Ooooh. Top 20. We're definitely getting into "you should definitely know these" territory.
With this entry, your opportunity to enter my contest has now ended. I know there have been a number of entries submitted, but I haven't really looked at them. Might be interesting now that I know what my Top 5 are.
20. "Hokey Pokey" - traditional: This far into the list, the songs here are usually easily adpatable to whatever variations you want to provide, which helps keep the song itself fresh. So if you want to put your patella in, or gluteous maximus in, or if you're a pirate, your pegleg in, go ahead. My own memory of this song is attempting to do this on roller skates. High comedy. (Listen to Dan Zanes -- with an assist from Father Goose -- give his take here.
19. "De Colores" - traditional: There was a point, very early on in our children's music lives, when probably half of our CDs had some version of this traditional Spanish-language folk song somewhere in the track listing. This is probably why my wife strongly dislikes this song. To this day, I can sing (phonetically) "Daaaaay" and not even get to "Colores" before she gives me "the look." Despite this, and the fact that a good English translation just does not exist, it has a beautiful, loping melody that conveys the point even if you don't understand much Spanish. (Go here for a bad English translation and Nana Mouskouri's version of the song.)
18. "Mama Don't Allow" - Charles "Cow Cow" Davenport: I just found out that this song was written by a man who was known by the name "Cow Cow." It was not his given name (mama don't allow no odd names on the birth certificate, apparently), but I kinda like it. The song, which encourages listener insubordination of the best kind (it's as if Mo Willems wrote Don't Let The Pigeon Stomp His Feet!), is a great music and movement song. (Hear a snippet of Fox & Branch's version or Brady Rymer's version.)
17. "Oh Susanna" - Stephen Foster: 160 years old this year, Wikipedia describes the lyrics here as "nonsense verse," which worried me, because the lyrics make perfect sense to me. OK, "It rained all night the day I left, the weather it was dry," doesn't make perfect sense, but it's songwriter's license. Kids love the "Oh Susanna" part. (Thankfully, Foster's shudderingly racist verse is no longer used.) (I kinda like Brian's energetic if slightly off-key version on the We Are... The Laurie Berkner Band DVD, and YouTube offers a copyright-unclear version here.)
16. "She'll Be Comin' 'Round the Mountain" - traditional: First printed in Carl Sandburg's The American Songbag (see my review of Dan Zanes' take on the book), the melody is what sells the piece. Oh, and the ad libs artists throw in when they're singing about, say, wool pajamas ("itch, scratch" says Laurie Berkner). And I say we throw the part about killing the rooster back into common usage. Kids gotta know where their dino-nuggets are coming from, though I guess they offer tofu dino-nuggets now, too. (Oh, you can find tons of great versions -- Laurie Berkner, Raffi, and Pete Seeger, to name just three -- but this made my day.)