Do you remember that catchy song you used to sing with your friends called “MMMBop”? Can you remember the band who wrote that song? That’s right, it was Hanson- the blond-haired, 90s sensation. Lucky for many, Isaac, Taylor, and Zac are doing a lot more than “mmmbopping” around these days.
Hanson stopped by Ram’s Head Live! in Baltimore on Oct. 15; the brothers are currently on their “Walk Around the World Tour”, which began in early September. This tour is a continuation of their 2007 “The Walk Tour”, which kicked off Hanson’s July 2007 release of the album “The Walk.”
The band certainly proved to be a crowd pleaser in Baltimore, performing a loaded set list that lasted nearly two hours. Hanson played a mix of new songs from their latest albums, and also included old favorites such as “Where’s the Love”, “Minute Without You”, and of course, “MMMBop” from their hit 1997 album “Middle of Nowhere.”
But Hanson’s Baltimore agenda included more than singing. For slightly over a year now, the band has hosted a series of one-mile walks before each of its concerts to raise awareness of AIDS and poverty in South Africa. Baltimore marked Hanson’s 90th walk.
“Today, your one mile, this little stride that we’re doing on a beautiful day in Baltimore, is actually an ability for you to make a difference and be a part of something much larger than this one mile,” Taylor Hanson told participants during their Baltimore walk.
During these walks, the three brothers lead fans and supporters throughout the streets of the city their current concert stop is in- and they do it barefoot.
The band encourages participants to take off their shoes as well, and then explains why the act is significant. For Hanson, it all started when they witnessed first-hand the poverty they speak of during a visit to Mozambique and South Africa.
Hanson’s Walk Around the World efforts are an extension of the band’s recent charity involvement. Currently, Hanson is continuing their partnership with an organization called TOMS Shoes.
When a fan or participant purchases a pair of TOMS, each pair is then matched and donated to a child without any in South Africa. Last November, Hanson and TOMS brought 50,000 pairs of shoes to South Africa during their “Shoe Drop.”
“Shoes are an incredible thing to provide,” Taylor Hanson told the attentive crowd. “That’s one of the reasons we walk barefoot, is because we can recognize how these small things, like even a simple pair of shoes, will truly change the life of somebody struggling with poverty every day and struggling with having very little access to resources.”
In addition to their TOMS Shoes involvement, Hanson has added a couple new goals to their long list of charity work. Now, whenever a walk is completed, participants can register their names and locations. With each registration, Hanson donates one dollar to the cause of the person’s choice.
“We’re counting every one of your miles; you’re deciding to count your mile by putting it down, saying you showed up. And you have the ability to say how you want your mile to count,” Taylor Hanson explained.
These miles count by giving back to a number of different charitable programs. These acts include supporting TOMS Shoes, raising money to provide clean water through Blood:Water Mission well projects in Sub-Saharan Africa, building a new school with Free the Children, and providing medicine to 250 mothers with HIV. Hanson currently reached the goal of 250 vaccinations, and is moving forward to achieve the others.
“The idea with the walks now is not only can you do more, not only can you buy a pair of TOMS shoes and know that a pair is given, but we can begin to look into simple things we can do every day to make a difference,” Taylor Hanson noted before listing the options fans could chose to have their dollar go towards.
Another way that Hanson chose to give back was the 2006 release of the single “Great Divide.”
The song focused on the band’s trip to South Africa and included background vocals from a children’s choir they worked with in Soweto.
Every cent that Hanson makes off the single goes straight to the Perinatal HIV Research Unit at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, also in Soweto.
Hanson’s freedom to conduct their own charity work is a result of the choice to be an independent band. After going through some rough patches, Hanson split from popular record label Island Def Jam Music Group in 2001 and formed their own label, 3CG (3 Car Garage) records.
Since then, the band has filmed a documentary called “Strong Enough to Break” that focused on the struggles and corruptions within the music business today.
After filming, the band hosted special showings of the documentary at colleges across the country. The break with Island Def Jam Music Group paved the way to releasing their last two records, “Underneath” and “The Walk.”
To allow people to learn more about the band’s long journey, “Strong Enough to Break” is available as a podcast on iTunes, as well as a series of episodes called “Taking the Walk” that the band filmed in the weeks leading up to the release of “The Walk.”
Hanson has also created a website,www.takethewalk.net, that explains all of the charity and involvement they participate in.