Cathy & Marcy

Songwriter Profile: Cathy & Marcy - Recasting a Legacy of Science and Song

Over the span of a three and a half decade career, Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer––the Grammy-winning duo known as Cathy & Marcy––have delighted audiences with their inspired family and children’s music. For their latest endeavor, the imaginative pair presents Zoom a Little Zoom! A Ride Through Science, 10 songs from Ballads for the Age of Science, educational songs first released back in 1961.

The late Oscar-winning songwriter Hy Zaret, best known for his classic “Unchained Melody,” conceived the songs and 57 years after their conception, they remain refreshingly relevant. The late Zaret’s son, Robert, reached out to Cathy & Marcy for the project and the result is an interpretative update of these zany yet deductive songs that inform on a variety of subjects. Special guests on the project include Andy Offutt Irwin, Justin Roberts and Riders in the Sky.

The musical styles are engagingly diverse: from swing, to boogie-woogie, to rock. “Bobo the Bear,” features the spirited clarinet and hyperkinetic rhythms of Klezmer music. “For us, all of our kid's albums have given us a chance to accentuate songs with different styles of music and we wanted to give every song its own flavor,” says Fink. “The minor chords on ‘Bobo’ just screamed ‘Klezmer’ to us.“

The song “Vibrations” explains how sound works, demonstrating the tuning of stringed instruments that leads to an improbably thrashed out rock opus with wailing guitars and a roiling rhythm section. “The thrash was my idea, but Marcy had to make it happen. I was jumping up and down and headbanging the whole time we were recording it,” laughs Fink. “It’s the last thing in the world anybody expects from us.”

A look at Cathy & Marcy’s website (cathymarcy.com) reveals a number of musical enterprises. “We pull together making a living through recording and producing. We produce a lot of other people’s recording, through songwriting, an enormous amount of teaching at music camps, and what’s become a very large catalog of online recordings: ukulele, guitar, banjo, mandolin, and also obviously performances both for kids and adults,” says Fink.

“For us, the fact that we have always enjoyed being versatile is a bonus. In the beginning of our careers, separately in the early ’70s, and then together as of the early ’80s, people used to laugh at us for playing music for kids. They looked down on it as something lesser. It didn’t take long for them to realize it’s a lot of fun, a great audience and great addition to how to make a living,” Fink notes.

Cathy & Marcy, who are based in Maryland, also mentor up-and-coming musicians at a local performing arts center through an artist-in-residence program. Fink believes that creating a musical life will be more difficult for the next generation. “It’s not harder for them to do music, to get out and play, and it’s easier for them to record. But I think it’s harder to be heard in the ongoing pros and cons of the Internet and streaming. That’s what our job is, to figure out what the puzzle pieces are to turn this into a viable career.”

To promote Zoom a Little Zoom’s release, Cathy & Marcy are planning a series of project-specific shows. “One of the goals is not only to tap this music out to family audiences in every we can think of, but to get science teachers to connect it to the fun and curiosity of science. That’s why we had Lynn Baum (former head of School Programs at the Museum of Science in Boston) create an activity guide.”

Cathy & Marcy produced the project and the sound of their studio is pristine and modern. “I think that’s some of what Robert had in mind when he asked us to do this project. The songs, and even the arrangements from the original project, all stand up, but they don’t feel contemporary. We knew the material was still relevant. It’s contemporary retro––more the musical intentions and arrangements of original songs, but our goal was to make them come alive for today’s listening audiences. You will be singing along with us.”

Contact Jim Steinblatt, 917-328-1664, steinblatt@gmail.com