5.02.2007

Further Appreciation of Tom Chapin

Due to the shocking lack of knowledge in the blogosphere about Tom Chapin (wikipedia), I feel compelled to write a little tribute here.

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 millenium
Don't look now, here it comes again-ium
I always thought he'd like Great Big Words, which is kind of a calypso big finale number:
I get a thrill out of
Every syllable
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.
The earth recycles and so do we, R-E-C-Y-C-L-E.
He used to say his favorite was the Chapin version of Big Rock Candy Mountain:
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.
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...
(You really have to hear it with the trumpet line.)


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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7 Comments:

Blogger Nancy A said...

Thanks. Otherwise, we wouldn't have known, honest. I found him on iTunes and listened a little. Too bad my kids are past that age...

5/02/2007 7:05 PM  
Anonymous Jennifer said...

This is not related to your post, just not sure where else to put it :-)

I just recently started reading some of the very early Quaker writings from women (Margaret Fell, etc). Ohhhh, what a breath of fresh air!! I blogged a little about her, and will add more, probably tomorrow.

I cant wait to dive into more.

5/03/2007 1:38 AM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Hi Nancy, you can still recommend Tom Chapin to anyone you know with kids under 12. That's what I'm doing this week.

Jennifer - somewhere in my not too distant archives, maybe February, is a review of the book Daughters of Light, which I commend to you. It's also good to find the writings of George Fox about the ministry of women and the purposes of marriage at around the same time, also refreshing. He later married the widowed Margaret Fell. You can always email me at the address in my profile. I will try to get back to more religious topics soon.

5/03/2007 1:48 AM  
Blogger Cedar Waxwing said...

We've always loved Tom Chapin - I introduced my kids to his music soon after I saw him in concert myself. We sing his Happy Birthday song on birthdays instead of the traditional song and play the Mother's Day song on Mother's day. His music still makes my kids stop bickering on long car rides (and they are in their teens). Great post - thanks. I blogged about him a couple of months ago.

5/12/2007 9:33 AM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Gosh, Cedar, I don't know Tom Chapin's birthday or the mother's day songs. I like Happy Earth Day though.

5/13/2007 12:24 AM  
Blogger Cedar Waxwing said...

They are both from Moonboat as is "State Laughs" (the song I posted the video to on my blog post called "car tunes"). Thanks for the return visit.

5/13/2007 7:02 AM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

I just finally heard Tom Chapin's Happy Birthday song and realized I DO know it. It's a staple of the much beloved birthday circles at Playmates Co-operative Nursery School, where both my sons went.

If you want to hear it too, it's on his MySpace page.

4/25/2009 12:13 AM  

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