OWTK Kindie Music News

We’ve Walked Far, We Must Go Further

The Golden Age of Family Music is a nifty term. I coined it, and I toss it around freely, in interviews, on the podcast, in stories published on Red Tricycle, Time Out New York Kids, and Philly Kids Thing. The Golden Age of Family Music represents the maturation of music being made for those still maturing themselves, and signifies what is matter-of-factly true: that this is the greatest period of musical creation, recording, and performance for children and families in history.

But it can, and should, get better.


In Houston a few weeks back, I was pigeonholed in introductions as the “kid’s music guy” by those who knew me as they put me in front of those I did not know well or at all. I bristled at this for the 1st 24 hours of the writing conference I was attending, but then I came to an important realization. I understood finally that, in a Four Seasons hotel filled with 200+ dad & mom bloggers, brand representatives, media types, and other writers, no one else knows what I know, loves what I love, and does what I do. I have something unique to offer brands and big media, yet foolishly I was attempting to distance myself from exactly that (“but I am so much mooooore!). Dumb. I reversed course swiftly, and proceeded to own the crap out of the “kid’s music guy” thing. I believe I swayed some hearts and changed a few minds. I met the Life of Dad crew during this time, and was interviewed by the DadLabs team. I spoke passionately to others too, who, while not running to their laptop to download the new Pop Ups single, are at least now aware that this tall dude who was kinda alright to talk to thinks it is the shit. A small thing, but a thing. Ya know?


I spoke, and continue to speak, passionately about the beauty, diversity, and musical greatness that exists in the family music world in 2013. But I think that most kid’s music still sucks. And I’m not speaking exclusively of The Fresh Beat Band and the like. This is partially why I haven’t been writing about it a lot here on OWTK. This isn’t to say that everything I have received over the past six months is garbage, not at all. I have also been going down other avenues of late to see what that is like. But I’ve been hearing too much children’s music that was produced in a laboratory, created from a clipboard checklist, and run through a focus group. If not literally, than it sounds like this music was market tested to hit on 8 out of 10 popular kid topics. This isn’t art. Not even close.


Bill Harley gave the keynote speech at the Grammy Kid’s Concert Luncheon in Los Angeles a couple weekends back. He said many wonderful things, but nothing stood out more than the call for us, and as an aspiring children’s author I am included here, to be better, to try harder, and to continue honoring the experiences of children. Yes. Yes. & Yes.

The great ones are doing just that. They are being the creative, imaginative, musical geniuses they are and either channeling their own childhood experiences and deftly weaving those into song with nuance and grace, or tossing out all of that and having a blast making music that cracks them up and/or moves them emotionally, with nothing nasty or generally inappropriate for young ears. I believe this is what is golden about this age, that there exists music that doesn’t teach or even tell, but shines light on tiny situations that are the universal truths lurking inside all of our pasts, presents, and futures. I could give you a list of songs that serve as an example of what I am talking about, but I won’t. I do have a podcast to highlight a lot of them, but also because I am sure I will leave someone off and I don’t want to focus on exclusions or on individual artists here. This topic is bigger than that.


The first line of a forthcoming family album I am falling in love with right now is:

“Oh how often I think that melody was my mother”

Not only is that a crazy beautiful lyric, it is also a challenging one for young ears (and, possibly, for some older ones too.) What does that mean, to have melody be a parent? It makes sense within the structure of the song, of course, and while its never 100% explicit, does become somewhat more clear as it unfolds. This kind of songwriting is what we need more of in the family music space. We need imagery, abstractions, metaphors, beauty, and wicked hooks, sick beats, elegant piano fills, and shredding guitar parts. In short, we need more art. Art for kids and adults to sink into, to fall in love with, to ponder, to provoke thought, and inspire conversation. Art that honors childhood, our own, and the ongoing moments happening now in the world our children are growing up in.

As someone trying to write for children, I believe I am up to the task. I am working on getting better and trying harder to push boundaries real and boundaries imagined to create something artistic that speaks to and respects children and childhood, while also connecting with adults on a different level.

What about you? Are you in?

Will you be a part of The Golden Age of Family Music, or a footnote in an ugly jewel case?

*Photo of The Okee Dokee Brothers accepting the Grammy for Best Children’s Album, February 10, 2013.

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