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 fun.
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 email@example.com.
As always, this issue is on two separate pages so don't miss page two of this issue.
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!
Carrie 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."
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 of life.
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 1890s song Printable! Scorch format only
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.
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 the song.
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)
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 of children.
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.
Enjoy this classic piece (Scorch format)
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 Rag.
A number of sources are used each month to research our features. In most cases websites used and other sources not in our library will be noted and linked to. In text citations refer to resources within our library, see our resources page for a complete bibliography of our own library resources used to research this and other articles in our series.