The Cowsills may be nearing their 55th anniversary as a band and are celebrating the 50th anniversary of their hit version of “Hair.” But the sibling trio is hardly just living in the past. The evidence is here with a rough mix of “Ya Gotta Get Up” and a new a cappella version of “Hair” (below), both slated for a new album, The Rhythm of the World, coming in 2020.
Bob Cowsill tells Billboard that the self-produced set will include 11 news songs as well as 11 a cappella renditions of older favorites, including the group’s theme from ABC’s Love American Style and “The Rain, the Park and Other Things.” “We record every 10 years it seems, so we’re late,” Cowsill says with a laugh. “The live shows are great. The audience is great. They’re still there. Who would’ve believed any of this at this time in our lives and in our career? We do laugh at ourselves. We couldn’t have predicted we’d get any attention from anybody, so we’re very lucky. This is all special again.”
The uptempo and decidedly contemporary sounding “Ya Gotta Get Up” was inspired by the Cowsills’ audiences, including those who are part of its regular runs on the summer Happy Together Tour. “We’re the band that doesn’t have the kind of audience you ask to get up — ever,” Cowsill says with another laugh. “But each night we would hear Howard Kaylan of the Turtles to the audience, ‘ya gotta get up!’ for ‘Happy Together,’ and that just stuck in our heads that there’s a song there. So we wrote this song and we got very excited about it.” The track also features a sample of Kaylan’s call for the crowd to get on its feet.
The rest of The Rhythm of the World, which the group is still recording in Louisiana, will be “very different,” according to Cowsill. In addition to its contemporary sonics it also includes “Katrina — The Death of Barry Cowsill” about the brother who was killed in the 2005 hurricane that decimated parts of Florida and Louisiana. The Cowsills’ vocal harmonies will remain the star of the show, he adds. “I guess there’s just not a lot of harmony out there anymore,” Cowsill says. “People come up to us and ask, ‘How do you do this?’ They even ask if we bring samples of our harmonies to the shows. These are new kinds of questions we get, so we must still sound good.”
In addition to the new album, the Cowsills are also featured on Thank You, Mr. Rogers: Music and Memories, a companion to the upcoming A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood biopic starring Tom Hanks. The group was tapped to record a new version of the signature song “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” which Cowsill calls “the Holy Grail. We took one day in the studio and redid it and it was fun, and lo and behold it’s a really big deal. Our sister Susan was Mr. Rogers all the way as a kid, so she was like, ‘Are you kidding?!’ It was a big deal to her, especially.”
With all of this going on, of course, the Cowsills feel like anything but “oldie goldies.” “We must think we’re relevant,” he says. “We’ve been through a lot, as a family and as a group. We’ve lost family members, replaced them with other family members, but we go on. I feel like we’re so old we’re new — that’s all I can come up with. I hope we can be the Tony Bennett of our generation; He created a second career, like a second run. Kenny Rogers did it. It’s very rare to get this opportunity, but we’re hoping we can.”