Intro to Kindie: Laurie Berkner

Laurie Berkner, photo by Jayme Thornton

Laurie Berkner, photo by Jayme Thornton

In my Intro to Kindie series, I've focused thus far on people who've had the opportunity to listen to thousands (if not tens of thousands) of kids music songs to try to select the twenty or so songs that would serve as a good introduction to kids music for the 21st century listener.

That's meant that my respondents thus far (and in the future) have not been musicians, but radio folks and others who've made it their job or hobby to listen to 250 or more albums per year.

But there are a handful of musicians I'm planning to feature here, musicians whose appreciation of the history and modern context of kids music rivals (or supersedes) that of folks like me.

Laurie Berkner's Favorite Classic Kids' Songs album cover

Laurie Berkner's Favorite Classic Kids' Songs album cover

So I'm tickled pink to have kids music superstar Laurie Berkner be the first musician to offer her own list of twenty songs to introduce to the kids' music newbie.  Berkner's on a roll at the momeny -- just this week, for example, Simon & Schuster announced that they'd be publishing three picture books in 2017 and 2018 -- but most importantly for the purposes of this particular exercise, her latest album, Laurie Berkner's Favorite Classic Kids' Songs, is set for release next week.  It's a 2-CD, 57-track (!) set that features 51 traditional children's songs plus six "bonus" tracks of Berkner's own songs that could easily join those traditional songs.

I love all these lists, and Berkner's is no exception, with a wonderful introduction kicking things off.

For me, the songs that really represent an artist or a genre are the ones that move me. They might make my body move, move me to laughter or move me to tears, but they affect me deeply in some way.  All of the songs that I've chosen as an introduction to kids' music have some element that I think is moving, as well as being representative of the ever-expanding world of kids' music.  Some of these songs are for very young children, some are for kids already in school, some are more for the parents, but to me most of them have a lovely sense of something joyful or beautiful, and often it's from the child's perspective. 

It goes without saying that there are now so many wonderful musicians making great music for families that it would have been impossible to put them all on this list.  Instead I just tried to include a sampling of music more recently written along with music that has stood the test of time.  "Sammy" by Hap Palmer is an exquisitely written song that made me cry as a kid, with a message that I still appreciate as an adult.  "I am a Paleontologist" is only one amazing song of many by They Might Be Giants.  I happen to think this one is genius in the way it combines content that is truly of interest to kids with a super catchy chorus and a sound that hints enough at crunchy guitar rock to tickle parents.

Brady Rymer's "Jump Up (It's a Good Day)" is a song that really moves me to jump and just makes me feel happy every time I hear it.  I only included one song from a musical because I think that music is easier to discover without much research, but I think that many amazing kids' songs come from that genre (I could do an entire list made up of songs exclusively performed by Julie Andrews). I also couldn't help myself, but as a bonus 21st track, I included Paul Simon's "St. Judy's Comet" because even though he didn't put it on a kids' album, Simon wrote it for his own son.  I sang it to my daughter for years, and I think it's one of those songs that takes on deep meaning only once you become a parent.  

Here are my 20 (OK, 21) bits of kids' music pleasure, in no particular order.  Enjoy!

"Jump Up (It's a Good Day)" - Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could

"Roller Coaster" - Kira Willey 

"Pop Fly"- Justin Roberts

"Spoonful of Sugar" - from Mary Poppins

"I am a Paleontologist" - They Might Be Giants (with Danny Weinkauf)

"Family Time" - Ziggy Marley

"Daddy-O" - Frances England

"Sammy" - Hap Palmer

"Glad To Have A Friend Like You" - Free To Be You And Me/Marlo Thomas and Friends

"Go Down Emmanuel Road" - Dan Zanes

"Good Morning My Love" - Vered

"The Garden Song" - Arlo Guthrie

"Upside Down" - Jack Johnson

"John The Rabbit"  - Elizabeth Mitchell

 "All These Shapes" - The Pop-Ups

"Music Everywhere" - The Dirty Sock Funtime Band

"Fly Birdy Fly" - Choo Choo Soul

"Walking With Spring" - The Okee Dokee Brothers

"The Marvelous Toy" - Tom Paxton

"Suppertime" - The Verve Pipe

"St. Judy's Comet" - Paul Simon

Photo credit: Jayme Thornton