Further Appreciation of Tom Chapin
Tom Chapin (official website) is the hands-down favorite musician of the M. family car stereo. (When all four of us are in the car, that is.)
As Chapin (myspace) describes it, he started writing a different kind of songs when his own daughters were six and eight, too old for Raffi-style nursery rhymes, but too young for the usual themes of love and rebellion in pop music.
His songs are funny, catchy, musically diverse, and socially responsible. On my favorite album, In My Hometown, they use reggae, Celtic, ska, mariachi, classical, ragtime, folk, rock 'n' roll, boogie woogie and doo-wop tunes. There's lots of good family values, and they stand up to repeated listening.
I can't decide if my favorite song is the doo-wop Dog Rules, the cajun fiddle tune Good Garbage, featuring Michael Doucet of Beausoleil, or the ragtime Da Babysitter, featuring a Chicago gangster who learned crochet in the Big House:
He says "Ya's both been very good,
So listen, here's the news."
He makes us both an offer that we can not refuse.
He says to brush our teeth because
Our folks will be home soon
"Put on your jammies, get in bed,
I'll read ya's Goodnight Moon."
Oh... you don't know about baby sitters
'Til you've been baby-sat
By the new baby sitter that we had last night,
Harry the Hat
Our almost nine year old's current favorite is a soft rock tune, The Year 3000,
Every thousand years there's a new milleniumI always thought he'd like Great Big Words, which is kind of a calypso big finale number:
Don't look now, here it comes again-ium
I get a thrill out of
Great big words
Our five year old's current favorite is R-E-C-Y-C-L-E, a talking blues song with an uptempo chorus, about how a stegosaurus becomes petroleum becomes plastic jugs:
R-E-C-Y-C-L-E. That's the way it's s'posed to be.He used to say his favorite was the Chapin version of Big Rock Candy Mountain:
The earth recycles and so do we, R-E-C-Y-C-L-E.
The big rock candy mountain is the perfect place for kids.
Your allowance grows on bushes and the cookie jars don't have lids.
You can have your choice of any pet from the big rock candy zoo
You can stay up late and your folks don't care
You can come to lunch in your underwear
In the big rock candy mountain
My mom was touched by the sentiments in My Town Is A Salad Bowl, a mariachi tune about all the different veggies in the neighborhood:
My closest buddy calls herself a Cuke.(You really have to hear it with the trumpet line.)
But also says she's got a lot of Zuch.
Zuch, Cuke, whatever, it's a wash.
She's just my friend, I love her like a Squash.
One of the Bostons married an Iceberg.
They're bringing their kids up Romaine.
The Sprouts don't approve, they threatened to move,
So we sing them this catchy refrain:
My town is a salad, town is a salad, town is a salad bowl...
My dad was impressed with the sheer number of clever rhymes and references in Billy the Squid, the saga of an undersea outlaw who is tamed by the love of a beautiful mollusk, a real living dollusk, her name it was Clamity Jane.
I'll let Chris M. speak for himself if he wants to weigh in here.
You too should feel free to chime in if you have a favorite Tom Chapin song or album, or a suggestion of another musician in this genre.
Finally, here's a clip of a video somebody made and set to This Pretty Planet, featuring Joni Mitchell and Tom Chapin.
And lest you think I only listen to children's music, I also want to highlight one of Johan Maurer's lesser known contributions to the Quaker blogosphere: his regular posting of great blues clips from Youtube. This was one of the first of his posts I ever read.
[2009 Update: Since this post is getting more traffic again, I thought I'd check it out. Many of the links are broken, and those clips probably aren't coming back. But you can find Tom Chapin on iTunes or here on Rhapsody.com]
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