Mister Rogers Swings!
A native of Latrobe, Pennsylvania, Fred Rogers (1928–2003) graduated from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary as an ordained Presbyterian minister, and in 1968 he created TV’s beloved children’s program Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Convinced that the space between the TV set and the viewer is “holy ground,” Rogers once said his goal was to “look at the television camera and present as much love as you possibly could to a person who might feel that he or she needs it.” Also a gifted songwriter, Rogers collaborated on-air for three decades with the great jazz pianist Johnny Costa (1922–1996). Now, singer Holly Yarbrough has recorded a generous selection of Rogers’ tunes, including the tenderly affirmative and accepting “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” and “I’m Taking Care of You” (“For, once, I was very little, too/ Now I take care of you”). Yarbrough’s richly pliant voice is surrounded by a lightly swinging ensemble starring the Nashville saxophonist Boots Randolph. This soothing, encouraging CD also expresses Rogers’ wit (he once claimed that a TV is the “only electrical appliance that’s more useful when it’s turned off”). Yarbrough, pursuing studies as a therapeutic musician while working at Nashville’s Alive Hospice, perfectly captures Rogers’ subtly nurturing aura and gentle pace. Amy Hollingsworth’s Simple Faith of Mister Rogers: Spiritual Insights from the World’s Most Beloved Neighbor (Thomas Nelson, Inc.) quotes Rogers himself: “For me, being quiet and slow is being myself, and that is my gift. Sometimes slow is better: in understanding, in learning to be patient, in ‘going deeper’ spiritually.”