Which Songs Can You Sing to Kids to Prevent Risk of Brain Atrophy (for yourself)?

The reason I had to get my nails done this weekend is because I was attending a birthday party for a one-year-old that was full of Russian women waiting to judge me.

If a one-year-old does not remember a birthday party, did the party happen?  This is a philosophical question for another day, a day when I need more site traffic from BlogHer.

What I’d really like to talk about is the quality of music at children’s birthday parties:

Because how many times can you listen to “If You’re Happy and You Know It?”  and Rafi rap before you become homicidal? For me, the answer is three. Three times.

One of the songs that looped constantly throughout the party was The Lion Sleeps Tonight, which is actually a song we should be singing to children.  If you think about it because it’s  a lesson in politics, OR a lesson in being badass and killing lions OR a lesson in white people appropriating African culture disguised by AWHEEEEEEEEEEEOOOOOEEEEEE Wimbaway:

In the liner notes to one of his recordings, Seeger explained his interpretation of the song, which he believed to be traditional, as an instance of a “sleeping-king” folk motif about Shaka, Warrior King of the Zulus, along the lines of the mythical European sleeping king in the mountainShaka the Lion, who heroically resisted the armies of the European colonizers, is supposed not to be dead but only sleeping and will one day awaken and return to lead his oppressed people to freedom. University of Texas folklorist, Veit Erlmann, however, argues that the song’s meaning is more literal and refers to an incident in Linda’s own youth when he actually killed a lion cub.[5]

So many lessons!  “Gather around, kids.  Let me tell you about the murder of Patrice Lumumba!”

Which got me to thinking.  Which other songs are potentially simple, but deceptively so, and teach Things? Real Thing? Here are the songs I plan to traumatize all the children I know with:

  1. Russian lullabies. DUH. WINNING.
  2. The Banana Boat Song: Catchy, cheerful, exploitation of workers, organizing in unions, tarantulas, yellow fever, Panama Canal, Monroe Doctrine, Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, teddy bears.
  3. If I Had a Hammer: Social justice, Pete Seeger, unions again, commies, can white non-Muslims actually call anyone “brother” or “sister” without it sounding insensitive?, civil rights, hippies, hipsters, hips, hi.
  4. I’m Just a Bill: Government shutdowns. Our legislative process. Fear. Anger. Hope. Change. Fox News. Rupert Murdoch. His wife is HOW old? How to correctly pronounce Boehner. Later, you find out it’s about a guy named Bill who REALLY liked hanging out in DC.
  5. Eli,Eli:  Soothing until kids learn it was written by a Zionist woman who parachuted to a certain demise in Yugoslavia by being shot at least three times in her execution, all because she was just like your little Shlomi (i.e. Jewish).  Then you can teach them ALL about the Holocaust.
  6. Run Away: Catchy pop song that forces your kids to listen to your favorite early 90s dance music AND learn about Big Brother. Also commies.  Not to mention dystopia. (“You’re sad because I took away your Legos, Timmy?  Wait until the government takes away our house!  It could be worse!  No wait, don’t cry, don’t cry.  We still have the Bill of Rights.”)
  7. Summer of  ’69: Nice, cute song.  At the beginning, teaches your kids about making memories and working real hard, keeping promises.  Then, when they’re older, teaches your kids all about double entendres and what a punny genius Bryan Adams thinks he is.
  8. Yellow Submarine (do I need to link to this one?): Ecological.  Then, later, really ecological.  Hemp-based, even.  I am ashamed to say that Mr. B had to explain this double meaning to me. Last year.
  9. Pata Pata: Playful, fun, easy to mimic for little kids until they grow up and realize it’s about groping people on Friday nights.



12 thoughts on “Which Songs Can You Sing to Kids to Prevent Risk of Brain Atrophy (for yourself)?

  1. Parenting is all about giving up 99% of your principles to convenience and holding on to that 1% until you can get old enough to straighten things out again. You will eventually succumb. Resistance is futile.

    For babies, many of the inane songs come with great little body activities that make babies go totally wild, or that help them sound out words (Apples and Bananas).

    I used to torment my kids with Tum Balalaike, though.

  2. I am so going to subject my children to all of the Schoolhouse Rock songs, mostly because I’ll totally (however unrealistically) want them to know the processes of ratification before they can walk on their own.

  3. It helps that our favorite bands are now parents too. They Might Be Giants has a series of great kids albums, in which you can sing along to dirge’s about Thomas Edison’s haunted mausoleum, or the fission process going on inside the sun. yay!

  4. I would NEVER let my children listen to any child-specific songs (should the atrocity of me procreating ever take place). Perhaps you are not aware of hell in your ears that is The Wiggles? I would rather explain every single nuance of a Lil Wayne song to a toddler than subject myself to the Little Mermaid soundtrack.
    I would, however allow Russian lullabies, but only because I feel that children should learn about what a horrible, cruel place the world is early on.

  5. I just need to point out that on top of everything else wrong about the Lion King song was how they managed a mishmash of Zulu culture, which is way down in South Africa, with Swahili (“hakuna-mata” is an actual Swahili greeting), which is spoken in A WHOLE DIFFERENT PART OF THE CONTINENT – that is, Kenya and Tanzania. Not quite the same thing.

    But hey, let’s not split hairs :)

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