But I did until about a month ago. That is my deep, dark, music teacher secret. People magazine dubs her “The Queen of Children’s music,” the New York Times calls her “The Adele of the Preschool Crowd.” Source Her songs are regularly used in my local library’s story hour, and the childcare center at my gym has a “Laurie Berkner Sing Along/Dance Along” on their weekly activity schedule. I never could see the appeal.
Part of it was PTSD from a particularly traumatic car trip. I had checked out a CD of Laurie’s music at the recommendation of our librarian, and stuck it in the player before heading home. Soon, my newborn daughter was melting my brain with high-decibel shrieking, my 2-year old son was also screaming because he dropped his snack cup, meanwhile Laurie Berkner was singing “She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain” with a country twang while I was trying to merge onto the interstate. I vividly remember thinking “Hell must sound exactly like this.”
Another part of it is pure music education snobbery. The vocal range of her songs is very low, not pedagogically ideal for kids to sing along in their head voices. Most of her songs are newly composed, very happy and poppy. “Bumblebee Buzz Buzz”
would not be considered “time-tested, classic folk repertoire” by Kodaly purists.
When Music Together collaborated with her to re-record one of their foundational songs, “May All Children,” it made me feel like even MORE of a pariah. The organization which I love and respect thinks that she is worthy? Why am I the only one I know who can’t stand to listen to her?
Then my third child was born. I know my limitations, so I had registered my older kids for two weeks of dance camp following the birth of the baby. They came home every day singing one of the creative movement songs they had danced to, “Let’s Go Swimming,” by ……you guessed it…..Laurie Berkner. *facepalm*
Because I love my children (and I because I figured it would continue to entertain them while I sat bleary-eyed on the couch with the baby) I downloaded the album “The Best of the Laurie Berkner Band” and braced myself for more “Comin’ Round the Mountain” PTSD. Instead, I found moments of incredible sweetness and a few parenting revelations.
You can listen to song samples from the album Here.
“Fast and Slow” tells the story of the tortoise and the hare, but also gives gentle nudges about taking time to enjoy the present. This is an important reminder as I sit on the couch nursing my baby, trying not to look at the crumbs on the floor, unfolded laundry, and un-cleared dishes on the table.
The song “Five Days Old,” made me cry holding my baby boy, thinking about how fleeting these squishy newborn weeks are. One day, I’ll kiss all of my babies goodbye as they head off to live their own lives, and I’ll think about the days when they were jumping up and down, clapping their hands, sitting on my lap just five days old.
“Victor Vito” inspired my son to wonder what a rutabaga was, and so we purchased and baked one. (We used This Recipe for maple glazed roasted rutabaga!)
The song “Open Your Heart” really hit me hard as well. The older children had been attention seeking and making destructive mischief all week, protesting my baby-induced exhaustion and lack of quality time. The verses in the song talk about all the many things kids are capable of, until the chorus says:
“But some things I can’t do, That’s why I need you To open your heart, My heart is waiting for you….”
My kids are fiercely independent, almost to a fault. It’s easy to forget that they are just 6 and 3, still in need of considerable parental guidance. They are able to do a good job taking care of themselves, but they still need to know that I am here for them, even with a new, demanding, squashy little person in our lives.
My kids were inspired to creativity and curiosity by her music. My mother’s heart was moved by her music. So now I don’t hate Laurie Berkner any more. Aaaaaand I may have even purchased tickets for my kids to see her in concert later this year. I just hope she doesn’t sing “She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain.” That song is ruined for me.