If your kids have been listening to too much Raffi and watching too much Teletubbies and you’re going glassy eyed & eared, then try some intelligent and entertaining music for kids. Here are my recommendations (along with those of the Rootsworld discussion group):
Arlo & Woody Guthrie, This Land is Your Land. A beautiful picture book which recounts Woody’s musical life and hard times through the lyrics of the song. The companion CD is a Natalie & Nat King Cole-style collaboration between father and son which is quite good.
Los Lobos, La Bamba
Sleep My Child (Blue Hill Recordings): a collection of Jewish lullabies in Yiddish, Hebrew, Ladino and English performed by male and female cantors.
Greg Brown, Bath Tub Blues, Red House Records. This gruff blues-oriented singer carries off a children’s record with great verve and style. Most songs are accompanied by an accomplished child choir.
Pete Seeger, Abiyoyo & Other Story Songs for Children, Smithsonian Folkways. The story narratives make this more appropriate for kids over 3 or so.
Pete Seeger, Birds, Beasts, Bugs & Fishes Little and Big, Smithsonian Folkways
Family Folk Festival: A Multi Cultural Sing Along, Music for Little People. An anthology of great songs & folk singers including Sweet Honey in the Rock, Pete Seeger, Doc Watson, Taj Mahal & others.
John McCutcheon, Howjadoo, Rounder Kids. What a great CD with a memorable banjo-accompanied version of Woody’s Howjadoo.
All You Need is Love, Music for Little People, Beatles’ songs sung by a children choir. Not as rich musically as the original, but lot’s of fun nonetheless.
Judy Collins – Baby’s Bedtime
Rabbit Ears disks by Windham Hill, especially the Rudyard Kipling stories with the likes of Jack Nicholson doing “Elephants Child”, “How the Leopard Got its Spots”, “How the Camel Got His Skin”, etc with music by Bobby McFerrin
Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Gift of the Tortoise: A Musical Journey through Southern Africa, Music for Little People. A wonderful sampler of Ladysmith’s incredible vocal music with accompanying narration.
A Child’s Celebration of Folk Music, Music for Little People. Another great anthology including the memorably funny, There Ain’t No Bugs on Me.
Family Folk-Garcia and Grisman – Not for Kids Only
American Folksongs for Children, Mike & Peggy Seeger, Rounder. Ninety-four songs
compiled in the 1940’s by their mother, Ruth Crawford Seeger, in a book of the same name). These are lovely, short folk songs many or most of which you’ve never heard before.
A Child’s Celebration of Song; includes:
House at Pooh Corner
Garden Song (Inch by Inch, Row by Row)
Jelly Man Kelly (James Taylor)
St. Judy’s Comet (Paul Simon’s lullaby to his son)
Banana Boat Song (Dayo Dayo — Taj Mahal)
Over the Rainbow (Judy Garland version)
…and many other great ones
And some great videos:
Goodnight Moon HBO Kid’s Video