October 8, 2010

The Story of ‘What About Tomorrow’ by Charles Alexander

October 8th, 2010

The Story of “What About Tomorrow” by Charles Alexander

This year marks the 20th anniversary of “What About Tomorrow,” a groundbreaking environmental music video. The music for the video is taken from a little-known song by Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, who are now more famous than ever because of the current global success of Jersey Boys, the Tony-winning play based on their lives. “What About Tomorrow” is the most unusual use ever made of their celebrated music.

At the time I produced this video, I was science and environment editor at TIME magazine. Instead of having our customary “Person of the Year” in 1989, we had named “Endangered Earth” as “Planet of the Year” and compiled a 33-page special report on such dangers as global warming, deforestation and species extinction. The issue generated enormous interest, and I got invitations to address audiences from Maui to Moscow.

Working on one of those speeches in late 1989, I came up with a line something like “We have enough resources today, but what about tomorrow?” That made me think of a song called “What About Tomorrow,” which was an obscure track on Streetfighter, one of the Four Seasons’ least known albums. But it was written by those same two Jersey Boys, Bob Gaudio and Bob Crewe, who wrote “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man,” “Rag Doll,” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.” “What About Tomorrow” is a typically melodic, eminently hummable Four Seasons love song. Yet I thought it could be much more. Within a day, I had rewritten the lyrics to make “What About Tomorrow” into a call for environmental action.

After obtaining the permission of the Four Seasons Partnership (Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio) in early 1990, I immediately set out to make my rewrite into an environmental music video. Time was short. I wanted the video to have its premiere on April 22, 1990, the 20th anniversary of the first Earth Day. Major commemorations were being planned, and I wanted “What About Tomorrow” to be part of the occasion.

Visit Huffingtonpost.com for the full fantastic story!


  1. Fascinating story, and a beautiful, poignant video. Charles, you are truly a man of many talents!

    Comment by Pamela — October 9, 2010 @ 3:30 pm

  2. Thanks, Pam!

    Comment by Charles Alexander — October 9, 2010 @ 8:41 pm

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