Albums that make me happy
I used to sit on the rug holding the record cover for Free to Be You and Me, reading all the lyrics in tiny print and listening to the songs and stories that would run in my head for all the years to come. In primary colors of the 1980's, the first acting I ever did was in that show. When I met my husband, I knew early on that he was a good one. He had Free to Be You and Me on his iPod. He was a bachelor, with no kids, a nephew who lived 250 miles away, and he had Free to Be You and Me on his iPod.
I have gifted that film, that album, to so many friends with young children. I have forced my own children to listen to it on repeat (if I can listen to the soundtrack to Seussical the Musical x1000, they can hear "William has a Doll" one more time). When I meet people who were raised on it, we always smile to each other: "yes, I see your childhood heart of hope- I was there, too."
These days there are a lot more options when it comes to kids' entertainment, as well as kids' entertainment that is challenging the status quo. If you haven't been paying attention since your Free To Be record got put aside, I'm going to share the music that I like, and I hope you and the kids in your life might enjoy it, too. Maybe one of these will be the echo in those little ears going forward.
According to Chana Rothman's website, "Rainbow Train answers the questions: How do we help our children feel free to express themselves, body, mind and spirit?" Yes. I think of Rainbow Train as the Free to Be for the new millennium. In Free to Be William gets a doll, in Rainbow Train he wears a dress. I listen to this album all the time. By myself. It's that good.
Two of a Kind is a fantastic Philadelphia-based children's band. They have several albums, but the one we have been enjoying is We're All in this Together. The music is big and powerful, silly and educational all at the same time. Fun fact: Two of a Kind is made up of the parents of a set of identical twins (just like me!). You might think (as I did) that the name came from their children, but no: Jenny and David are the ones who are "two-of-a-kind"! And we are so lucky they are. Their kids are now grown up, but they still sing with their parents when they can. I guess if you start at age 4 there's no reason to stop.
Princess Backpack and Benjamin are fantastic. Listen: they sing a "Bubble Rap." How can you not love it? There is a song called "We're not people, we are pandas." Hilarious and singable. If you are in the NYC area you might be lucky enough to catch a show!
Ants on a Log is a Philadelphia-area duo that sings pretty harmonies and tells funny stories, two of my favorites are a great song called "Waiting in Line" and another called "Please don't put it in a bag, I brought my own Tupperware." You are not going to believe me, but the latter gets stuck in my head all the time.
Melita Silberstein and her band Octopretzel, based in California, are uplifting and joyful. We got Shirei Gan Shalom/ Songs in the Garden from the PJ Jewish Library program and it has been in circulation for years. The voices are sweet and the music is accessible, even for a Jewish family with limited religious education. If you are in the Bay Area, look around for Octopretzel concerts!
Ayelet Gottleib is a Jerusalem-born vocalist, composer and improviser. She recently released the blissful album, Two More Dreams, which is a collection of original lullabies presenting a message of peace. Whether you understand Hebrew, Arabic, Ladino or English, you will have a hard time resisting the pull of these compositions.
If you haven't found Elizabeth Mitchell yet (You are My Little Bird is my favorite), you need to do that. And if you missed Ella Jenkins, the Mother of Children's Music, the first time around- start there. She has children's music from a career spanning 5 decades.
So- what are you listening to?