When my kid came into this world six years ago, I vowed to shun all children’s music. I, the musician dad with the immense and elite record collection, was going to make certain that my child listened to the finest music ever written, with her old man as her tour guide.
The Wiggles, with their stupid Star Trek outfits and cheeseball songs about fruit salad and pirates, were a definite no-go. The Imagination Movers, with their watered-down pop and dorky outfits, made me want to stab myself in the eyes. And there was no way in Hell my kid was going to listen to the rotund hippo-freak Barney.
I was going to tailor her listening for her own good. Jazz and fusion. ‘70s prog and metal, and maybe a little respectable pop was where we would begin. Oh, and lots of Zappa. Then I found out one of my favorite nerd bands, They Might Be Giants, had a children’s album out. (Since then, they’ve released several.) And I discovered a little Nick Jr. series called Jack’s Big Music Show, which spent its entire half-hour talking about and featuring very cool music and instruments, while teaching age-old lessons about cooperation and friendship. The deeper I dug, the more cool stuff I found.
Now we have a fantastic kids music collection, which complements my daughter’s growing “real” music collection. Alongside her David Bowie and Motor Humming albums are Dan Zanes and Justin Roberts. Bands like The Verve Pipe and Barenaked Ladies have gotten in on the action, too, releasing children’s albums of their own. So I stand corrected, at least in the larger world of music for tykes. (Barney, you can still kiss my boney butt.)
So here are six awesomely cool tunes you should listen to with your kids — right now.
1. Science is Real by They Might Be Giants (from the album Here Comes Science)
A ballsy celebration of evolution, the big bang and the scientific method, this tune lays it out there, claiming that our body of knowledge arises from research, experimentation and asking a whole lot of questions. That’s where facts come from, kids. And this is what it sounds like.
2. Be Like You by Asylum Street Spankers (from the album Mommy Says No)
Mandolins and banjos set the tone for this wonderful ditty about loving your kids so much you want to be just like them. They live the lives we miss, lives of carefree adventure and spontaneity. We should be more like them, everyday.
3. One Was Johnny by Carole King (from the counting book One Was Johnny by Maurice Sendak)
This one may be more for the parents than the kids, but it is a fantastic tune by King with illustrations by the wildest wild thing children’s lit has ever known, Maurice Sendak.
4. Be Part of the Band by The Verve Pipe (A Family Album)
This tune employs clever lyrics and rock clichés (both musical and narrative) to encourage kids to get musical on their parents asses. Listen carefully and you’ll catch quotes from Kansas, Queen, Pearl Jam, Styx and others. This is just a wonderful rock song for kids of any age.
5. Dr. Strings by Andrew Bird (from Jack’s Big Music Show)
Multi-instrumentalist Bird comes up with a delightful song about stringed instruments. The guy has worked with anyone who is anyone in the indie/hipster movement. From Squirrel Nut Zippers to St. Vincent, from Ani DiFranco to Bonnie Prince Billy. He’s even gigged with The Muppets. Here he jams with the cast of Jack’s Big Music Show.
6. Of Children by Sweet Honey in the Rock (live recording)
Wanna hip your kids to gospel? Do it with this a cappella piece by Sweet Honey in the Rock. It’s about loving your children enough to give them their freedom. Can you do it? It’s the hardest thing a parent will ever have to do. Letting go …
Let’s not forget Kepi Ghoulie from Groovie Ghoulies released this awesome kid’s rock album last year.
What favorite songs does your child rock out to? Drop us a comment below.