Peter, Paul and Mary's 1969 kids' album Peter, Paul and Mommy was a groundbreaker of sorts, because it was the first instance of a major pop star or band making an album specifically for children. The trio covered songs by artists like Tom Paxton, Shel Silverstein, and Gilbert & Sullivan, and the album included their beloved and universally-known "Puff the Magic Dragon." For the most part, Peter, Paul and Mommy is a subdued acoustic affair, so the album would make a perfect backdrop to a rainy afternoon or a summer sundown.
Image Courtesy Warner Brothers
If you look back at the history of "children's music," most early albums were collections of folk songs or original tunes performed in a folky style. Now, there were outliers during the 1960s, like Bruce Haack and Mr. Rogers, but for the most part you didn't hear kids' music performed in a band's or artist's unique style until the early 1970s.
Groups like The Free Design and pop artists like Carole King, Donovan, Harry Nilsson, and Anne Murray all released great kids' LPs between 1970 and 1979, and the musical genius of Joe Raposo and Jeff Moss shone through on releases by the Sesame Street cast. Plus, the subversive humor of Barry Louis Polisar found its genesis during this decade. Remember any more of your favorite kids' music albums from the '70s? Let us know!
Image Courtesy Dawn Records
Historical, interactive, modern, and entertaining, The Deep Woods is Andy Furgeson's kids' music debut, an aural record of what one might expect at a Red Yarn show. Many critters inhabit The Deep Woods, and Furgeson tells us all about the rabbits, snakes, foxes, and birds that wind their way through the stories and songs that describe this magical place. Although you might hear modern musical influences like Neil Young, The Residents, Tav Falco & Panther Burns, Bruce Springsteen, Jason & The Scorchers, Steve Earle & The Dukes, and Violent Femmes in the music of Red Yarn, the folk songs performed on The Deep Woods have histories that span centuries.
Image Courtesy Red Yarn Productions
Doc Watson stood shoulders above most of his guitar-playing peers, widely regarded as one of the greatest flatpickers of all time. His extensive discography includes this gem, recorded live over two dates, one at a 1990 gig in Atlanta, and another at the Newport Folk Festival in 1988. The result was Doc Watson Sings Songs for Little Pickers, a collection of songs Watson remembered learning as a child, and, luckily for us listeners, performed for an appreciative crowd.
Parents looking to introduce their little listeners to traditional tunes, bluegrass, folk music, or the sounds of great acoustic guitar playing can fill all those needs with Doc Watson's Songs for Little Pickers. This live album is fun, thrilling, and comfortably down-home. An all around winner.
Image Courtesy Sugar Hill
This guy was a great example of how to pack as much activity into nine decades as possible. Pete Seeger, the outspoken, kind, groundbreaking, down-to-earth folk singer died earlier this morning, leaving behind thousands of songs and memories for millions of fans to remember him by.
It would be impossible to condense his personal history and list of accomplishments into a short blog post, so take a look at this brief biography of Pete Seeger and check out some reviews of a few of our favorite Pete Seeger albums. So long, Pete, it was good to know you.
- Read a profile of Pete Seeger
- American Folk Songs for Children
- Birds, Beasts, Bugs & Fishes, Little and Big
Image Courtesy Chris Hondros | Getty Images
On Blink of an Eye, Frances England describes fleeting moments that make up our lives, a love of family and friends, a connectedness to nature, an awareness of the fragility of existence, and an deep appreciation for the people, events, flora and fauna of our world.
With the production and musical help of Dean Jones, England makes introspective observations of the world and delicately lets us in on her thoughts without being cloying or overly sentimental. Songs about friendship, sadness, joy, pride, comforting hugs and deeply-felt love are performed free of schmaltz or obvious statements on Blink of an Eye, making it one of the best kids' music albums of 2013.
Image Courtesy Frances England Music
American Folk Songs for Children was Pete Seeger's first full album of music made specifically for kids. It remains as influential today as it was groundbreaking when it was released sixty years ago.
On American Folk Songs for Children, Seeger brought tunes back to life that, today, seem naturally ingrained in our nation's psyche. Released in 1953 on the Folkways label, American Folk Songs for Children was the first in a long line of kids' classics from Seeger, and he did it with only his voice and banjo. This is a great album for family sing-alongs, for classroom use, and for children's entertainers who need a solid performance catalog.
Image Courtesy Smithsonian Folkways
The lost art of radio show entertainment has been given new life with the release of Lucky Diaz and The Family Jam Band's Lishy Lou and Lucky Too, winner of the Best Children's Album category at the 14th Annual Latin Grammy Awards.
Musical duo Alisha Gaddis and Lucky Diaz, along with a theatrical cast of friends and musicians, have put together a collection of songs that revisits the glory days of radio variety shows, complete with sing alongs, dances, musical bios, and bilingual tunes. The Grammy accolades are well-deserved: child-centered humor, skillfully-written compositions, and a general spirit of fun and adventure make Lishy Lou and Lucky Too one of the best kids' music albums of 2013.
Image Courtesy Rainy Day Dimes
The Deedle Deedle Dees' Lloyd Miller turned me on to a sound bite of Zora Neale Hurston describing and then singing "Mule on the Mount," an old work song she remembered from her childhood in Eatonville, Florida. So, in honor of Ms. Hurston's 123rd birthday today, check out her version of this venerable folk tune.
Start off 2014 with some free kids' music downloads from Bloodshot Records label, Burnside Distribution, and the band Astrograss! These free compilations include songs by bands and performers like Recess Monkey, Caspar Babypants, The Verve Pipe, Cat Doorman, The Not-It's!, and Kimya Dawson, among others. Check 'em out!