Baseball Songs for Kids (2015 Update)

Spring Training starts today!  Spring Training starts today!  So I'm going to actually post something in a timely manner, and that is provide an update to list of baseball songs for kids.  For the most part, I've just repeated last year's list of baseball songs, but I've added a couple new tracks to the list, and if I've missed something, please let me know in the comments.

-- "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" (well, duh) -- try Wiggleworms Love You, from the Old Town School of Folk Music (nicely bipartisan, cheering for both the Cubs and White Sox), or also the Hold Steady's version.

-- "Baseball Dreams" -- off At the Bottom of the Sea, by Ralph's World (Cubs all the way in this one)

-- "I'm Gonna Catch You" -- off Under a Shady Tree, by Laurie Berkner (it has one relevant line -- "So I jumped into Saturday / And I had a baseball batter-day" -- yes, this one's a bit of a stretch)

-- "Pop Fly" -- off Justin Roberts' album by the same name, about a daydreaming boy playing the outfield...

-- "Centerfield" -- off Centerfield, by John Fogerty (not kids' music, but a great song anyway). See also Visqueen's rendition on the Desoto Records kidscomp Play!

-- "Talkin' Baseball -- off countless albums by Terry Cashman, who just re-recorded and updated his song every few years -- baseball history lesson in 3 minutes

-- "Big Train" -- off the RTT's Turn It Up Mommy!. About Walter "Big Train" Johnson. I'd probably disagree that he's the best pitcher ever, but that's another blog. Good song.

-- "Right Field" -- Peter, Paul and Mary.

-- "Cryin' in the Dugout" -- off Daddy-A-Go-Go's Eat Every Bean and Pea on Your Plate album. A humorous song, "Baseball Dreams" played for laughs instead of nostalgia.

-- "The Greatest" -- Kenny Rogers.

-- "Roll Around" -- Peter Himmelman, off of his My Lemonade Stand CD. A fun, rollicking song about a baseball who retires, then comes back to his true calling.

-- "Baseball Tips with Professor Buckley -- Peter Himmelman, My Green Kite, an amusing little spoken-word piece.

-- "Baseball" -- Milkshake, off Play!. Guest-starring Cal Ripkin, Jr.

-- "The Challenger Baseball Song" -- Ben Rudnick and Friends. All about the Challenger Division of Little League, for kids with mental and physical disabilities.

-- "Baseball, Baseball" -- Stephen Cohen, off Here Comes the Band.

-- "Hey! Batter!" -- Hank Cooper, from Playground Fortune Teller -- all about the language of baseball...

-- "High Five" -- They Might Be Giants (at least in part anyway, and the video features some baseball players -- and c'mon, the team sponsored a Little League baseball team...)

-- "Bruce Springstone's" version of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."

-- Kathy Kallick's "brilliant refashioning" of Count Basie's "Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball"

-- "Bring 'Em In" -- the Deedle Deedle Dees (off their American History + Rock 'n' Roll = The Deedle Deedle Dees album)

-- "I Love Baseball" -- Jim Cosgrove (off Ooey Gooey)

-- "Home Run Ronnie" -- Debbie and Friends (off More Story Songs and Sing-Alongs)

-- "Lullabye with Baseball and Trains" - Peter Himmelman (off My Trampoline)

-- "Cool Papa Bell" -- The Deedle Deedle Dees (off Strange Dees Indeed, watch an early Lloyd Miller rendition here)

-- "Tommy Got in Trouble Today" -- the Bazillions (off Rock 'n' Roll Recess)

-- "Not So Good at Baseball" -- Barry Louis Polisar (off Old Enough to Know Better)

-- "Catfish" -- off Bob Dylan's Bootleg Series. I am unfamiliar with this one. But it's Dylan.

-- "Joe DiMaggio’s Done it Again" -– Wilco and Billy Bragg, from their Mermaid Ave Vol. 2 (not "kids music," per se, but totally OK.  Great, even)

-- "A Dying Cubs Fan’s Last Request" –- Steve Goodman. See "Talkin' Baseball," above.

-- "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" -- Brave Combo.  It's Brave Combo, how could it not be fun?

-- "Jackie" -- Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band (from Lishy Lou and Lucky Too).

-- "My Baseball Bat" -- The Boogers (Let's Go)

-- "Jackie Robinson" -- Ellis Paul (The Hero in You)

-- "Opening Day" -- Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could (single, listen here)

-- "Monster League Baseball" -- Eric Herman (The Incredibly Spaced-Out Adventures of Jupiter Jackson)

Monday Morning Smile: "A New Wave" - Sleater-Kinney

Sleepy this Monday morning?  Need a pick-me-up?  Then might I suggest the latest video from the awesome Sleater-Kinney?  It's for "A New Wave," and features the characters from the Fox animated comedy Bob's Burgers dancing while animated versions of the trio play one of the strongest songs from their new album No Cities To Love.  (Love drummer Janet Weiss shaking her head back and forth.)

While you or your kids might not pogo up and down like Tina Belcher, this'll serve as the equivalent of a cup of coffee or can of soda.  Energy!

[Almost entirely unrelated note: I get to see Sleater-Kinney in concert this spring.  Squeeee!]

Sleater-Kinney: "A New Wave" [YouTube]

Who Needs the Children's Music Grammy Anyway?

Before I start, let me get a few things out of the way:

1) Congratulations to Neela Vaswani for her Best Children's Music Grammy at the 57th Annual Grammys for her recording of the young adult version of I Am Malala, the memoir from Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai.  Yousafzai has already changed thousands (tens of thousands? hundreds of thousands?) of lives, and her story deserves to be heard by as many people as possible.

2) Congratulations as well to Vaswani's fellow nominees The Okee Dokee Brothers (Through the Woods), The Pop Ups (Appetite for Construction), Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could (Just Say Hi!), and Secret Agent 23 Skidoo (The Perfect Quirk).  From their social media posts, it sounds like that they did the Grammy thing right, partying, socializing, and being gracious when Vaswani won.  (And it sounds like Vaswani was just as gracious to her fellow nominees.)

3a) I am not now a member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), the membership group that runs (and votes for) the Grammy Awards, and I'm not sure I ever will be as even were I to get enough credits for voting membership (and I'm probably pretty close), its benefits aren't worth the cost to me. So you can take the rest of these comments with several grains of salt associated with being an outside.

3b) Also, I help run a kids music award site.

4a) The Grammys are mostly meaningless, but...

4b) Lots of people take the Grammys very seriously.

Those last 2 points are up for debate, obviously, but I'm not going too far out on a limb with those comments.  And with the small kerfuffle amongst some members of the kids music community (and I heard it from both musicians and fans) about the Grammy for Yousafzai's audiobook, it seems harder to deny that latter point.

5) I've not heard the Grammy-winning audiobook.

That's another big grain of salt to take with my argument, but on the other hand, I'm not going to be arguing about the relative qualitative merits of the nominees and winner.


How did we get here?  Well, in spring 2011, NARAS announced it was combining the Children's Musical Recording and Children's Spoken Word fields into a single category.  There was no specific reason cited for the return to a single category (the default from 1958 through 1993), but clearly the low participation in the Children's Spoken Word category played a role.  And although I feared that it would lead to even more big names and crowding out of independent musicians, exactly the opposite happened -- independent musicians ruled the day.

In fall 2012, the Grammys moved to a special nominating committee for children's music, and that certainly gave independent musicians a shot they might not have had under the old system.  Having said that, the list of nominees in winter 2011-2012 were pretty independent as well, so I don't know how much of an impact the special nominating committee has necessarily had on the independent status of the nominees.  (The makeup of the nominees, well, that's not a conversation I'm going to get into.)

But the nominating committees have done yeoman's (and yeowoman's) work in the category, so the comments that follow should in no way be considered an impugnment of their effort.  They listen to well over a hundred entries -- believe me, I know what that's like -- and their interests are certainly in the elevation and promotion of children's music and the production of cultural entertainment for children as a whole.

The inclusion of the audiobook version of I Am Malala didn't seem to (publicly) annoy some musicians and fans until it won the Grammy. While I was much more prosaic about the matter (see 4a above), I was not unsympathetic to the argument.  For me, the best analogy would be if, alongside all the other nominees for Best Picture at the Oscars, the list included a filmed version of, say, Love Letters, or some other play with simple staging.  Not a musical or a play like Into the Woods, which was reimagined for the big screen, but a simple 3- or 4-camera recording of the play on stage.

I have a suspicion that if that happened, movie fans (and those in the industry) would go apoplectic.  A movie, not just based on source material from another medium, but faithfully recorded from that medium, no matter how good and faithfully recorded, would not feel right amidst other movies which were, well, more movie-like.


All of which wouldn't matter except for 4b above -- (some) people care.  They care deeply about the Grammys.  Beyond the possible benefits of increased album sales and easier bookings (I gather those benefits are tangible but modest), I would guess that the thrill of recognition from your peers motivates many musicians who enter and the thrill of seeing your friends win.  And when four popular artists with critically-acclaimed albums inside kindie's tight-knit community have a chance to win a blast of recognition on a broader stage and don't get it, it can feel like a blow.

And here's where I make my radical, not entirely serious, but not entirely joking either, proposal:

Let's get rid of the Children's Music Grammy.

First, I'm not sure how useful a Grammy nomination or victory is in terms of album sales or album bookings.  I suspect it varies by album, and I'm not sure that the Grammy recognition is necessarily the defining point.  I'd love to see some actual data on that, but it's not going to be available the way that people can track the impact of an Oscar nomination on box office ticket sales.  It would surprise me if the collective amount of work (if not actual money) artists spend on submitting recordings for entry doesn't exceed the value of increased album sales and directly attributable bookings for the nominees and winner.

[Side note: I would be very happy if I never saw another artist ever again announcing that their album has been successfully admitted for Grammy entry.  I understand if people are excited, and I don't mind if people talk about it as the first, hopeful step towards a nomination, but bragging about it as if it's a major step towards a Grammy is akin to me bragging that my successful filing of my taxes on TurboTax means I'm thisclose to getting a $10,000 refund.  Stop it.  It's not pretty.  Rant over.] 

Certainly the Grammy Award itself can't have a meaningful impact on the visibility of children's music upon the world generally -- it's telecast on an afternoon webstream.  The concert held the Saturday before the past few years has certainly had a larger impact comparatively than the award, but there's no reason why it has to be done Grammy weekend, and there are other concerts that raise the visibility of children's music just as much.

The bigger issue is that of peers, and who exactly the peers are who are voting for the awards. It's not just the peers of people who play music primarily for kids and families.  It's (if they choose to vote in the category) the metal heads, the polka stars, the major label publicists, and the question for me as an outsider is, how valuable is that feedback.

If I had a dollar for every time I heard or read a kids musician say something along the lines of "I don't really think about kids when I'm writing, I just try to write a good song," I'd have a brand-new iPhone 6 rather than this much older version with a cracked screen.  But I believe artists when they say that, and I'd like to see those artists be able to move much more in that world.

Instead of being considered for a Children's Music Grammy, perhaps the Okee Dokee Brothers should be considered in the Best Americana or Best Folk Album categories.  Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, Best Rap Album, maybe?  The Pop Ups might fit in Best Pop Vocal Album, and Brady Rymer might also join in the Best Americana field.  And I Am Malala could compete in the Best Spoken Word Album category.

That's the thing, the Children's Music field is there because of the audience, but all those other fields have diverse audiences, theoretically.  The Pop Ups' Appetite for Construction has stellar production values, witty lyrics, and catchy choruses, and a big, beating alterna-poppy heart -- why shouldn't it compete against other albums that feature the same things?  Trying to choose from the 5 nominees just because an 8-year-old might listen to all of them is a little outmoded in an age where an 8-year-old might also listen to Katy Perry or Beyonce or Imagine Dragons.

I guess I'm just getting tired of the angst -- or what I perceive to be angst -- and I'm wondering if the genre is expending more energy than necessary on the Grammys.  (I'm writing this way past my own bedtime, so I'm clearly engaging in a little bit of pot calling the kettle black here.)  Maybe it's time that we started to focus a little more inward -- celebrating with and by the musicians who most know what it's like to make music for this segment of the world -- and a little more outward, being louder about the quality recordings that hold their own against others regardless of audience age.

Getting rid of the Children's Music Grammy wouldn't solve those issues, but I also think we wouldn't miss it nearly as much as we think it would.

Best Kids Music of 2014: A Summary

Well, it's been a week of looking at my favorite music for families from the past year.  For those of you who have missed the breathless reviews on Good Morning AmericaThe Tonight Show, or with your favorite YouTuber (Stephen Colbert no doubt thought about bringing back The Colbert Report just to talk with me), well, OK, there were no breathless reviews.

But I think people liked the effort.  I will note, however, that, based on a quick review of the posts (albums, debuts, singles, and videos), that there were maybe 48 artists represented in my lists.  That sounds like a lot -- it is a lot! -- but it's also at most 20% of the kids music I heard.  There are plenty of artists making good music for kids that just didn't make my list.  I like to think that I've got a reasonably broad set of tastes, but I've also strongly believed that having a distinctive point of view regarding music has helped make this site worthwhile.  I wouldn't want to publish a list with 148 artists -- that would be so broad as to be useless -- but would I appreciate artists 49 through 60 noticeably less than whomever artist 48 is?  No.

I guess what I'm saying is, there's lots of great music out there, even if they're not on one of these lists.  So, enjoy the lists, and hopefully you discover something new (or rediscover an old favorite of your family's).

Best Kids Music of 2014: Top 30 Videos

Continuing our look at the year's best in kids music, we finish up with videos.  Now, unlike albums and songs, for which I've traditionally tried to adhere to the Fids and Kamily year (which is Oct. 1, 2013 through Sept. 30, 2014 this year), my best-of video selections have tended to run on more of a March through Feburary video fiscal year.  I did that to kick off the very first KidVid Tournament, and I've sort of stuck with that ever since.  (So nobody release an awesome video in the next 48 hours, OK?)

Here's my list of my favorite 30 kids music videos of "2014."  Some are big-budget productions, some are small-budget productions, and some are virtually-no-budget productions.  There are puppets, stop-action, hand-animation, computer animation, live action, and sometimes, more than one of those things.

Before I present the 30 videos, I should note that I wanted to limit an artist to no more than one video on the list.  Which meant that artists like The Bazillions, Danny Weinkauf, and Caspar Babypants don't get their full due as artists that have fully committed to the art of the kids music video, each releasing several music videos that could have appeared on this list (if I wasn't limiting them to one video, they might have had a dozen or so between them).

Of particular note, Chris Ballew has done some amazing work, not only contracting out with a variety of animators for his Caspar Babypants videos but also producing videos on his own beautiful in their creativity and simplicity.  For that reason, I'm giving him a Special Award for Awesomest Kids Music Video Guy of 2014.  Now, if you don't mind, I've got to go find an MTV VMA statue on eBay so I modify it and give it to Ballew.

So while I'm doing that, here's the list in alphabetical order by artist.  A YouTube playlist can be found at the very end if you'd like to while away an hour or two...

Dynamite - Alphabet Rockers (YouTube)

No Homework - The Bazillions (YouTube)

Bottle Caps - Laurie Berkner (YouTube)

Tiny Little Car - Johnny Bregar (YouTube)

The Creatures Under My Bed - Caspar Babypants (YouTube)

Grand March from Aida - Dog On Fleas (YouTube)

I'm a Little Fish - Laura Doherty (YouTube)

Hair - fleaBITE (YouTube)

I Can't Feel My Face - Gustafer Yellowgold (YouTube)

How Great Can This Day Be - Lori Henriques (YouTube)

November First (Jump, Run, Shake) - Eric Herman (YouTube)

Just Not Me - The Hipwaders (YouTube)

Did You Ever See a Lassie? - Charlie Hope (YouTube)

Snow Day - Josh and the Jamtones (YouTube)

Crew Cut - Randy Kaplan (YouTube)

Gingerbread Man - Lunch Money  (YouTube)

I Love You More - Todd McHatton (YouTube)

Girls Wanna Dance - Milkshake (YouTube)

Call Me Mista Cookie Jar - Mista Cookie Jar (YouTube)

Haircut - The Not-Its (YouTube)

Walking With Spring - The Okee Dokee Brothers (YouTube)

All These Shapes - The Pop Ups (YouTube)

Love Bug - Raffi (YouTube)

Brick By Brick - Recess Monkey (YouTube)

Rattlesnake - Red Yarn (YouTube)

Los Colores - Andres Salguero (YouTube)

Pillow Fort Pillow Fight - Secret Agent 23 Skidoo (YouTube)

Ice Cream (Healthy Eating) - Danny Weinkauf (YouTube)

Sea Turtle - The Whizpops (YouTube)

Armando Armadillo - Key Wilde & Mr. Clarke (YouTube)

Best Kids Music of 2014: Top 30 Songs

know.  This is madness, right?  Trying to come up with a list of my 30 favorite songs from the past year? Completely. Nuts.

But that's what I'm willing to do for you, dear readers.  More so than a list of albums or debuts or videos, however, a list ranking favorite songs is ephemeral, subject to the whims of a particular moment.  More than that, it probably tends toward the poppy, upbeat, and lively.  Tender lullabies have to do more work to stand out in my (or your) memory if you've heard literally thousands of kids' songs over the past year.

But regardless of how different my list would next week (or late in the evening), these 30 songs are among the best that kids music offered us in the past year.  ("Year," as always, defined as Oct. 1, 2013 through Sept. 30, 2014, though that's harder to stick to given the prevalence of singles which might have been released on either side of that window.  Deal.)

Also, these are in alphabetical order -- if you think I'm going to attempt to rank all these, you're even more nuts than I am in deciding to pick them.

Anyway, I've combined these into a handy Spotify playlist found at the bottom of this list (click here if you're already in Spotify).  Enjoy!

Bears and Lions - "Pancakes"

The Laurie Berkner Band – "Fireflies"

Caspar Babypants – "The Girl with the Squirrel in Her Hat"

Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band – "When I Grow Up"

The Dirty Sock Funtime Band (w/ Laurie Berkner) – "We're in Love"

Laura Doherty - "I'm a Little Fish"

Django Jones – "Counterpoint"

Gustafer Yellowgold - "Toothloser"

The Hipwaders – "Kings & Queens"

Charlie Hope – "Harmony" (feat. Elizabeth Mitchell)

Hullabaloo – "Like a Bird Must Feel"

Jazzy Ash - "Throw Me Something Mista" (feat. Mista Cookie Jar)

Randy Kaplan – "Not Too Young for a Song"

Joanie Leeds and the Nightlights – "Food Fight"

Josh and the Jamtones – "Green and Spakkled Frogs"

Luscious Jackson – "Hula Hoop"

Walter Martin - "Hey Sister" (feat. Kat Edmonson)

Mista Cookie Jar & the Chocolate Chips – "My My My"

The Not-Its! - "When I Fell (The Scab Song)"

The Okee Dokee Brothers - "Through the Woods"

The Pop Ups - "All These Shapes"

Raffi – "Love Bug"

Recess Monkey - "Smooth Sailing"

Red Yarn - "The Fox"

Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could – "Just Say Hi!"

Secret Agent 23 Skidoo – "Imaginary Friend"

The Short Films – "The Mysterious Okapi"

Ben Tatar and the Tatar Tots – "The Grape Jam" (feat. Spare Parts)

Danny Weinkauf – "Oh No Oh Yeah"

The Whizpops! – "Sea Turtule"