Monday, February 18, 2013

Farewell, to two little boys...

Singing. From their very first day, we sing to our kids. Soothing lullabies to calm a restless baby (or agitated mums and dads). As our babies grow into toddlers, soothing songs remain part of the bedtime ritual.

But it's just hit home to me that the singing ends.

The Complicated One no longer wants me to sing to him at night. The Big Fella still lets me occasionally, but even he's starting to move on.

It seems to happen around 5 or 6 years, but at some point your kids just don't want you singing anymore. Perhaps they think it's only for babies, or it's not cool. They don't say, and I don't ask.

Now that both our boys are at school, change seems to be speeding up. Maturity, exposure to a wider group of friends drawn from more diverse backgrounds, or just the acceleration of peer pressure, which will only intensify as they rocket towards and into the teen years.

So before I forget, I want to write down the names of the songs we sang to our boys.

Admittedly, it's a wonky collection of tunes, sung with a wonky voice, but I don't care! It's my 6-song repertoire of suitable bedtime songs where I know all the words:
  1. Morningtown Ride by The Seekers 
  2. Puff the Magic Dragon, by Peter Paul and Mary 
  3. Two Little Boys by Rolf Harris 
  4. Thankyou for the Music by Abba 
  5. Dancing Queen by Abba
  6. Looking for an Echo by Ole'55 (or better still, by Kenny Vance and the Planetones).
Some of them are songs my mum sang to me, like The Seekers' Morningtown Ride...
"Train whistle blowing, makes a sleepy noise,
Underneath the blankets, go all the girls and boys..."
If there's a pop song in the last 40 years with better lyrics or a sleepier melody for little kids, I'd like to know.

Perhaps, I hear you suggest, another folk song from the 1960s? Like Peter, Paul and Mary's Puff the Magic Dragon. It's another great bedtime song, but for years we didn't sing the next to last verse, because it's too sad...
"Dragons live forever, but not so little boys
Painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys..."
Two Little Boys by Rolf Harris is another bedtime favourite with a happy/sad final verse that we edited out for years. But sometimes, they'd ask for it, for their own private reasons...
"Long years had passed, war came so fast,
Bravely they marched away.
Cannon roared loud, and in the mad crowd,
Wounded and dying lay..."
Like a good showman I like to leave 'em dancing, and nothing fills me with more joy than Abba. The Complicated One always enjoyed Thankyou for the Music, which sounds OK even with my two-note singing. It perfectly captures the balance between light and dark in Abba's music.

An alternative show-stopper is Dancing Queen. "Friday night and the lights are low, looking out for the place to go..." is a familiar and much-loved refrain for my generation.

But my sneaky favourite is Looking for an Echo, as sung by Ole'55 on Countdown in 1976, to me as an impressionable pre-teen... 
"At daydream junior high school we used to harmonise,
Me and Frankie and Jimmy and some Italian guy.
We were singing oldies but they were newies then,
And today when I play my old 45s I remember when..."
Now that I am an old music nerd, I've tracked down the original version first performed by Kenny Vance in 1975 - and it's even better!

Kenny Vance first knew fame in the 1960s with Jay and the Americans (their big hit, This Magic Moment, features in a current TV commercial for a certain gambling company). Vance turns 70 this year, still performs regularly in New York and New Jersey, and still sings this beautifully as a finale to his shows... Looking for an Echo - Kenny Vance and the Planetones.

Looking for an Echo best sums up the beauty and melancholy I feel as I sing to our boys. Knowing they can't stay little forever, but not wanting to let go to some of the special times that may never come again...
"We've sung a lot of changes since 1955
And a lot of bad arrangements we've tried to harmonize.
Now we've turned into oldies, but we were newies then,
And today when I play my old 45's, I remember when...
We were looking for an echo, an answer to our sound.
A place to be in harmony,
A place we almost found."

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