Last night on Songza (great app for listening to music online, by the way!) the wife and I pulled up a playlist called “Songs to Raise Your Kids To.” It was a great playlist with classic music mostly from the ‘60s. While we had it on purely for background music as we enjoyed some post-toddler-bedtime mommy time, it also got me thinking about songs—the songs I was raised to, and the songs I want to raise my kid to.
1. “Puff, the Magic Dragon” by Peter, Paul and Mary
I have fond memories of sitting in the living room with my parents as a small child, with my dad playing ‘60s folk songs on his guitar. “Puff” was my most frequent request—but I also remember “If I Had a Hammer” being a perennial family favorite. In the car with mom during the day, Peter, Paul and Mary’s “10 Years Together” album was played as often as any traditional children’s music. And “Puff” is still a big part of my life today. I have been singing it to my son since he was one day old, and it’s one of his favorites. A couple weeks ago, my wife and I, along with my father-in-law had the great pleasure of attending a Peter Yarrow concert. He was as delightful as you might imagine, and called all the kids (defining “kids” as “anyone under 60”) up on stage to sing “Puff” with him. My wife and I agreed that it was a great and unforgettable moment.
2. “The Christians and the Pagans” by Dar Williams
It’s hard to pick just one song from my teenage years, which is when music probably played the biggest role in my life. I was 12 or 13 before I started really listening to what was popular on the radio with regularity. CDs were just starting to replace cassettes as I entered my teens, and I still have fond memories of the first CDs I purchased with hard-earned allowance money. The Friends soundtrack (of course we were all playing the theme song “I’ll Be There For You” on repeat throughout the mid-1990s), Alanis Morrisette’s “Jagged Little Pill” (is there any ‘90s girl who didn’t have that album?) and Mariah Carey’s “Butterfly” were all in regular rotation in my bedroom.
However, it was also during my teenage years that I discovered folk-rock by way of summer camp. Dar Williams and the Indigo Girls were soon added to my collection. “Iowa” and “The Wood Song” will always take me back to my days around the campfire in the summer. But it’s “The Christians and the Pagans” that hooked me on Dar, and throughout high school and college I became an avid fan and follower. Her music played a big role in my 20’s as well, and a mutual love of Dar was one of the first things my wife and I discovered we had in common. And as with “Puff,” I’m passing the love on to my son, who sings along to “Better Things” as often as he does to any Raffi album.
3. “Home” by Phillip Phillips
This one seems like an awkward choice at first, since it’s not actually a song I ever listened to or was a fan of with regularity. By the time Phillips won American Idol, we had long since stopped watching the show. However, during our turbulent and chaotic (and wonderful) 2013, my wife and decided that this song would be our theme, as we had a baby, sold a house, bought a house, moved across the country and started new jobs (I think in that order). For me, this song represents the opening of a new and ultimately wonderful chapter in our lives, which is why it merits this shortlist.