Thinking About What Children’s Songs are Saying

(I can’t believe this is my first post about music. Music is a *big* part of my life. But so is eating, and sleeping, and I don’t blog about those, so… Anyway.)

As a word-person I’ve always been very clear on any song’s lyric and content before letting my kids hear me sing it. My tip/challenge (as the nit-picky, literal-interpretor I can be):

Don’t just sing “children’s” songs because they’re children’s songs. Make sure you agree with their message too.

Many of them are sweet, and we can sing things that go over their heads if we feel like it, but at least let’s not be unaware.

The types of things I’ve modified:

  • Down by the Bay— the fun rhyming-song Raffi made popular (I’m not sure who wrote it.)
    • DH inserted, “back to my home I want to go” (replacing “Back to my home I dare not go.” Don’t we want our kids thinking coming home will be fun?).
  • Row Your Boat
    • Changed the last line to “life is full of dreams” (replacing “Life is but a dream,” an unhealthy philosophy that’s been around for centuries.)
  • Lavender’s Blue (dilly dilly)
    • “Call out your men, set them to work… while you and I… keep ourselves warm.”  (Oh, look, a new euphemism for Mom and Dad  to use.)
    • It makes me smile but also is something I don’t much want my kids singing.

Am I word-obsessed? You could argue that. Over-analyzing?  Probably.

But these are words I’m planting in my young children’s minds as the way things are. They know the bit about “A llama eating pajamas” is nonsense, because of the context, but they are only just entering the age where we can say, this part is real, and this part isn’t. And I’ve been singing to them their whole lives.

And they’re *really* not ready to understand that philosophy (somebody want to remind me of the name? I’ve mis-placed my book).

I prefer just to avoid the stuff I don’t want to explain later. And that, I guess, is my “standard” for now.

More ideas at Rocks in my Dryer.


Added 2-3-07:

If you’re looking for a playable collection of children’s songs here are a bunch with chords.

5 thoughts on “Thinking About What Children’s Songs are Saying

  1. When I was little, I knew only the last song. I can’t really say if it affected me or not. I do remember the first time I realized that the words to “Rock-a-bye Baby” had meaning. I was horrified!

    A lot of these songs are code for something else – something harsh or cruel. People sung the songs sort of like they sing the blues – to vent their frustrations/verbally express their mental stress.

    I’m really not sure if a lot of these songs were meant for the children to hear at all. I’m pretty sure no one thought they’d understand them.

  2. I don’t remember “Row row” affecting me either, and none of these is *really* a big deal.

    More, I figure, I have a choice, and I’m going to be an informed consumer.

    Also, since I’m one of the last to accept the “I’m-just-listening-to-the music/not-listening-to-the-words” excuse for raunchy lyrics, I figure this kind of thinking stems from trying to be consistent.

  3. Read Jack and the Beanstalk with new eyes. I won’t read it to the kids because I cannot find any good thing about the story. It’s horrible. Red Riding Hood at least has something to say.

    Great post!

    Chrisdd from NaNo

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