Here are two fun facts:
1) The proudest moment of my childhood was when I got to go on stage at a Sharon, Lois and Bram concert, and
2) I still think "Peanut Butter and Jelly" is an awesome song.
Seriously, try not to playfully growl "and JELLY!" the next time you make a sandwich. Another fun fact: the album that features "Peanut Butter and Jelly" has a track called "Dan, Dan, the Dirty Old Man." I guess I have a pretty weird sense of humor but that is hilarious to me.
But despite my dorky enthusiasm for the children's music of the early 1980s, I hate today's kid music, or more specifically, The Wiggles. I'm vaguely aware of those Yo Gabba people and they seem to be a bit more subversive and therefore tolerable to me. That's the extent of my knowledge of today's children's music and I'm not sorry.
But, oh, The Wiggles. I hate them! I remember the first time I became aware of them was about 8 or 10 years ago when they appeared on Regis and Kelly to a captivated audience of hopped up preschoolers. I sneered at the TV like the determinedly childless twenty-something I was, muttering, "What the fuck is THIS shit?"
I had never seen small children freak out like that and I wasn't sure if I ever wanted to again. Somewhere around that time, I visited with a cousin and her dear young children. They listened to The Wiggles in the car and I had the misfortune of getting "Fruit salad, yummy yummy" stuck in my head for 5 years. Why, I lamented? WHY is this necessary?
I didn’t then and I still I don't see any reason I should be forced to listen to such drivel. I don't see any reason my one year old should listen to it either.
Is music important to me? Yes, music is very important to me. I have 2 music degrees and spent many years trying to make a living as a musician. I bought a 64 gig iPhone so that I could be a walking iPod. I play music all day long.
And baby loves it as all babies do! He's crazy for music. When he first started "dancing" at around 6 months old it took days for me to realize what he was doing. He kept rocking back and forth and I actually worried (of course) he was having some sort of neurological issue. Then I realized he would do it whenever music started playing: his first little party trick.
Look, I'm trying to learn from more experienced moms all the time. Somer Sherwood taught me that I need to be flexible about this sort of thing and I plan to be flexible when I can. I'm not naive enough to think I can get away with avoiding baby music FOREVER.
But I play music when we're hanging out and playing, when I'm cooking dinner, when we're eating and when I drive. And I never, EVER play kid music. I sing the Alphabet Song in English and French and we do “Twinkle, Twinkle” -- often in harmony with my husband. But other kiddie stuff? NO! There will be plenty of time for that later, when he's at least two and I let him watch kid TV (which will hopefully be DVDs of vintage "Sesame Street" -- or operas), or when he gets exposed to it at preschool and has the words to demand it.
In the meantime, I play him whatever I feel like, but there are a few fun songs that I play or sing on a regular basis because they either calm my son or make him dance.
1) Bruno Mars' "Amazing"
Our teacher for a baby music class we took made the lovely suggestion of using regular songs as lullabies and she used this one as an example. There are CDs available for this sort of thing, but I’m sure you already know that your baby wants to hear YOU. My son likes to dance to this song when he hears the original version. But he also really loves it when I sing just the chorus slowly as a lullaby. Seriously, his face LIGHTS UP every time I go, "The way you ARE! The way you ARE!"
2) Sly and the Family Stone "Dance to the Music"
This one is sort of a no-brainer. Baby dances to this and it's pretty cute. Frankly, anything by Sly and the Family Stone is fair game for baby and allows me to dance while dicing vegetables, so everybody wins.
3) Tori Amos "1000 Oceans"
Another great lullaby; I sing this one more than I play it, but it works nicely to get baby all snuggly and smiley and ready for a sleep.
4) W.A. Mozart: "Deh vieni non tardar" (from The Marriage of Figaro)
I try to stick to this singer, the late Lucia Popp, because her version of this aria is the best. This calms my son but when he was younger he would laugh at all the rolled Rs. This is from The Marriage of Figaro, but I highly recommend exploring more of Mozart's vocal music for your kids to listen to. It's playful and makes good dancing music. And (personal tangent) don’t just stick to The Magic Flute because it’s often done for kids. Try Don Giovanni, especially if your kids are older, like 7 or 8, and listen to the Requiem at any age.
5) Miriam Makeba: "Pata pata"
I actually learned this song at summer camp as a 10-year-old and never knew who sang it until I found the CD in my classroom 20 years later when I taught preschool. Turns out, this song is very popular with the preschool set and elicits a frenzied reaction much like the one I saw from The Wiggles on TV. Try more of her music as well. I leave it on and it goes over quite well.
6) J.S. Bach: "Esurientes implevit bonis" (from the Magnificat)
An old friend once dubbed this the “March of the Bears” and I can never listen to it without imagining cartoon bears goofily marching along. Why not play this and get your kid to march like a bear? At least they'll be marching to Bach. This is also a really good little tune to just sing as "Doo doo doo doo doo." It’s fun but could also work as a lullaby if you really slow it down. My son isn’t walking yet, but I am very excited to pretend to be a marching bear with him.
7) Joan Baez: "The Water is Wide"
This is just really beautiful and works nice as a soother or lullaby. It has a lot of verses, so I usually just sing the first 2 or 3.
You guys, if you actually LIKE The Wiggles for real, then I guess that’s fine (if you want to be a boring person with shitty musical tastes). That said, I maintain that you don’t need that shit. Anything with a good, steady beat works for dancing. Anything that has lots of big interval jumps is fun for jumping around, as is anything that has lots of words repeated or consonants emphasized. Those musical elements are all appealing to kids in the same deliberately grating way that children’s music is made and they can all easily by found in regular music, music that you actually WANT to listen to. Be creative and anything can become a lullaby or a march of the bears.