Wednesday, February 16, 2011

not everything is like top gun

A few years ago my brother-in-law Steven asked me what music I would recommend for children. I have strong opinions on this subject.

First, the shameful truth is that most music made specifically for children is terrible. You know it's true. Second, what makes them think they're so special that they need their own music, anyway? Why can't we all listen to the same stuff? And they're clearly not that special, or people would be writing better music for them. So there.

There are some things you don't want to listen to with your kids around, because obviously you don't want the young innocents listening to swears and vulgar language, right? Save that for the school bus. However, within reason, music by artists whose choices conflict with your own can spark some excellent and illuminating discussion. Also, you are responsible for your child's early musical education, a duty which must not be shirked.

In our house we do have some actual children's music that has been grandfathered in from my own childhood, as well as jazz, big band, classical (almost all from John, because he is a snobby music snob), old-timey country and rock. Here are some of our favorites:

1. Pictures at an Exhibition
Evocative, imaginative, and extremely enjoyable. Tell your kids the story behind each of the vignettes. If it helps, sing these words to "The Hut on Fowl's Legs": Stop that truck, it's the ice cream maaaaan! Stop that truck, it's the ice cream maaaaan!" During "The Great Gate of Kiev," we pretend to be going through a series of gates, each larger than the one before, and at the last gate we can bang the gong. I highly, highly recommend this work. You should get the CD that includes Bald Mountain and Pines of Rome, while you're at it.

2. Wee Sing Fun n' Folk
It's cheesy, and the kid who solos on "Old Joe Clark" has serious problems. But you can make fun of him, and you can skip past the neverending "Froggy Went a-Courtin.'" Folk music is American music, and your kids need to know it.

3. Sesame Street music
Not all of their CDs are good (Hot Hot Hot Dance Songs being particularly offensive), but Silly Songs and Bert and Ernie's Greatest Hits are a lot of fun.

4. Frank Sinatra, The Capitol Years
For people who don't love Frank Sinatra because they think of him as a boozy old poonhound, this is a great introduction to how such a squirrelly runt got all the fine ladies. Remember that skit on SNL where he tells Billy Idol he finds pieces of guys like him in his stool? Ha ha ha ha haaaaa. He was phenomenal.

5. Soundtrack from Amadeus
Fantastic, emotional music, plus topics such as why you are not the worst parent and how your children are not living up to their potential.

6. Harry Connick Jr.
We love Harry. He gets played a lot at our house--especially at Christmas, but Songs I Heard is the most kidly.

7. Beatles
Are an indispensable part of a musical curriculum. Solo albums are also appropriate where desired. Favorite albums include Revolver, the White Album (you might want to skip "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?"), and Please Please Me. And Rubber Soul. And Magical Mystery Tour. You just need to buy them all, is what I'm saying. They're all on iTunes, why are you being so lazy and cheap?

There's a bunch more. "Russians," Sam Cooke, "Tie Me Kangaroo Down," Johnny Cash, Louis Prima, The Killers . . . I'm sick of typing about it now. Oh! I almost forgot the whole reason I started this subject. A couple of years ago one of John's co-workers recommended this to him:

8. Singin' in the Bathtub
Maybe you're suspicious. I know I was. Who wants their kids listening to the mean Footloose preacher dad? Or Dick Solomon? But this CD is terrific. There are some clunkers, to be sure, but it's a very strong work and not condescending. My favorite is probably "The Gnu Song."

Speaking of Footloose, here is a delightful video. Bless those Conchords.


highdeekay said...

What? Know shameless plug for Kids Stuff????

Jill said...

We rock out to Bon Jovi at our house....and Voice Male. I agree that most music made for children is down right ANNOYING. Although a good Jeneane Brady song is enjoyed by all.