The Texture Of Things

Something’s Troubling Me About a Laurie Berkner Song

November 8th, 2006

For a while now, I’ve wanted to add some book, television, movie, and music reviews to ye olde blog, and I suppose this will be a start to that.

The tot loves, loooooooooves Laurie Berkner. Looo-ooo-ooooves her. From her car seat, she will request driving music, and it usually sounds like this: “I listen Laurie Berkner now?” It’s not really a question, though, so without waiting for an answer, she cheers, “Laurie Berkner! Yay!”

Truthfully, Laurie is okay in my book, too. I do have some bones to pick, but overall, they’re overcome-able. (If that’s even a word.)

Bone #1:
We first discovered Laurie on Jack’s Big Music Show, which we all love, LOVE, in this house. We’re music nuts, what do you want? Those who have seen Laurie on Jack’s and has then listened to one of her cds know that, frankly, her performances on Jack’s are far superior to those on the albums. Sure, the albums are still good, but she’s just a more polished singer now. She projects in these more recent performances, and when she projects, she hits the notes, her voice is more robust, and the result is a song that’s fun to sing and listen to.

Can She Overcome it?
Yes. She needs to re-record and re-release the old songs. I need to find a newer album.

Bone #2:
Dear Laurie,
I’m sorry, but seriously. When are you touring in the midwest? The videos are not enough for my daughter. They are merely placeholders until she can mind-meld with you, assimilating your very essence and your entire songlist, as far as she’s concerned. So hurry. She makes me sing your songs from sun up to sunset and I’m growing hoarse.
Love,
amy.

Can She Overcome it?
Yes, by getting her butt on a plane and coming to a Great Lake state.

Bone #3:
This one is kind of serious, and it’s been on my mind lately.

We just bought the Victor Vito album, and the last song, “Goodnight,” is becoming a favorite. Though I’ve looked for the songwriting credits, I’m not sure if this is a Laurie Berkner original, but I suspect it is. The tot now wants me to sing it to her when I put her to bed at night and usually first thing in the morning too. I don’t mind. It’s cute and I like that the two albums we have each a closing song to help the transition from “Laurie” to “Laurie all done,” and this is one such song.

The lyrics go something like this:
“I’m a little frog and my daddy loves me,
I’m a little frog and my mommy loves me.
And when they tuck me in to say goodnight,
they say, ‘ribbit, ribbit, ribbit, goodnight!'”
chorus, then repeat verse with another critter – owl, tiger, kid – and its sounds

There is nothing earthshattering here. Except lately I’ve been thinking about how completely typical I am. White. Married. Mom. Middle class. Middle-aged. Straight. There is nothing dangerous about me. I get all the good perks based on things I don’t normally think about on any given day.

But I am not the only kind of person out there. What do gay parents do when they are in a situation like this? Single parents? A child who loves a song by an artist s/he loves wants a parent to sing it, but the lyrics don’t fit. Certainly a child of gay parents or a child of a single parent becomes aware that families take all sorts of different shapes, either because her/his parents address it or because s/he sees the differences firsthand across the extended family. Or, hopefully not, because someone pointed out the difference.

So maybe this child’s parent(s) do what a lot of people do and change the words to fit. I’ve done it. I don’t sing “mommy,” I sing “mama,” but that is a superficial change. What could these words be instead? Parents? A repetition of “Mommy” or of “Daddy”? The addition of “Grandma” or “Grandpa,” “Brother” or “Sister”?

When even the music a child hears everyday uses language that doesn’t fit her/him, it must send a clear message to the child that differences matter, especially when you’re the one who’s different.

Can Laurie Overcome it?
Well, it’s not just Laurie’s job, and most of her songs are not structured in a “Mommy/Daddy” way, so I don’t mean to imply that the source of the dominant culture’s prejudice can be found in Laurie Berkner because that’s not the case. But what I do hope Laurie and other singers at Laurie’s level do is start to consider ways to shape their songs’ language to include other family shapes.

How does she do it? I don’t know exactly and that isn’t where my head is yet. What started this whole entry was me trying to think about singing “Goodnight” with different words to begin to demonstrate to the tot that not all kids sing about Mommies and Daddies.

I have to keep thinking about this.

4 Comments »

  1. Mark says

    Per Bone #3: This is really a parent issue and not an artist issue. I am a straight and married guy, but my wife and I do not approve of all songs for our child (soon to be children, plural). This particularly goes for songs with religious over/undertones, and other themes that we do not agree with. So we determine what songs we want our child to listen to. For us, the best thing is Pandora. We can cue up Raffi Radio (or Elizabeth Mitchell Radio) and then if we find a song we do not like (for whatever reason), then we flag it as ‘thumbs-down” and it is never played again. We have an old iPod that has our son’s music on it and we have playlists to go along with that, again filtering out songs we do not like or do not approve of.

    I am sure that gay families or single-parent households do the same thing to some extent or another. There is so much great children’s music out there from a lot of different artists, like Laurie, that kids from families that are not Mommy/Daddy households can listen to and enjoy.

    July 5th, 2010 | #

  2. Bobby says

    I just stumbled across your blog. I realize this is an older post, but I just did a Q&A on my blog I thought you might enjoy, as I gave Laurie the chance to answer the question you’ve posted about here. I’m sorry I have not read very much (I will though!) but thought I’d just share my conversation with a wonderful performer!

    B.
    http://thosetwodaddies.blogspot.com/2011/04/laurie-berkner-interview.html

    April 26th, 2011 | #

  3. Alicia says

    I have to agree with Mark but from a different perspective. We are a Christian family and we choose music and television shows that support our views as a family. It would not be fair to the artist to say they should portray a traditional family beacuse of the various forms of families in society. Children raised in traditional homes still need songs and books too. If we begin to cater everything to gay parents, adopted families, single parent homes, etc. then what will my kids relate to. BTW….I am a Black, married, low income mother of two.

    June 24th, 2011 | #

  4. Knikka says

    I completely agree with the last point… I LOOOOVE that song and Laurie Berkner in general but I just finally left my abusive husband and when my son asks me to sing that song I just cry and struggle through “my daddy loves me” and then he wants a whole conversation on where daddy is and why his daddy doesn’t tuck him in at night… I started just saying mommy twice :-/… I guess that could work for same sex couples as well hah!

    December 14th, 2014 | #

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