Kids music is great and all, but sometimes while you’re driving along running errands with your little ones in the back seat or hanging out with the kids on a rainy day, you feel like listening to some of your own damn music for a few minutes. This simple act will inevitably lead to cries of, “But I don’t wanna listen to that!” or “Your music is stupid!” or even “You’re old and smelly and belong in a nursing home!”
Well, that last one may be unique to my household.
At any rate, it’s always easier to get your kids to listen to your music if it appeals, on some level, to the juvenile mind. So here are six tunes that, though made for adults, easily double as children’s songs …
1. Spider (They Might Be Giants)
Less than a minute long, “Spider” is as quirky a tune as the Giants can muster. An anthem for some underground superhero or a warning for a sci-fi monster invasion, the tune is goofy as all heck, yet somehow haunting. The snare drum cadence is perfect for a little family march-around-the-house, or, for older kids, you could make up silly voices and original slogans to insert during the breaks. Best of all, it’s short enough that it will end before the kids have enough time to start whining.
2. Boris the Spider (The Who)
For a band that smashed their instruments and beat people up when they trounced on stage, The Who had a fantastic sense of humor. Consider Keith Moon (a crack-up drummer who is sorely missed, even by non-Who fans), the cover of Sell Out (see above) and the video for Happy Jack. But Boris the Spider is the height of stoopid-fun for the hard-rocking Brit quartet. From the Townshend-led “creepy-crawlies” to the growly Entwhistle chorus, the tune is made for a family sing-along.
3. Boogie Man (Jackson 5)
When I was a kid, I loved this song. Though the theme is adult in nature (don’t mess around with some other dude, or you will pay), the funk-shuffle and little Michael singing lead is right for kids to dig on. The ghostly laughter and mid-song breakdown, with the brothers Jackson running away from the titular monster, always had me on the run and hiding during pretend time. (Hey, I was 6 when this song came out.) This one is a lot of fun, especially around Halloween.
4. It’s a New Find (Shonen Knife)
“Wash your socks and turn them inside out.” A more appropriate lyric for kids does not exist. Moreover, the poppy beat and repetitive chorus is made for kids. The video is even half-animated, so when things get a little too tense around the homestead, sit the kid down with a little Shonen Knife and go take a breather. Everyone will be happier for it. Really, who could listen to Shonen Knife and not be happy?
5. If You Want to Sing Out (Cat Stevens)
Just a beautiful song, for any occasion and any age. This one is all about living free and expressing yourself — freely. It’s a full-on sit-in-a-circle- and-hold-hands sing-along, and the message is dead-on. Kids want to be heard and respected, and that’s what Cat is getting at here. A million ways to be you, so be all of them – or none of them. It’s up to you.
6. Twist It [Shake Your Tail Feather] (Ray Charles)
Between the totally danceable groove, the suggestive but innocent phrase “bend over, let me see you shake your tail feather” and the rave-up chorus (not to mention Jake and Elwood acting like idiots in the Blues Brothers movie), the kids will shift into boogie down mode for this one. So push aside the coffee table (or stand on it), and get ready to dance. You can even do a follow-along as Charles lists the classic dances of your (or your parent’s) childhood. This tune is a party waiting to happen.
BONUS Nellie The Elephant (Toy Dolls)
During the early ’80s, north England gave birth to one of the a brilliant punk act. The Toy Dolls still perform to this day. Your kids will enjoy dancing around to most of their musical catalog. Good ol’ fashion romp-stompin’ fun.