on musical upbringings.

Many of the clearest memories from my childhood involve music. Sitting on the living room floor with my mom and brother, listening to Michael Jackson’s Thriller on the turntable. Laughing with my mom at I’m Henry VIII, I Am by Herman’s Hermits. My parents playing the Beatles Abbey Road and Simon and Garfunkel The Concert in Central Park in the car while we drove down the Kancamagus Highway on family vacation. Listening to motown and classic rock in my dad’s Cutlass Ciera. Buying my first cassette tape, the Beach Boys Made in U.S.A., after watching Flight of the Navigator and falling in love with I Get Around.

These songs and records shaped my musical taste and imbued me with a sense of melody and song structure that would later influence my own songwriting. Songs like Octopus’s Garden, I Am A Rock, and Billie Jean inspired mental images that still appear when I listen to those songs today. They also provided points of connection between me and my parents. Even if I didn’t quite get the meaning of all the lyrics or grasp all the underlying messages, the beats and hooks were universal, and there were always pieces my parents could pull out and highlight for discussion.

I obviously want Rory to love music. Ultimately, he’ll decide for himself what he likes, dislikes, or ignores completely. But let’s be real: While I still have some influence over his choices, I’m going to introduce him to a lot of my favorites and hope they stick.

Way back in February, I gave my facebook friends this prompt: “Name songs that are not meant to be children’s songs, but that children would enjoy.” I also promised to pull from those suggestions to construct Rory’s first playlist and then feature it in an installment of Dad in Plaid. Here we are, a mere eight months later!

When I think about the songs that I really loved as a kid, there are a few common themes that emerge:

  • Imaginative lyrics that tell a story with lots of strong imagery.
  • Unique vocalizations and/or playful instrumentation.
  • Call backs, spelling, and other interactive elements that actively engage the listener.

Each of the following songs includes at least one or two of these elements. I’ve also made some sequencing choices to amuse me and Lauren; it’ll be a while before Rory can pick up on any of the jokes. However, I have been playing the playlist for Rory since February, and he perks up when certain songs come on. We also think he’s going to grow up to be a drummer, based on his obsession and amusement with rhythmical tapping. Could just be a baby thing, but we prefer to envision him following in our musical footsteps. 😉

Here’s the playlist:

Buddy Holly — Everyday
Creedence Clearwater Revival — Lookin’ Out My Back Door
The Marvelettes — Please Mr. Postman
Jackson 5 — ABC
Feist — 1234
They Might Be Giants — Birdhouse In Your Soul
Carole King — I Feel the Earth Move
Cat Stevens — If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out
Beach Boys — Surfin’ USA
The Dead Milkmen — Punk Rock Girl
Devo — Whip It
Taylor Swift — Shake It Off
Harry Belafonte — Jump in the Line
Beatles — Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
The Lovin’ Spoonful — Do You Believe In Magic?
Bjork — It’s Oh So Quiet
Israel Kamakawiwo’ole — Somewhere Over the Rainbow / What A Wonderful World
Kimya Dawson — Alphabutt
Pete Seeger — Little Boxes
Simon and Garfunkel — Me and Julio Down by the School Yard
Jonathan Richman — I’m a Little Dinosaur
Katy Perry — Roar
Aretha Franklin — Respect
Weezer — Island in the Sun
Bastille — Pompeii
Joni Mitchell — Big Yellow Taxi
John Prine — Fish and Whistle
The White Stripes — We’re Going to Be Friends
The Bird and the Bee — I’m Into Something Good
Mama Cass — Make Your Own Kind of Music
Jefferson Airplane — White Rabbit
Queen — You’re My Best Friend
Smokey Robinson and the Miracles — The Tears of a Clown
The Supremes — You Can’t Hurry Love
Mrs. Robinson — Simon & Garfunkel
The Dixie Cups — Iko Iko


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