Best remembered for her starring role in the television classic That Girl, actress Marlo Thomas also recorded a series of children's albums inspired by her acclaimed Free to Be... specials. The daughter of legendary comedian Danny Thomas, she was born in Deerfield, MI, on November 21, 1937; despite her show business background, Thomas initially pursued a teaching career, and only turned to performing after college. A handful of guest shots on TV series ranging from The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis to 77 Sunset Strip preceded her first starring role, on 1961's The Joey Bishop Show; Thomas left the program after its first season, however, and returned to the guest circuit, appearing on shows including Bonanza and McHale's Navy. In 1965, she also made her uncredited feature film debut in Richard Lester's hit The Knack...and How to Get It.
A year later, Thomas was cast in the title role of the sitcom That Girl, a groundbreaking series that was the first show of its kind to realistically portray the life of a single, independent young woman; the role not only made Thomas a star, but it also launched her as an enduring feminist icon. After That Girl ended its run in 1971, she became increasingly active in social and political work, and in 1974 starred in and co-produced the Emmy Award-winning children's special Free to Be...You and Me, releasing a soundtrack (though an album of the same name had been released two years prior, and was later reissued by Arista in 2006), and a sequel, Free to Be...A Family, followed in 1988, generating a soundtrack as well. Thomas acted sparingly in the intervening years, marrying talk show host Phil Donahue and working in film and on Broadway; in 1996, she also returned to TV to guest as Rachel's mother on the smash sitcom Friends. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi