In Praise of The Children
Songs About Children, Page 1
Last month (June,
2003 edition) we presented songs that were written for children as learning
pieces or just for fun. This month, we change our focus to look at songs about
children and childhood.
Children are the pride and joy of parents and that pride and joy
is often translated to poetry, books and of course song. Whether written by
proud parents, as is the case of many of our songs this month, or just written
in admiration of children, these songs are filled with love, care and sometimes
Songs about children are some of the most emotional and as a result,
this month's offering is most reflective of the early Tin
Pan Alley penchant for sentimental and often drippy songs, My Baby's
Kiss from 1896 is most exemplar of the dripping sentimentality that the
1890's brought to American song. There are some exceptions that are more fun
than emotion and you'll see that in the delightful Carrie Jacobs-Bond song,
I'm The Captain Of The Broom-Stick Cavalry and the 1894 classic, I
Don't Want To Play In Your Yard and the humorous 1917 Huckleberry Finn.
No matter what your attitude about children, there may be a song here for you
so spend some time with us now as we look at a sampling of some of the many
songs about children from the pen of America's popular song composers.
As before, we welcome and solicit contributions and ideas from
our visitors. If any of you have songs you'd like presented, we'd be happy to
publish a "listeners" feature on songs and music from America's golden
age of music. The "rules"
for submissions can be found here, we'd love to have submissions by any
of our readers, anytime and would enjoy having a "reader submission"
or "favorites" feature from time to time. Heck, get involved, help
us out and write a feature for us! Or, if you just have an idea for a feature
or suggestions and feedback, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As always, this issue is on two separate pages so don't miss page
two of this issue.
The Captain Of The Broom-Stick Cavalry
Music by: Carrie Jacobs-Bond
Lyrics by: Bond
Cover artist: unknown
Carrie Jacobs-Bond was America's first million selling woman composer
and wrote hundreds of very popular songs, some of which are still popular
today. Among her lesser known works are several related to children (see
last month's Got To Practice ) and a number of short humorous songs that
expose her good nature, sense of humor and ability to capture defining
life moments in a few words. This song is one of her earliest known works
and predates most of her other known published works. According to this
copy, it was originally published and carries a copyright notice by W.F.
Chandler in 1890. It was republished by Bond's own publishing house sometime
afterward. The inset photo is of Bond's son, whom she raised alone after
her husband's death. Bond worshipped the boy and he was an important part
of her life and a business partner till his tragic suicide in 1932. According
to contemporary reports, Fred Bond Smith was described as being depressed
over a severe illness and that he killed himself in 1932 at a cabin at
Lake Arrowhead His body was found in a room where two candles were burning
and his mother's song A
Perfect Day (scorch format) was playing on the phonograph.
In spite of his tragic end, this song is a wonderful testament to children
and their imagination as well as their own sense of invincibility and
powers far beyond that of a mortal child. As usual, Bond has created a
delightful melody that is a perfect foil for the lyrics she has written.
Written as a march the melody has a definite childlike lilt to it. Use
of staccato in the accompaniment creates an image of a child strutting
around as he crows about his ability to protect his mamma and to defend
the homeland. A thoroughly enjoyable song!
Jacobs-Bond suffered many tragedies in her life but managed to overcome
them all through courage and determination. Her life is inspirational
and her ability to overcome the odds made her one of America's most loved
composers. We've featured many of her works on ParlorSongs and still have
many more to present. For more about this remarkable woman, see our in
depth biography of her and our June,
2000 feature on her music. For even more of her songs we've published,
use our search page and search
for "Carrie Jacobs-Bond."
this early Carrie Bond work
listen to MIDI version
Music by: L. Peasley
Lyrics by: M.F. Rourke
Cover artist: unsigned
The Victorian age of American music was most characterized by an almost
sickening sentimentality. If you look at all of the popular songs of this
period, from approximately 1890 to 1900 or so, you'll see that generally,
song lyrics were sentimental, and full of love, hope and longing. This
was the period of the great "tear
jerkers" in American music and the true beginnings of America's
Tin Pan Alley phenomenon and the public could not get enough. Though we
tend to want to remember those times as Idyllic and the music paints such
a picture, times were tough and the music allowed an escape from the realities
This song is quite exemplar of the style, a slow ballad that drips with
intimacy and love. Written as a testament to a parent's love for their
baby, it is so sweet it almost makes you ill, or at best can put you on
a sugar high. A common time verse leads to a slow waltz that is simple
both melodically and chordally. The opening reminds me very much of the
first few bars of I Love You Truly,
(Midi) or Melody of Love,
(Midi) two other period works full of sentimentality. However this work
never quite rises to the level of either of those works. I may have played
this one a little too slow so if you want to speed it up, use the slider
control in the scorch window to speed it up to your own taste.
M. E. Rourke was an English born lyricist. Born in Manchester,
England in 1867, very few of his works bear his real name for he mostly
wrote under the name of Herbert Reynolds. Under that name her wrote the
lyrics for the great Jerome Kern composition, They
Didn't Believe Me (scorch format) in 1914. His partner in this
effort, L. Peasley is temporarily lost to us.
Hear this great sentimental
Printable! Scorch format only
listen to MIDI version
Don't Want To Play In Your Yard
Music by: H.W. Petrie
Lyrics by: Philip Wingate
Cover artist: unknown
Of course, not every song from the Gay 90s was a tear jerker, some were
quite clever and humorous. This song managed to break away, somewhat,
from the syrup crowd and offered a really original slice of childhood
reality. Of course, even then, there are elements of sentimentality that
were included but the overall tone of the piece is quite different from
that of My Baby's Kiss for example. This song tells the tale of
two young girls who have a falling out (and a later reconciliation) and
their mutual taunting over playing together. If you don't have the scorch
player installed, be sure to see the lyrics link at the end of this section
to see the whole story.
A very, very memorable tune combined with some terrific lyrics made this
song a long time favorite and a big hit at the time, and for many years
thereafter. Those of you familiar with the very popular 1940 song Playmates,
will see that this song was probably the origin of a number of phrases
and ideas that were included in Dowell's hit. Most notable the idea of
sliding down the cellar door and hollering down a rain barrel. The photos
on the cover are of "Pearl, and "The Lynn Sisters," child
performers of the period and the song is dedicated to "The Ladies
of The Charity Circle, La Porte, Indiana." For those familiar with
Petrie's songs, this one may come as a surprise. Most of his other works
are quite formal and almost operatic in style while this one, perhaps
his earliest hit is completely different.
Henry W. Petrie (1857 - 1925) was born in Bloomington, Illinois
and enjoyed a successful career as a popular composer. Petrie's songs
were quite popular and he wrote a number of works that are still performed
from time to time. His first published song, I'm Mamma's Little Girl
was written in 1894. Later that same year, Petrie published a song titled,
I Don't Want To
Play In Your Yard (scorch format) which was a huge hit. The following
year he tried to "answer" his own hit with You Can't Play
In Our Yard Anymore; it flopped. A number of his more popular
works were sea or ship related including his most famous work was and
continues to be, Asleep In The Deep, written with A.J. Lamb .
That song was first introduced by Jean Early in 1898 in Chicago in a performance
with the Havery Minstrels. We featured a fabulous German version of that
work titled, Des Seamanns
Los (scorch format). He also collaborated with Lamb in writing At
The Bottom Of The Deep Blue Sea in 1900. Most of his hits came earlier
in his career and none have matched the staying power of Asleep In
The Deep which was a colossal hit and immediately became a "war
horse" for bass singers. It is still quite popular today and bass
singers love to slide down the scale on the word "beware". Petrie
wrote some additional "water" songs, perhaps again to capitalize
on "Asleep" including At The Bottom Of The Deep Blue Sea
(1900) and Out Where
The Billows Roll High (scorch format) in 1901. Petrie died in
Paw Paw, Michigan in 1925.
Listen to and see
this 1894 work
Listen to MIDI version
Yo'? Yo' Is.
Music by: Carrie Jacobs-Bond
Words by: Marjorie Benson Cooke
Cover artist: Photo by Wells Co.
The cover of this sheet is priceless. It looks like whomever took the
picture snuck up on the kid, pinched her and then snapped the shutter.
If ever a child showed an attitude, this one does for sure. Our acclaimed
article on Coon Songs, spoke to the genre of music that this one belongs
to and the nature of these songs as well as their place in our society.
This one has perhaps some of the more painful lyrics of the many songs
like it we've seen. However, at the time the lyrics were not viewed the
same and as one of our readers pointed out to me recently, judging these
songs by today's standards is unfair and maybe even disingenuous. I think
we can all agree that in today's context, they are offensive but their
place in history cannot be ignored. As well, their musical value cannot
be discounted. In fact, many of the songs convey respect and concern that
can only be seen if you can clear your mind of your first reaction to
some of the words and look beyond the words to the intent and spirit of
Carrie Jacobs-Bond wrote a number of "black face" or coon songs
during her early career. Most were written in the period before 1910 and
she seemed to abandon them later in her career, no doubt because of changing
mores and I'd like to think, due to her own humanity and sensitivity.
The cover of this sheet lists a number of her other like works which she
called, "Little songs of color." In spite of that, in some cases
she was at her best compositionally with some of these works. This one
is unique and creative and like many similar songs, if you can dispose
of your 2003 sensibilities, you must see that the song is full of good
humor, respect, love and high grade composition. Her music clearly conveys
the mood that the lyrics communicate. It should at least make you smile
with it's happy good humor. A later example of her "songs of color,"
A Little Bit o' Honey, from 1917 which we feature on page two of
this issue is a touching and sensitive tribute to black children and motherhood.
See our above comments and links about Carrie Jacobs-Bond for more information
about her and her music.
Hear this unfortunate "coon"
score (scorch format only)
Listen to MIDI version
My Dollies' Prayer
Music by: Edward Stanley
Lyrics by: Burges Johnson
Cover artist: unsigned
Many songs written about children were written from a child's viewpoint.
We've seen that with many other songs we've featured over the years. Though
songs about children are nice, songs from a child's viewpoint give the
songwriter more opportunity for creativity and even fun. As Arthur Godfrey
used to say, "kids say the darndest things" and that concept
provides plenty of fuel for cute ingratiating songs that are more fun
and maybe even more memorable than songs from an adult point of view.
We all love to go back to our childhood through reminiscence or nostalgia
and songs like this one allow us to experience the wonder, awe and imagination
of our childhood again.
This is one such song, and it is well done indeed. Written from the point
of view of a very young little girl, the songwriters take us back to the
time when our toys were our best friends and had a life of their own;
the original toy story without computer enhancement. With touching lyrics,
and an excellent melody, this song was surely a hit with families with
little children. It is quite possible that the song was inspired by a
true incident (as I believe almost all songs are) as it is specifically
dedicated to little Elizabeth Raleigh of Albany New York. God Bless you
Elizabeth, wherever you are, I'd love to know the story behind the song
and your connection to the songwriters! Regardless, we have a terrific
song that touches the heart and demonstrates the power of imagination
Edward Stanley has faded into obscurity. I'm unable to locate
any information about him. However his partner in this venture, Burges
Johnson (B. 1880 - d. ??) has fared much better in history, not perhaps
so much as a song writer but as a poet and writer. Also a humorist, Johnson
wrote a number of poems, limericks and other works. His works include
titles such as; Rhapsody On A Dog's Intelligence, Contentment, A Lyric
of The Llama, The Lost Art of Profanity and The Funny Froggy Bubble
Book (with Ralph Mayhew). The Funny Froggy Bubble Book (1917)
and a second issue, The Second Bubble Book (1918) were compilations
of songs, poems and stories for children.
this classic piece (Scorch format)
Listen to MIDI version
Found You Down Beside The Garden Wall
Music by: Raymond Egan, Jesse Greer & Abe Olman
Lyrics by: Egan, Greer & Olman
Cover artist: Sol Wohlman
Children are of course not the only people with wild imaginations, adults
can also exercise a great deal of creativity as well, depending on circumstances.
One are where parents can become quite creative is when faced with the
issue of the birds and the bees. At that time, many of us find many creative
ways to avoid the subject, change the subject or construct an outrageous
and outright prevarication to sidestep the truth. Somehow, we expect our
children to accept that a big bird brought them to us when they ask, "Daddy,
where did I come from?" Of course, most children are quite astute
and manage to ask more questions to resolve their confusion or when something
just does not seem logical. Their pure honesty and sense of wonder and
curiosity are hard to quench and sometimes we can find ourselves in dire
straights when they continue the questioning.
The songwriting team of Egan, Greer and Olman clearly have experience
in this regard for they've created a delightfully humorous and painfully
true depiction of this eternal question and answer encounter between parent
and child. In this case, the child has been smart enough to ask the same
question of Mom and Grandma and now Dad. Having already received two different
answers to the question, when Dad gives yet another, the child challenges
him. That challenges forces poor Dad to create the most outrageously incredible
explanation for human origins that probably many of us have heard and
at the same time, perhaps many of us have repeated. A fanciful cover by
Wohlman replete with fairies, nymphs and water goblins (they look like
sea monkeys!) completes the fantasy this song provides us.
Raymond Egan (b. 1890 Windsor, Canada, d. 1952 Westport, CT)
Egan's family came to the US in 1892 and he was educated at the University
of Michigan. Primarily a lyricist, he worked at Grinells Music Co., in
Detroit as a staff writer and worked with many of the major composers
of the period. With Richard A. Whiting he wrote the lyrics for And
They Called It Dixieland (Midi) (1916), Mammy's Little Coal
Black Rose (1916), Sleepy Time Gal (1918) and the great,
Till We Meet Again, (Scorch format) also in 1918.
Jesse Greer (b. 1896, NYC, d. ?? ) The ASCAP catalog lists 89
songs composed by Greer including a number of familiar tunes such as;
Flapperette , Get Happy, Baby Blue Eyes, On The
Beach With You, Sleepy Head, What Do I Care and several
unfamiliar ones such as Sasha The Passion Of The Pasha. In spite
of his rather prodigious output, little else seems to be documented about
him. He primarily was writing during the twenties and thirties. In his
early years he worked as a pianist in theater and in music publishing
houses. He served in the Army during WWI and collaborated with a number
of popular lyricists during his most prolific period.
Abe Olman (b. Cincinnati, 1888. d. ?? ) was the composer behind
this work. An active member of ASCAP, he became a Director of ASCAP from
1946 to 1956 and was the co-founder of the Songwriters Hall of Fame in
1968 whose most prestigious award is named after Olman. The Abe Olman
award is for excellence in song writing and is also accompanied with a
scholarship. He wrote two all-time standards Oh Johnny, Oh! in
1917 with Ed Rose and Down Among The Sheltering Palms with Jack
Yellen. Among his many other works are included, Come Back To Wai-Ki-Ki,
Along Miami Shore, and several rags including the Red Onion
Listen to this great
Listen to MIDI version
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