Monday, November 30, 2009

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Hippie Harvest Kitchen - Uncle Rock
Animal Crackers - Wee Hairy Beasties
The Bunny Hop - Warren Covington
Butterfly - Mr. Billy
You Are Not Alone - Michael Jackson
Family Ride - Mr. Ray
Rock Lobster - B-52s
My Best Day - Trout Fishing in America
Buddy Holly - Weezer
Aidan's Train - The Hipwaders

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Ben's Playlist - Monday, November 30, 2009

Connected - Uncle Rock
The Greatest Love of All - Whitney Houston
Beverly the Village Misfit - Board of Education
Pipeline - The Ventures
Mama, Don't Take My Toys Away - Joe Thompson
Take Me to the River - Talking Heads
Senses Working Overtime - XTC
Danny Don't - Steve Weeks
Pussycat - Twink
E Eats Everything - They Might Be Giants
Ants in the Kitchen - YellowKat

Friday, November 27, 2009

Ben's Playlist - Friday, November 27, 2009

Loquat Rooftop - Randy Kaplan
Oye Como Va - Carlos Santana
Should've Known Better - Richard Marx
Clocks - Coldplay & Buena Vista Social Club
Twitchy - The Hipwaders
Little Miss Can't Be Wrong - Spin Doctors
Snow ((Hey Oh)) - Red Hot Chili Peppers
My Best Friend - Weezer
SOS (Rescue Me) - Rihanna
Sandbox Song - Recess Monkey

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Wake Up Song - Lisa Loeb
Cowboy Bergaleapolous - Eric Herman and the Invisible Band
Spiders in My Breakfast - Harmonica Pocket
Grumpy Gus Theme - Uncle Rock
Don't Tell Me - Avril Lavigne
Iko Iko - Cyndi Lauper
Microphone - Super Pal Universe
The Sound I Found - Kira Wiley
Everyday Sunshine - Fishbone
I Walk the Earth - Voice of the Beehive

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Keep Me In Your Heart - Warren Zevon
Where Did I Go Wrong - UB40
Peter Gunn - The Ventures
Rock & Roll Babysitter - Uncle Rock
Jungle Junk - Monty Harper
Ca Plane Pour Moi - Plastic Bertrand
How Do You Spell Chunnukkahh? - The LeeVees
Have a Wonderful Holiday - Ralph's World
Undone (The Sweater Song) - Weezer
Eep Opp Ork Ah-Ah - Violent Femmes

Monday, November 23, 2009

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Wings of An Eagle - Ziggy Marley
Meltdown - Lanny Sherwin
Grownups Are Strange - Bill Harley
Goodbye Is Not What I Want to Hear Today - Mel Glazer
Mr. Tough - Yo La Tengo
Hey Hey Song - Mr. Richard
The World Has Turned and Left Me Here - Weezer
Rattle My Bones - The Suburbs
Morning Person - Fiona & Pied Piper
Six Months in a Leaky Boat - Split Enz
The Addams Family

Music for Kids, Not Children’s Music

Our home and car are filled with music. It’s a democratic mélange of genres, generations, and genders. We segue from the Lovin’ Spoonful to Feist to the Sippy Cups to Weezer to Renee & Jeremy. And enjoy them all.

When people ask what we’re into, I don’t call it children’s music, because I’m not a child. Well, at least not according to the state. The terms “children’s music” and “family friendly” bristle. For many adults, “family friendly” music conjures up thoughts of Raffi, the Wiggles, and endless Sesame Street CDs. We listen to all music (and yes, this includes classical selections). While I enjoy many Putamayo world music compilations, there are some I could do without my son selecting for rotational play. But in a musical democracy, the individual makes sacrifices for the good of the community.

Early on, with a very young child, it was understood that talk radio and modern rock stations were not going to cut it. By the same token, why limit the selections to a strict regimen of 4 or 5 traditional recordings? When Ben, before age 2, began to anticipate certain songs or videos (a smile appearing in the two-second pause between tracks), we dug into our records and CDs to rediscover the past and investigate new possibilities.

Sure enough, the Beatles have charmed anew. Split Enz have never sounded so fresh. It’s amusing to watch commuter reactions as Ben breaks into a chorus of “Rock Lobster” on the morning train – after all, it’s a 30-year-old novelty song.

We’ve learned that it’s good to expose a child to a variety of music. Don’t be timid. Know the consequences. If you only listen to country and western, your kid may grow up with an affinity for southern rock. But he may also grow up abhorring it and look for alternatives. A good mix is always preferable.

By the same token, don’t play cutesy or coy. If you play “Orchestral Nine Inch Nails” or “Megadeth for Toddlers,” don’t be surprised if little Todd becomes a headbanger after seeking out the original versions of the tunes. “Weird Al” Yankovic made a career out of spoofing pop songs and styles and subverting them into parodies. There is nothing wrong with playing selected songs of an act meant for adults. I’ve played a number of Ramones songs. “Now I’m Gonna Sniff Some Glue” was not one of them. There are limits. Scan the lyrics if you can. If you can’t, sometimes the titles will suffice. You don’t really want the kids running around the playground singing, “Pinhead, pinhead.”

Both my wife and I have musical backgrounds. My first day at college, I made a beeline for the campus radio station and spent hours on the air as a DJ and in the production studio, editing recorded bits and commercials. When Joan Armatrading performed at the University, the woman assembling the original advertisement was such a big fan that she mastered a 3:45 spot – and refused to edit her masterpiece. In desperation, the general manager asked me to whittle it down to 55 seconds. I watched with grim irony as the woman then played (my) version for the student programming staff (who thought she had produced it). They loved it.

My wife, Andrea, took acoustic guitar lessons in junior high school. Her snare drum expertise helped her make the cut for the All [New York] City Marching Band. As a professional writer, she had articles published in TV Guide and CD reviews in Rolling Stone, where she later worked in their book publishing division.

The Rolling Stone connection proved to be a touchstone in our music listening evolution. Her boss, had married a musician, Robert Burke Warren, who started recording children’s music as Uncle Rock. We purchased his first CD, and it was a big hit with Ben. The next summer, in 2006, Robert alerted people that a song from the CD would be played on a Saturday morning radio show that spotlighted music for kids – not necessarily children’s music, but music that children could listen to with their parents.

We did not live in listening range of the radio station, but “Spare the Rock” could be downloaded as a podcast through its Web site or through iTunes. Hosted by Bill Childs and his children Ella and Liam, the broadcast resonated from the first week. Looking back, the show introduced us to a whole world of “kindie” (i.e., children’s independent) artists. Performers on the first podcast we heard included Eric Herman, ScribbleMonster, and Monty Harper.

The real breakthrough came later that summer. I downloaded an earlier podcast to bring on a long car trip. We watched Ben listen intently to every song and ask us, “Who’s singing?” And then came Roger Day, singing “It's a No-No to Kiss a Rhino.” A big smile turned into out-and-out laughter. I turned to Andrea and said, “Mark that song.” When we got home, we bought the song online. And we’ve continued that pattern every week for the past four years.

Despite the variety of genres, we are mostly a rock-oriented family. There are bands that play a “grown-up” rocking style for youngsters – such as the Jimmies, the Hipwaders, and AudraRox. There are also groups that moonlight as kids’ artists – most notably They Might Be Giants – who have an adult sensibility to their material. “Here Comes Science” may not be the most appropriate music for a two-year-old, but it’s a whole lot more palatable than “Leonard Cohen’s Greatest Hits.”

When I heard one mother tell me with pride, “We’ve never played children’s music in our car,” my first (unsaid) response was, “Why not?” Making primarily yourself happy leads to diminishing returns. I can only imagine how tiresome it must be for a child to know that her choices on a long car trip are a Bob Dylan bootleg concert tape, Led Zeppelin’s “The Song Remains the Same,” and Sonic Youth – any Sonic Youth.

In contrast, the “kindie” music movement delivers a spectrum of choices to parents and their offspring. Most of the artists are locally-based and use the Internet to spread the word about their bands, their performance schedules, and their CDs and DVDs.

We took up Robert Warren’s offer and trekked into Manhattan for an Uncle Rock “in-store” performance at a downtown book store. True to form, Ben did not want to leave during the break. We had a snack and stayed through both sets. Friends will mention they’ve seen U2 in concert “a dozen times.” I respond in kind, about Dan Zanes. With those concerts come the post-show autograph sessions. Ben became so familiar with musicians that he didn’t flinch (much) when Tom Chapin hoisted him onto his lap for a picture.

In 2008, we went “through the looking glass” and were invited by Bill Childs to a showcase of kindie musicians in Brooklyn. As a frequent concertgoer, Ben wasn’t cowed in the presence of numerous musicians and was more than happy to sit front row center as a string of talented performers sang less than 10 feet away. He even commented to a couple of them, asking what they were going to sing next.

In four years our music experiment has come full circle. We no longer choose CDs for the car, Ben does. I muttered something about never wanting to hear a certain classical CD again and Andrea reminded me that if we had a few more symphonic releases, Ben wouldn’t be limited in that genre.

Every Friday afternoon, I hand Ben the playlist for the next morning’s “Spare the Rock” podcast. He notes the They Might Be Giants songs that begin and end every episode. He checks for songs that he knows. Weekends, when we play the broadcast, Ben tells us which songs he wants to save for later replay.

Weeknights, Ben clicks through his iTunes library to create a morning playlist. Every few months, I troll through the master directory and remove selections that have not been heard in over a year. Many tunes are played once, twice, then are forgotten or ignored.

Ben’s unpredictability is the only constant. He rediscovers songs that remind him of past experiences. He requests more songs from his favorite artists. He looks at album cover art and asks if we have any music from those records in iTunes.

And what has this attention to music spawned? After 26 months of piano lessons, Ben figures out the melodies for songs he likes. We smile when he hums an unfamiliar tune or warbles a lyric and declares, “This is a new song,” and it’s his own original creation.

Music may not be a life choice or career for Ben, but he has benefited from the exposure to a gamut of material. Music is as important to him as it remains important to us. Teaching Ben about music has brought us closer together as a family and gives him a knowledge base that transcends the label “children’s music.”

One of Ben’s young cousins recently asked him, “What do you listen to in the car?” She persisted when he didn’t answer. “Sesame Street? Yo Gabba Gabba? The Wiggles?” He quickly barked, “No! I listen to the White Stripes!” Although we did not explicitly set out to create one, our eight-year-old has turned into a kindie music snob. And that’s fine with us.

Football - Week 12

Dogs: Oak, Giants, TB, Clev, KC, Jax, Chi, Pitt, NE

Bets: Jets, Indy, AZ

Pts: 53

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Ben's Playlist - Monday, November 23, 2009

White Light - Wilco
Heart of the Country - Wings
Jungle Boogie - The Sippy Cups
Forever Your Girl - Paula Abdul
She Just Doesn't Get It - Yosi & the Superdads
I'll Be You - The Replacements
It Don't Come Easy - Ringo Starr
In The Mall - Weezer
Senses Working Overtime - XTC

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ben's Playlist - Friday, November 20, 2009

Wonder of Birds - Innocence Mission
Percy on Pluto - The Nields
Love Shack - B-52's
Gravity - Robbert Bobbert and the Bubble Machine
Yakkety Yak - The Coasters
Don't Dream It's Over - Crowded House
My Green Kite - Peter Himmelman
Midtown Greenway - Bunny Clogs
Everyone Asked About You - Bob McGrath
I Think I got You Beat - Shrek & Fiona

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, November 19, 2009

Green Teeth - The Zucchini Brothers
Time Is Not An Endless Song - Mel Glazer
It's a Kids World - Daddy A Go Go
Private Idaho - B-52's
Wake Up - Arcade Fire
Funky Monkey - Yosi & the Superdads
It's Hot Don't Touch It! - Uncle Rock
My Best Friend - Weezer
That Thing You Do! - The Wonders
Favorite Names - Key Wilde & Mr. Clarke
Casper The Friendly Ghost

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Go Waggalo - Sarah Lee Guthrie & Family
Celebrate - Three Dog Night
The Way You Do The Things You Do - UB40
If You're Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To - Weezer
Open Up Your Eyes - Tonic
Roam - B-52's
You Make Me Feel Good - Q Brothers
Superstition - Stevie Wonder
Six Months in a Leaky Boat - Split Enz
Science Is Real - They Might Be Giants

Football - Week 11

Dogs: Indy, Sea, Wash, TB, StL, Oak

Bets: Indy, Sea, Oak

Pts: 40

Monday, November 16, 2009

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ballad Of Sir Isaac Newton - Tom Glazer & Dottie Evans
Love in My Food - Uncle Rock
Iguana - Artichoke
Green Teeth - The Zucchini Brothers
White Light - Wilco
Rockstar - Charity and the JAMband Children/Family
Good Stuff - B-52's
If You Could Only See - Tonic
Empire State of Mind (Clean) - Jay Z ft Alicia Keys
Banana Seat Bike - Ralph's World
Come as You Are - Peter Wolf
Buddy Holly - Weezer

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Ben's Playlist - Monday, November 16, 2009

Iguana - Artichoke
We Are Going To Be Friends - The White Stripes
Mr. Tough - Yo La Tengo
Heart of the Country - Wings
Walk Tall - Ziggy Marley
Photograph - Ringo Starr
Sullivan McGulligan - Hullabaloo
Only in Dreams - Weezer
The Rhyming Circus - Ralph's World
If Mama Had Four Hands - Sarah Lee & Johnny Guthrie

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ben's Playlist - Friday, November 13, 2009

Calendar Girl - Neil Sedaka
Remedios - Gertrudis
Lucky Today - Cloud Cult
Young Folks - Peter Bjorn and John
Yeah Yeah Yeah Song - Flaming Lips
Let Me Roll It - Paul McCartney
Moving Out (Anthony's Song) - Billy Joel
Best Friends Forever - AudraRox
Zoom! - Egg

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, November 12, 2009

Why Does The Sun Shine? - Tom Glazer & Dottie Evans
Star Wars: Main Theme - John Williams
Ya Ya - Lee Dorsey
I'll Come Running - Brian Eno
Mocking Bird - James Taylor & Carly Simon
Louie Louie - The Kingsmen
Coconut Woman - Karl Zero & THE Wailers
My Best Friend - Weezer
400 Cupcakes - Hullabaloo
I Gotta Feeling - The Black Eyed Peas

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Zoom A Little Zoom - Tom Glazer & Dottie Evans
Have You Seen My Chicken? - Sweetback Sisters
C'mon - Renee & Jeremy
76 Trombones - Dan Zanes and Friends
Raise the Brain - Miz B
Stop & Stare - OneRepublic
Sometimes I'll Be There - Naked Brothers Band
That's How We Make A Sandwich - Duplex
What's That Smell - Mr. Oscat
Use Somebody - Kings Of Leon
This Is Our Story - Fiona, Shrek, Donkey, Fairytale Creatures & Ensemble

Football - Week 10

Dogs: Buf, Det, Car, TB, NE

Bets: Pitt, AZ, SD

Pts: 50

Monday, November 09, 2009

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Stratus And Cumulus - Tom Glazer
Three Little Birds - Renee & Jeremy
Mushaboom (Mocky Mix) - Feist
New Day - Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
Invisible - Alexa Ray Joel
What's So Funny 'Bout Peace Love and Understanding - Elvis Costello
Rock Lobster - B-52s
FunkyFrogz - Doctor Noize
Something So Strong - Crowded House

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Ben's Playlist - Monday, November 9, 2009

What Is An Animal? - Marais & Miranda
Three Little Birds - Bob Marley
Helplessly Hoping - CSNY
Never Gonna Be Bored! - Adam and the Couch Potatoes
Not The Same - Ben Folds Presents: The Spartones From Greensboro, NC
I'll Be Loving You Honey - Mel Glazer
Smile - The Jayhawks
Seven is the New Fourteen - Sippy Cups
Obama Song - Michael Franti & Spearhead
We R Super Heroes - Robbert Bobbert and the Bubble Machine
In The Mall - Weezer
Take My Hand - Dewey Cox

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Ben's Playlist - Friday, November 6, 2009

Magic Toast - The Sippy Cups
One Halloween Night... - Stevesongs
Rock Lobster - B-52s
There's A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow - They Might Be Giants
I Love Onions - Susan Christie
Love Is The Answer - Weezer
Banana Seat Bike - Ralph's World
Ca Plane Pour Moi - Plastic Bertrand
Super Bon Bon - Soul Coughing
New River Train - Cathy & Marcy With Christylez Bacon

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Ben's Playist - Thursday, November 5, 2009

Ben Is Prepared to Rock - Bill and Ella
How Clouds Are Formed - Tom Glazer
LearningSpring Song - Kyle Kelso
Wash Your Hands (Short Version) - Bill Harley
I-C-E C-R-E-A-M - Telephone Company
Salamander Green - Ralph Covert
Dinosaurs - Billy Gorilly
98.8 - Justin Roberts
Dragons Licking Lollipops - Doctor Noize & The Noizemakers
He's Okay - Sugar Free All-Stars
History Never Repeats - Split Enz
Let It All Hang Out - Weezer
My Brother The Ape - They Might Be Giants
What Are You Like - Indigo Girls

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Way I Am - Ingrid Michaelson
Bad Day - Alvin and The Chipmunks
On The Wings Of A Nightingale - The Everly Brothers
Starman - Golden Smog
Sunny Delight - Breakestra
Are You Gonna Eat That? - Keith Munslow
Where It's At - Beck
If You're Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To - Weezer
Dog Eat Dog - Adam & the Ants
Allergies - Barenaked Ladies

Football - Week 9

Dogs: Hou, Wash, Car, Det, TN

Bets: Jax, GB, Pitt

Pts: 50

Monday, November 02, 2009

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, November 3, 2009

What Is A Mammal? - Marais & Miranda
Sweetest Song of All - Mel Glazer
Smile - Ky-Mani Marley
Oseh Shalom - Dan Zanes
I Always Sit When I Eat - Moey's Music Party
Eep Opp Ork Ah-Ah - Violent Femmes
Roy G. Biv - They Might Be Giants
My Angry Voice - The Sippy Cups
The Way You Make Me Feel - Michael Jackson
Beverly Hills - Weezer
Spork - Keith Munslow

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Ben's Playlist - Monday, November 2, 2009

Jay Leno Show - Mel Glazer/Charlie Weiss
It Makes You Feel Good - Renee & Jeremy
Praise You - Fatboy Slim
Fallin' For You - Colbie Caillat
Muffin Man - The Nields
No Surprise - Daughtry
Eventually - Naked Brothers Band
What a Wonderful World - The Ramones
Come as You Are - Peter Wolf
It's The End Of The World As We Know It - R.E.M.