Without any further ado, here they are, the top 5 kids songs of all time.
(OK, a little further ado.)
(Oh, and I'll figure out the contest winner soon.)
5. "Lullaby" - Johannes Brahms: Yeah, I didn't really want to cover too many lullabies here, but this one is so common that it seemed churlish not to include it. Our daughter calls it the "Doo doo doo" song, but we usually get bored of singing that sound to the familiar melody ("Lullaby / And goodnight / Something something and something.."). Try quacking the melody. Not particularly soothing, but a fun bedtime routine nonetheless. I am not going to link to the samples of Celine Dion's, Aaron Neville's, or Olivia Newton-John's take on the song, because I am going to make the blanket assumption that your child or niece or grandchild or random kid off the streets will prefer your version to what I assume is an incredibly overwrought version by an actual professional singer.
4. "Miss Mary Mack" - traditional: Sure, it's traditional (dates back to the 19th century at least), but I've always associated it with the first lady of American kids music, Ella Jenkins. I was (pleasantly) surprised to hear my daughter singing it one day at home -- they're still teaching it in kindergarten, thousands of miles away from Chicago. Hand-clappin', jump-ropin', rockin' out, whatever, it's still an simple tune with fun lyrics. (You can hear a traditional version here, sample a Sweet Honey in the Rock tribute here or a sample of Erin Flynn's half-traditional/half-revisionist take here.)
3. "Three is a Magic Number" - Bob Dorough: Like this was going to be anywhere else on this list. Here's the thing about this song -- I've yet to hear a bad version of it. Blind Melon? Check. The Jellydots? Check. Jack Johnson blended the song with lyrics about recycling to energetic effect on "The 3 Rs." It teaches math, it teaches history, and it's incredibly catchy. (And if those YouTube and Myspace references aren't enough, here's the original.)
2. "You Are My Sunshine" - Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell: This is one of those kids' songs that's more popular, I think, because people don't bother singing the verses, which aren't necessarily full of unconditional love ("you have shattered all my dreams"), and instead sing the chorus. It's not that the chorus is all sunshine and light, either, but it's close enough (or with a tweak or two, "and I love you more everyday..," completely innocuous). And that melody -- so totally singable. (You can listen to Davis' 1931 recording here. You can also listen to Elizabeth Mitchell's version here -- click on "Sunshine," then "Listen.")
1. "ABCs/Twinkle Twinkle/Baa Baa Black Sheep" - trad. lyrics, music is a French folk tune ("Ah, vous dirai-je, maman") arranged by Louis Le Maire: I really don't know what else to say here. It's a melody that's been adapted to at least three classic songs, songs that are part of the English-language canon, really. (Which isn't to say that other countries with other languages aren't familiar with it, either.) People (including me) think that Mozart wrote the melody (he didn't -- he just adapted it.) That song is so ingrained in your head that you can sing it over and over half-asleep at a 2 AM feeding. There's no need for a sample -- go ahead and sing it to your kid, your friends' kids, whomever. There is no other choice. #1.