Elaine Laron, a witty writer and lyricist who participated in the classic children’s TV projects The Electric Company and Free to Be … You and Me, died of pneumonia June 6 in Los Angeles, her nephew William Funt said. She was 83.
Laron’s recorded works also include the anti-Vietnam War anthem “Hell No, I Ain’t Gonna Go” from 1960s activist Matthew Jones and “The Loving Song” by Greek international star Nana Mouskouri.
During her career, Laron — at one time the sister-in-law of Candid Camera founder Allen Funt — collaborated with such celebrated composers as Stephen Schwartz (Godspell), Charles Strouse (the All in the Family opening theme “Those Were the Days”), Joe Raposo (Sesame Street), Ron Dante (The Archies’ “Sugar, Sugar”) and Vic Mizzy (the theme songs for Green Acres, The Addams Family and many other shows). Her work with Mizzy appears on his 2004 album, Songs for the Jogging Crowd.
Laron’s first foray into television came as a writer for the long-running children’s series Captain Kangaroo. That led to her being hired as a writer and head lyricist for the Emmy Award-winning The Electric Company, and she wrote more than 30 songs for the PBS kids series in its first season of 1971-72. Her songs on the show were performed regularly by such castmembers as Rita Moreno, Irene Cara, Bill Cosby and Morgan Freeman, and many were featured on The Electric Company‘s Grammy Award-winning soundtrack album.
Laron then contributed to Marlo Thomas’ iconic 1972 children’s project Free to Be … You and Me, which was a record, book and TV movie (that aired in 1974) that celebrated diversity and individuality. Laron wrote several poems for the book, and one, “The Sun and the Moon,” was set to music and recorded by Dionne Warwick for the ABC special, which won an Emmy and Peabody. The show also featured appearances or voice work by Michael Jackson, Alan Alda, Cicely Tyson, Roberta Flack, Dustin Hoffman, Kris Kristofferson, Mel Brooks and others
The Electric Company and Free to Be … You and Me continue to be enjoyed by new generations of viewers and used as educational material in schools across the U.S. Free to Be … You and Me was adapted into a stage musical for children that features several of Laron’s songs and is performed regularly in schools.
Laron’s other TV credits include writing songs and sketches for the variety show Tony Orlando and Dawn, the 1973 special The Many Faces of Comedy that featured Alan King, Milton Berle and others and a Don Kirshner Thanksgiving special.
A jingle for Kool-Aid that Laron wrote and was recorded by The Monkees in 1969 is due to be released this summer on Rhino’s expanded reissue of the 1969 album The Monkees Present.
Born in 1930 in the Bronx, Laron began her career as a greeting-card writer and soon moved into writing lyrics. Her first recorded release was “Those Are the Breaks” by cabaret performer Arthur Siegel in 1954, followed by “Look But Do Not Touch Cha-Cha” by Isobel Robins. That was featured on the comedy album The Saint and the Sinner, which also featured comic Henry Morgan.
Laron was the sister of Marilyn Funt, who was married to and divorced from Allen Funt, the late founder of the classic practical joke/hidden camera series Candid Camera.
In addition to William and Marilyn, Laron’s survivors include her niece Juliet. A memorial concert of her songs is being planned.