By John W. Barry
Do you remember those kids from the band Hanson? The three brothers from Oklahoma?
Drummer Zac Hanson was 6 when Hanson hit the big time with brothers Taylor and Isaac. Zac turned 23 this past Wednesday.
The Trio from Tulsa 11 months ago played a sold-out show at The Chance in Poughkeepsie. And based on that performance and the solid legacy these kids have built before reaching the age of 25, Chance co-owner Frank Pallett invited them back to play again Saturday.
"I was impressed by the way the guys have matured into a talented bunch," Pallett said. "A band that may have been labeled as a kid band that stands the test of time makes a statement in itself."
During a recent telephone interview with the Journal, Taylor Hanson covered a lot of ground. He discussed:
- The Beatles, Sly and the Family Stone and Gov't Mule.
- Raising money for cancer research.
- Buying shoes for victims of poverty in the third world.
And during part of that phone conversation, a baby cried in the background.
Wait a second? The guys from Hanson are old enough to be fathers? Indeed they are - Taylor has three children, Isaac has two and Zac has one.
What about "MMMBop"? Remember that catchy tune? Hanson's first hit?
That song didn't even come up in the conversation.
What came up most was the band's commitment to battle disease and poverty in Africa, backed up by a trip they took to Mozambique and South Africa; the involvement of a choir from Soweto, South Africa, on their latest record, "The Walk"; and an actual walk Hanson will take in Poughkeepsie Saturday afternoon with their fans to raise money for several charitable causes.
The catalyst for Hanson's involvement in helping those less fortunate than many of us was a group of friends in Tulsa. Those folks started a company that developed technology that let doctors and patients in Africa communicate using text messages over long distances that were hard to reach by car or truck.
Once Hanson returned from Africa, the band launched a major effort to help those in need by raising money for schools, AIDS research, wells for drinking water and shoes.
Taylor said the band has always been interested in supporting worthy causes such as the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. He also said the band draws inspiration from U2's Bono, known worldwide for his ongoing campaign against poverty.
However, he added, "We spent years on the edge, but we felt we didn't want to go out advocating something out on the red carpet. But with AIDS and extreme poverty, there are so many tools we have that we can put to work, and change the course. ... We can begin doing. The line in the sand is awareness. ... Our generation coming of age today needs to begin doing. That's the whole catalyst for the walk. Let's demonstrate action in a way that everyone can understand."
AIDS walk, then concert
The walk starts Saturday at 3 p.m. at The Chance, is open to the public and will encompass a mile.
Doors open at 8:30 p.m. for the concert, which Taylor said will have "similarities in the theme and the repertoire" from last year's show.
Hanson has recorded five new songs in conjunction with a coffee-table book set for release next month. The book chronicles efforts to battle AIDS and poverty in Africa, and draws on the band's experiences.
Hanson fans might hear some of the new songs at The Chance Saturday night. They could also hear any number of cover songs the band has been playing, including "Oh Darling!" by The Beatles and "Soulshine" by Gov't Mule. Hanson has also been performing some Sly and the Family Stone.
The new songs, Taylor said, "kind of change the whole rhythm of the show."
Cover songs, he added, go "all the way back to the first show we ever did and the first major tour we ever did. The role of covers in a Hanson show has always been a strong one. It's our way to comment on our own band, to play certain covers and show our influences."
We can all remember the fun we had with "MMMBop," either enjoying this music while falling in love with rock 'n' roll or while considering the young Hanson boys to be nothing more than a novelty act.
But now, some might argue, Taylor, Isaac and Zac have earned our respect as social activists who do instead of just say and as musicians who sell out hallowed halls of rock, such as The Chance in Poughkeepsie.
"We're a band," Taylor said. "This is our day job. We
make music. But part of what we've been able to do with the walks is
take it a step further and build a relationship that reaches far beyond
whether fans bought the last record. We're doing things that offer an
invitation to them - and a 'thank you' to them."