I just received a comment from Lorelle, whom happens to be Up With People alumni. I had heard of her from other sources but did not know the UWP connection until now. In her comment she wrote:
As an alumn from many years ago, I was told a couple years ago that UWP was history for the most part. Finding you in the blogathon really is inspiring and I’m thrilled!
While I’m glad I made her happy, it did get me thinking. Up With People did shut down operations for a while and only just recently restarted (for the second time!); how many people know it is still alive?
Up With People has gone through many changes in its life. It started out in 1965 as a folksy song written as a response to the “Down with [Whoever]!” mentality of the mid-60s; the Colwell brothers figured that all that energy could be better used to build up something rather than tearing things down. (Part of the lyrics reference that: “If we build each other up/we won’t let anybody down”.) This soon became a non-profit, with a goal to visit different places around the world, interact with the communities, and perform shows based on peace and understanding.
When they first started they were partnered with Moral Rearmament, an organization reputed for being very conservative. This may have led to the rumours and misconceptions about Up With People being conservative, a cult, and/or super-religious – rumours that are untrue yet still persist today. After a while, though, the partnership was cut and Up With People went on its own.
Up With People started making a name for itself for its performances. They were invited to the Superbowl, USA’s largest sporting event, many times. They also performed at the Great Wall and assisted at the Munich Olympics, especially during the assassination of athletes. However, due to their generally upbeat and positive songs, the “shiny-happy-strange” reputation persisted, and lives on – even The Simpsons and South Park have parodied this to great effect. For many people not directly involved with Up With People, they were just a bunch of youngsters too perky to be true.
The shows did go through quite a revolution. Experimenting with different styles according to the latest music trends, which still keeping a lyrical focus of togetherness, humanity, and culture. Other cultures started making an appearace – 1997/8’s Roads had a traditional Indian dance, while 1999/2000’s A Common Beat was about a tussle between various cultural groups.
Unfortunately, times were changing and it affected them hard. Up With People were losing revenue on their shows. Their expenses did not match their income. Their budgets were just not working out for them. They were also facing fierce competition from more popular acts, and their reputation wasn’t helping matters. In 2000, they were forced to shut down.
They won’t be shut down for long through. Because in many parts of the world, some people were trying to get Up With People back on its feet…and its efforts were about to show.
Part 2 of this article will be posted in the next Blogathon update.