Chris Dedrick, who led the cult pop vocal unit the Free Design before moving on to a successful career composing for film and TV in Canada, died Aug. 6 in Toronto, according to his Web site. He was 62. No cause of death was given.
Born in Delevan, N.Y., Dedrick grew up in a musical family; his father Art was a trombonist and arranger for Vaughn Monroe’s big band, and his mother was a music teacher. He sang with his brother Bruce and sister Sandy from childhood. The siblings formed the Free Design in New York’s Greenwich Village in 1966.
The group – later expanded with the addition of sister Ellen — was signed by producer-bandleader-engineer Enoch Light’s audiophile label Project 3, and released six soft-pop albums distinguished by intricate vocal and orchestral arrangements between 1967 and 1971. An album for the Ambrotype label followed in 1972.
The Free Design never attained success in their day, but they were later embraced as an influence by avant-rock acts like Beck, Stereolab and the High Llamas, while Cornelius and the Pizzicato Five popularized the group’s music in Japan during the ’90s. A reunion album, “Cosmic Peekaboo,” was issued in Germany in 2001. The act’s catalog was reissued in 2003 by U.S. indie Light in the Attic Records.
After moving to Toronto in 1972, Dedrick became a busy writer for pics and TV. His score for Guy Maddin’s “The Saddest Music in the World” received a Genie Award in 2004, and he won four Gemini Awards and captured 16 nominations for his TV work.
He also performed with his sisters in the classically oriented Star-Scape Singers in the ’70s and ’80s, and released the solo album “Wishes” in 2005.