listen to the track as it appears on the award-winning album “Everyone’s Invited!”