Stepen Star (or Stephen Rados, as his former Rockville neighbors know him) spun through town last week with a song--make that several songs--on his portable cassette player. They were drawn from his special project with Polygram Records, a new series of original rock and country records aimed at children 4 to 14. Two albums, "Rainbow Rock" and "Rainbow Country," already have been released.
Star's project came about partly out of his anguish at the depressing nature of much of today's popular music, particularly rock. "I'm trying to give kids a positive alternative so that their parents will say, 'Hey, this isn't so bad after all.' I'm trying to take the kind of music that a kid hears on the radio . . . and put lyrics to it that a kid can relate to. All the songs deal with feelings and emotions: problems in school, drug abuse, prejudice, peer pressure, kids being made fun of--all the things a kid can relate to."
"I don't think a kid 8 or 9 years old needs to hear about 'Sexual Healing' from Marvin Gaye or 'Cocaine' by Eric Clapton or 'Highway to Hell' by AC/DC. By that kind of music always being out there, parents are being turned off to the music. We want to put music out there that the parents don't mind their kids listening to."
Star, a graduate of Kennedy High School and the Shenandoah College and Conservatory of Music, did his own research on possible topics. "I went around, talked to kids, got their feelings down on tape." What he discovered was a wealth of concerns: "being behind in schoolwork, not being able to communicate to brothers and sisters in the family, wearing glasses, losing a best friend, moving away--these are major catastrophes to them, but I never thought about that. By interviewing them, I got an inside feeling of what they wanted to hear about."
The next challenge is to get the music heard. Songs like "Four-Foot-Eleven Living in a Seven-Foot World," "Keep Your Mama Off Your Back," "Emotion Land," "She Was Roly Poly but I Wore Glasses" and "Everybody Needs a Hero," competently recorded by studio musicians and singers, are not likely to garner much air play, so Star has taken an alternate route--talking to the media, working with organizations like the PTA, the National Education Association, Big Brothers and Big Sisters. When he gets back to his home in Florida, Star plans to put together a Rainbows and Stars band and test the performance waters. All to reinforce a central point: "You don't have to be off the wall or negative to be cool. Joe Theismann's cool to kids and he's a winner. Magic Johnson's cool and he's a winner. Why does music have to be so negative?"