While others baked and binged Netflix, Harmony Kaplan and her duet-partner husband, Joel, thought they'd sing their way through quarantine.
A year ago, the Edina couple, married 50 years, started making videos of the peppy, COVID-themed musical parodies they invented: "We wish we were out at a ballgame, shopping or dining with friends …" and "What the world needs now, is more vaccines …" and "We're gonna wash this year right off of our hands …"
They shared the videos on Facebook or Instagram with family and friends. But after their teenage grandsons introduced them to TikTok, the reworked retro ditties went viral.
"They showed me how to do TikTok and I put the first one on there and now it has 170,000 views," Harmony said.
This week, Katie Couric shared the Kaplans' version of "Hello, Dolly," with lyrics about getting their second vaccinations, on social media, garnering tens of thousands of likes. Then "ABC World News Tonight" picked up the story.
Harmony, who likes to say that she was born singing instead of crying, knows a lot of songs. ("Not the brand-new ones, the old ones" she clarifies.). As the videos' instigator, she belts out the tunes with gusto, while Joel takes a milder approach. ("He's a good sport," she said.)
The videos' vibe is charming chic. Harmony pairs funky pink eyeglasses with two different Twins World Series Championship sweatshirts. The Kaplans' mod home — art-filled walls are painted sunshine yellow and fire-engine red — is also a place to scare up vintage Cabbage Patch dolls for props.
The couple met working at Dayton's department store in downtown Minneapolis and have passed along a penchant for style to their daughter, Ali Kaplan, editor of Twin Cities Business magazine and a noted fashion maven. Ali admitted that one hazard of her parents' new hobby is that sometimes when she calls to check in, they can't talk because they're "rehearsing."
The comments section of the Kaplans' TikTok page is refreshingly snark-free, and viewers young and old remark on how much the songs cheered them up. They've also gotten requests for the hip grandparents adopt them.
The Kaplans' grandkids who boosted Harmony's social-media profile were excited when the videos started to get a lot of response: "Grandma, you're going viral!" But that cooled, perhaps, once it sank in that their grandparents' follower count dwarfed their own. "Now they're kind of blasé about it," Harmony said.
She's been surprised how something that started on a whim has helped make people feel better during difficult times.
"I think we were doing it for fun and to get people to laugh, but it never would have dawned on me that there are so many people who found it really meant a lot to them."
Rachel Hutton • 612-673-4569