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Songwriting duo, Fred Cantor and Charlie Karp, evoke memories of ’60s childhood

August 22, 2016 GMT

Before the advent of play dates, children tended to come together rather organically, whether in pairs or packs, on wheels or on foot. Fred Cantor and Charlie Karp remember a time when such spontaneity and freedom colored the experience of growing up, whether it was in a neighborhood built in the shadow of skyscrapers or a suburban oasis off Long Island Sound.For the longtime friends, now in their early 60s, it is a time that has inspired a book, as well as a song, and on a recent hot and humid morning in Karp’s Fairfield recording studio, a lengthy and far-ranging discussion about how music is now shared.Cantor got his start in Fresh Meadows in Queens, N.Y., a housing development built for World War II veterans. In 2011, along with Debra Davidson, he chronicled his childhood neighborhood in a pictorial history, “Fresh Meadows.” Two years ago, when the book needed a boost for its second run, he asked Karp to work on a song for the promotional video. It is nostalgia that carries the tune in “Endless Home Movie,” a single the two men released last month to iTunes. The lyrics come from Cantor, with music by Karp, who also does double-duty singing on it.With pictures from the book running in the background of the video, the song harkens to a time when children’s leisure time was less structured and the world seemed to operate with a lot less angst — at least if you were a kid. Cantor, who lives in Westport, said since the video came out, he has been contacted by people who have sought out the song.“I heard from several people it really sounded like a Lovin’ Spoonful song; it just had that vibe,” Cantor says. “The song was ultimately intended to capture the tremendous independence we had, even as young kids, and not just in Fresh Meadows, but in Westport, and everywhere back then. The independence to go out and play or just hang out with friends without any parental supervision whatsoever. I posted the video on some Facebook groups and the response was fantastic. People who weren’t even from Fresh Meadows said, in essence, I didn’t grow up there, but that was my life.”With allusions to days that stretched without end, Hula-Hoops, candy stores and Cousin Brucie, it is a walk down memory lane. The two don’t expect the summer hit of 2016, but they hope it prompts happy memories.On this morning, it was having just such an effect on its creators, who met as kids in Westport, where their families moved when they were 10. Cantor was more into sports, while Karp was becoming a well-known musician on the local band circuit. One of his bands, the Fun Band, scored a modest hit nearly 50 years ago with the release of its first single, “Welcome to the Circle,” on ABC Records.Waiting for that vinyl to arrive was an experience, says Karp, who was all of 15, and exciting, knowing it would be played by others on their turntables. That tangible quality is largely lost, he says, in the world of digital downloads.“You would go into a record store and go through the bins and you might grab an album because you liked the photograph or artwork on the front. … Sometimes you could turn it over and read the lyrics,” he says. “Now you are downloading it from what seems like some far-distant land.”Karp’s musical arc took off about a year after that single, when he played with Buddy Miles during a performance in 1970 at Staples High School in Westport, where Karp was a student. Miles tapped him for his international tour and Karp left high school to pursue his dreams. He later performed on Miles’ 1970 album, “Them Changes,” which features a song written by Karp, “I Still Love You Anyway.”Karp formed White Chocolate in 1972, which was signed to RCA. Later, he became a member of the Dirty Angels, which also got a deal with RCA, and shared the stage with such acts as Aerosmith and the Ramones. Through the 1980s, he worked as a session musician and songwriter. He continues to write, teach, perform and produce music.As a kid, he collected LPs and singles the way today’s fans collect music files. One may or may not be better than the other, but both men wondered how memories and music will meld.“I’m not trying to be an old-timer here, but I do wonder how the current generation will relate to music years from now. I still have old 45s and vinyl albums and I still have a turntable,” Cantor says. “I actually like physically picking up that 45 and looking at it. Beside from the music, the visual of the 45 will bring back memories for me, and that is part of the experience.”chennessy@hearstmedia.com;Twitter: @xtinahennessy