We just had Mother's Day, and Father's Day is coming up. So my almost-4-year-old asked when Kid's Day was. Yeah, he likes opening gifts- I wonder where he got that?
When I get him new music, I often get him albums by artists who do not generally focus on kids' music. I have this huge list of adult-oriented artists who have released kids albums, and in looking it over- no huge surprise- I see that many of the songwriters are Jewish:
Carole King: Really Rosie
A classic. This all-time great songwriter took some of the works of Maurice Sendak- the Jewish kids' author best known for Where the Wild Things Are- and made a whole musical out of them, with a Lower East Side pre-teen diva as the narrator. The songs teach the alphabet, counting, months… and caring. Sendak later turned Peter and the Wolf into Pincus and the Pig… to teach kids about klezmer music!
Peter Himmelman: My Best Friend is a Salamander
The definition of an underappreciated songwriter. Himmelman has also released a series of great, silly-sweet kids albums: My Lemonade Stand, My Fabulous Plum, My Green Kite, and My Trampoline. Pick one- you can't go wrong.
David Grisman and Jerry Garcia: Not for Kids Only
Garcia, the late leader of the Grateful Dead, was not Jewish. But his longtime collaborator, mandolin virtuoso Grisman, is. Here, they run through a set of traditional acoustic folk songs sure to encourage sing-alongs on car rides.
Harry Connick Jr.: Songs I Heard
The title should really be Songs I Heard from Movie Musicals, because these are from Mary Poppins, Sound of Music, Wizard of Oz, Annie, and Willy Wonka-all of which had Jewish songwriters. Your kids can graduate to the When Harry Met Sally… soundtrack later.
Lisa Loeb: Catch the Moon
Loeb's high, charming voice is a natural for children's music. This is a collection of folksy perennials like "Oh! Susanna" and "Big Rock Candy Mountain," plus some tunes in Spanish and French. She followed this album with the camp-song collection Camp Lisa, which featured Steve Martin on banjo. She's even got kids' books out now.
Dan Bern: Two Feet Tall
Bern sets aside his cynicism and brings his aw-sucks sensibility to a series of kids songs that range from the ridiculous- "Donkey to Lunch"- to the sublime- "Watchin' Over You." You can download the 38 songs for only 89 cents each… or the whole shebang for $8.00.
Leonard Bernstein: Children's Classics
What better way to introduce children to the glories of the classical canon than by letting one of the greatest conductors of all time do it for you? Clips of his Young People's Concerts are also on YouTube.
Peter Paul & Mary: Peter Paul & Mommy
Peter Yarrow is the Jewish third of this ecumenical folksinging triumvirate. Their offerings here are traditionals, and a tune by Gilbert & Sullivan, but mostly their contemporaries Tom Paxton and Shel Silverstein. Plus three by Peter, including his signature tune, "Puff the Magic Dragon" (which is about a dragon kite, people!)
Neil Sedaka: Waking Up is Hard to Do
(Yes, his name is Sephardic for "tzedakah.") The title track is a parody of his early rock classic "Breaking Up is Hard to Do"… and some of the tunes are parodies of his other hits- "Where the Toys Are," "Lunch Will Keep Us Together." Great for a grandparental visit.
Other kids' compilations of songs by adult artists have some Jewish musicians on them as well:
For Our Children: Bob Dylan, Bette Midler
In Harmony: Carly Simon, Bette Midler again, Wendy Waldman
Simply Mad About Mouse: Billy Joel, Harry Connick Jr., Michael Bolton
Songs from the Street: Paul Simon, Madeline Kahn
Unexpected Dreams: singing actors Scarlett Johansson, Marissa Jaret Winokur, and Victor Garber
Lastly, some great Jewish songwriters have simply written songs to their own kids:
Paul Simon: "St. Judy's Comet," "Father and Daughter"
Bob Dylan: "Lord, Protect My Child" (here performed by Susan Tedeschi)
Billy Joel: "Goodnight, My Angel"
Randy Newman: "Memo to My Son"
Peter Himmelman: "Raina"
Jewish people love music, and we love our kids, and we want our kids to love music. And Jewish musicians are no different in that!