A Look Back at “Up With People!”

The funny thing about being older (I’m 64.5 YO) is I can remember a lot of things from my childhood better than I can remember last week.

In Catholic grammar school back in the 1960s, the nuns really loved for us young students to sing songs. Ach! There were plenty of Catholic religious songs and also secular songs. The nuns always chose the smartest and most popular girl in our class, Ann C., to come up to the front of the classroom and lead the singing. Well, singing was never one of my fortes and, truth be told, I thought Ann was pretty cute and I was much more interested in watching her sing than singing any of the songs myself. But I digress.

One of those old songs turns up in my head occasionally. A musical troupe called “Up With People” was founded in 1965* as an organization for young adults “that enabled them to interact with the world through positivity and music.” It was clearly a “healthy,” establishment-sanctioned alternative to the burgeoning, counter-culture, hippie movement. The ensemble’s signature “sing-out” folk song, “Up With People!,” was featured on many television variety shows at the time. It was a cultural phenomenon. Many adults breathed a sigh of relief. “Ah, not ALL youth are going down the toilet,” they consoled themselves. While our parents loved the song, it was waaaaaay too square for us nine-year-old hipsters who were already listening to the Beatles and the Byrds. Regrettably, the nuns at our parochial school also loved the song and forced it upon us along with all of the requisite corny body motions (see video below).

I was thinking about the “Up With People!” song recently and it strikes me now that some of the lyrics are antithetical to the Gospel. Let’s take a look, shall we?

(Verse 1)
It happened just this morning, I was walking down the street
The milkman and the postman and policeman I did meet
There in ev’ry window and ev’ry single door
I recognized people I’d never noticed before

(Chorus)
Up! Up with people!
You meet ‘em wherever you go
Up! Up with people!
They’re the best kind of folks we know
If more people were for people
All people ev’rywhere
There’d be a lot less people to worry about
And a lot more people who care
There’d be a lot less people to worry about
And a lot more people who care

(Verse 2)
People from the south-land and people from the north
Like a mighty army, I saw them coming forth
‘Twas a great reunion, befitting of a king!
Then I realized people are more important than things

(Chorus)

(Verse 3)
Inside everybody there’s some bad and there’s some good
But don’t let anybody start attacking people-hood
Love them as they are, but fight for them to be
Great men and great women as God meant them to be

(Chorus)

Yup, you spotted it. Verse 3 is a problem. It propagates a Christ-less universalism and civil religion. Everybody has some good in them, it says, and we all have to help each other reach the greatness potential that the nebulous, inter-faith deity allegedly desires for us. Every works-religionist can subscribe to this song. No wonder the nuns loved it. Hey, it just occurred to me that this song is very similar to a Joel Osteen “sermon.”

In contrast, the Bible declares there is none righteous, no, not one. We are all sinful beings and we all deserve eternal punishment. But Jesus Christ, God the Son, was punished for our sins on the cross of Calvary. He defeated sin and death by rising from the grave and offers eternal life and fellowship with God to all those who trust in Him as their Savior by faith alone.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

Positivity won’t cleanse your soul, cure the evils of the world, or get you to Heaven! Jesus Christ alone is the Way to Heaven.

*After a little digging, I discovered the Up With People organization had its roots in the ecumenical, inter-religious “Moral Re-Armament” (MRA) movement, which began in 1938. See the Wiki article here.

Addendum: We were subversive little nine-year-old rascals and I remember myself and a few buddies conspiratorily changing the last lines of the chorus from…

There’d be a lot less people to worry about
And a lot more people who care

to

There’d be a lot MORE people to worry about
And a lot LESS people who care

But we didn’t sing the rebellious alternate lyrics loud enough for the temperamentally volatile nun to hear us.

Up With People lingered on after its 1965 peak and actually appeared as the marquee halftime act at Super Bowls X (1976), XIV (1980), XVI (1982), and XX (1986). A scaled down Up With People is still in existence, continuing to crusade for the cause of worldwide brotherhood (see website here).

44 thoughts on “A Look Back at “Up With People!”

  1. “ Positivity won’t cleanse your soul, cure the evils of the world, or get you to Heaven! Jesus Christ alone is the Way to Heaven.”

    Great post!! I was thinking of John Lennon’s “Imagine” song as I read this 😞

    I think you need to send this post to “Hollyweird “ and the government and many more orgs I won’t name!

    I’m going to check this song out later I don’t know if I ever heard it-I’d be surprised if I hadn’t because it seems like a song my parents would’ve been into 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Beth! This song was such a huge cultural phenomenon back in 1965, but it’s largely forgotten now. There was some fleeting hope that Up With People could be the start of a nationwide movement. Note the endorsements of John Wayne, Pat Boone, and Walt Disney on the album cover. Of course, the nuns who pushed this song on us couldn’t get along together themselves (we sometimes witnessed their squabbles) let alone the country getting along. Yup, it has some similarities with Lennon’s Imagine, although Up With People does feature a nebulous inter-faith deity.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey, Papa Tom! I do not know this song and reading your synopsis and lyrics, I have no need to hear it!! It’s amazing how much terrible theology/worldview etc resides in music, regardless of the time period. Thanks for sharing this! Will you be able to get some rest today?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Mandy! It’s ironic that this syrupy Up With People! ecumenism was as spiritually dangerous as the burgeoning counter-culture movement of that time.

      RE: rest?
      Thanks! Yup today is STRICTLY R&R. Hope you had a nice weekend. Lots of snow headed towards the east coast again, so they say.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. The snow just keeps falling outta the Good Lord’s sky here! It’s suppose to snow until 9am tomorrow here! And then more Thursday-schools closed(remote learning day though) for tomorrow. PLEASE STAY SAFE 🙏🏻❤️

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Amen! I haven’t gone outside yet but it looks like we only got about 4 inches of snow overnight. I was supposed to take my sister to an MD appointment at 10AM but she called at 6:30AM to say she cancelled it, so I’m a happy boy! Will snowblow the driveway at my convenience.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I keep telling myself “Spring always follows every winter season” literally and figuratively. Praise God there will be a day when there will no more winter (or if there is we will have resurrected, glorified bodies that will endure and thrive).

        Liked by 2 people

      3. I always took ROC winters in stride, but this is the first year that the cold is affecting me more strongly and I’ve started to wearing a house jacket in the mornings and evenings.

        When ROC’s economy was booming, many of the Kodak retirees used to winter in Florida. I was always against it previously but moving down south when I retire in 23 months might be the thing to do.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Wow the song is so Pelagian! Goodness in us? Pail has something to say about that in Romans 3:10, 3;23, etc. That plus a sacramental theology Is so antithetical to the Gospel of grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone

    Liked by 2 people

    1. RE: Pelagian

      Yup, that song is pure Pelagian. The RCC of course vehemently denies that it’s a Pelagian religion, claiming Pelagius’ prime opponent, Augustine, as a doctor of the church, but it’s Soviet-style double-speak. They maintain that the Ten Commandments MUST be obeyed in order to attain/merit Heaven BUT also maintain that the ability to obey the commandments comes from the “graces” provided by the sacraments.

      I thought it was very interesting how this Up With People troupe was an offshoot of the ecumenical “Moral Re-Armament” (MRA) movement.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I see our library has two books about the MRA, one by its founder, Lutheran minister, Frank Buchman, titled “Remaking the World” (1949) and another one (1951) examining the history of Buchman’s earlier Oxford Group. I’m curious but I don’t know if I want to add to my reading queue right now. I see from the Wiki article on the Oxford Group that the founders of AA got many of their tenets from that organization. Actress Glenn Close said her parents were deeply involved in MRA and that it was “cult-like” but she would probably say the same thing about me.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. I can understand why you’re not familiar with this song if your nun teachers were not as hepped up about it as mine were. Learning the song at school made me aware of it when the troupe appeared on several different TV variety shows. For me, the Up With People mania was everywhere.
      Yes, I’m so grateful I’m out of works-righteousness Catholicism. Few evangelicals realize how cult-like it was/is, especially back in the day with nuns in 13th-century garb, living together in convents.

      Liked by 2 people

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