My musical appetite has been changing.
Well, not my appetite, so much, as my ingestion. Because while I would still prefer a prime cut of Beatle with a scant Traveler de Bleu aperitif topped off by a Bosstone nightcap, I have a toddler. Meaning that my music consumption has become the symphonic equivalent of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese/Mayonnaise Casserole.
Children’s songs haven’t changed much since I was a kid, or since my mother was a kid, or since Thomas Jefferson was a kid. Seriously. Jimmy Crack Corn and Eenie-Meenie-Minie-Moe are slave songs.
And the goddamned bough continues to break and the fucking dead baby falls out of the tree. Now sleep tight, sweetpea.
But while the song remains the same (C’mon, two-year old, gimme some Zeppelin), I approach them from a different vantage point. I notice different things about them. Because when I was a child, I never stopped to ask what the fuck the baby was doing up in the tree.
Things like: How was I forty years old before I realized “ABC” and “Twinkle, Twinkle” are the same melody? I know that, before the Beatles, there were only three chords, but weren’t there more melodies?
And I’m not talking about unintended references. For instance, the Poli Sci major in me thinks of Non-Governmental Organizations in the third verse on B-I-N-G-O, but I know that wasn’t the intent of the song.
And if I snicker every time I hear “The prettiest hole that you ever did see,” that’s on me. It’s clearly not what the song is about.
And don’t even get me started on “She’ll be coming ’round the mountain when she comes.”
But there are many children’s songs that do sound different as an adult.
Baa, Baa, Black Sheep
First of all, it’s the same song as “ABC” and “Twinkle, Twinkle.” Good thing it predates copyright.
It’s a song about feudalism. The local lord, or maybe a census-taker, is coming around to inquire about his manorial duties. “Yes, sir, yes, sir, three bags full.” Because, y’know, if he didn’t do my full three bags, it’s off with his head.
But what happened to the poor peasant’s wool?
The first one went to the local lord in taxes. So one might think this is some conservative diatribe against excessive taxation and the welfare state. Even the Beatles have been known to write a ditty questioning an exorbitant tax structure, a point lost on my daughter when I tried to subtly replace her Fischer Price CD with “Revolver.”
But the poor peasant would love to be saddled with a mere 33% tax rate. You see, after he gives one bag to the Master, he must also give one to the Dame, which is the Catholic Church. Wow, even the Mormons only take ten percent. It must’ve been nice to be the only church in town… or country… or continent.
So where does the last bag of wool go? To the little boy who lives down the lane. Because that’s how feudalism works. No ownership allowed. And your work is divvied up for the whole manor.
But seriously peasant, quit your whining. You know you’re getting wheat from the little boy’s family. And I bet their wheat’s up to snuff, not this black wool shit that you’re trying to pass off as legit.
Just be thankful it’s not a market economy or your ass would be out on the streets.
Speaking of market economy….
That might not be the actual name of the song, but y’all know which one I mean, right? The one the starts out: “Hush little baby, don’t have a cow, Daddy’s gonna buy your affection now.”
Every verse is “I’ll buy you something, and if it doesn’t work, I’ll buy you something else.” Sponsored by Target.
Hey, here’s a thought. Maybe try engaging your child instead of instilling the bourgeois mentality of consumerism in her.
And the father ends it with the ultimate statement: “If that horse and cart fall down, you’ll still be the prettiest girl in town.”
Aww, what a pretty sentiment. After I’m such a huge disappointment as a father, at least you’ll still have your looks to fall back on.
Can we say future stripper?
Speaking of which: We’ll all go out to meet her when she comes? Ouch. I’ve heard of the Walk of Shame, but this seems excessive. Is this a royalty thing, where the nobles would applaud the new king and queen on their wedding night?
Sorry. Back to the children’s tunes:
Mary had a Little Lamb
I get that the lamb has some rather serious separation anxiety. If this were a psychologist blog, maybe we’d go into the root causes of bovine angst.
But this is a teacher’s blog. So I choose to focus when the lamb follows here to school, “which was against the rules.” I’ve worked in a number of schools over the past twenty years, and while I can’t necessarily quote every rule verbatim, I don’t know that I have ever come across a Lamb-specific rule.
Now, maybe it’s a general animal rule. But I feel the implication is that only a lamb would make the children laugh and play. A non-lamb would be far less disruptive to the educational environment. Aren’t cats and dogs brought in for show-and-tell?
Clearly this school had a lamb-specific rule, and I wonder what necessitated that. Was a school board member speciest? Had other lambs followed other children to school in the past?
More importantly, from a twenty-first century educatrat perspective, was the rule properly enunciated ahead of time? Possibly in the student handbook or on the school’s website? I’d hate to think Mary’s being dinged for some unknown statute.
And what about full-grown sheep? Would that be acceptable? When does a lamb become a sheep, anyway? Is there a bar mitzvah or quinceanera?
Actually, on second thought, I don’t think I want to know.
Keeping it in the pastoral setting:
Farmer in the Dell
I could probably critique this song for playing into the age-old practice of picking other children from a group for popularity and mocking prurposes. Red Rover, Farmer in the Dell, Smear the Queer…
What, your bullies didn’t sing as they chased you? Did I mention I grew up in a musical?
But kids songs are always going to be cliquey and segregatory. It’s the way in which this particular songs divides that I question.
The farmer picks his wife. Okay, I suppose.
The wife picks her child? Did she stop taking birth control without mentioning it to the farmer?
The child picks the nurse? Who includes their child in this decision?
Then it gets weirder. The dog picks the cat, the cat picks the mouse, the mouse picks the cheese. We’re aware these lesser animals are being “picked” as dinner, yes? I guess we can’t say what we mean, “the cat kills the mouse,” because then the less-popular kids would get picked first.
And then the cheese stands alone. Huh, huh, I used to think when I was a child. Because he cut the cheese, so he stinks. That’s why he stands alone.
Forty-two years of wisdom tells me the last verse probably wasn’t based on flatulence. But to be honest, I can’t think of an alternate explanation for the cheese standing alone. Hell, maybe he really did cut the cheese.
Speaking of food, we’ll all have chicken and dumplings when she comes? Is this a fetish thing? Does the promise of soup really get her going?
Hole in the Bucket
Passive aggressive much?
Look, Henry and Liza, it’s clear neither of you want to do shit around the house. Why not just be upfront about it?
“I need a pedi, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry.”
“But the game’s on, dear Liza, dear Liza, dear Liza.”
Maybe instead of fetching some water, y’all might want to sign up for counseling. The bucket ain’t the only thing that’s got a hole in it.
Itsy, Bitsy Spider
I don’t have a new, adult reaction to this song. I can merely enunciate my childhood quandary with fancier language.
I know it’s supposed to be a song about perseverance. That brave, brave spider keeps getting back on that horse, er, water spout, despite the deck stacked against him, that ever present rain storm.
Maybe I am supposed to identify with that spider. I could get back in the blogging habit or finish one of those books that are 30,000 words in. Or I’d finally get that Master’s Degree. Or, you know, finish digging for that treasure chest I dreamt was buried in my back yard.
Except that it’s a nasty spider. Are we really supposed to root for him? I can’t be the only one who was rooting for the rain, right?
Oh no, oh no, the spider’s getting closer. Down came the rain and washed that motherfucker out.
This Old Man
Dude’s a drunk, right? He rolls home every night. If he was sober, wouldn’t he walk or drive himself home? And it’s happening often enough where he can’t just plan ahead and uber home.
And what the hell is knick-knack? It’s got to be shuffleboard, cornhole, or some other bar game, but he seems to play it ON a lot of things and/or people. On my thumb, on my knee. Knock it off, you lush. Play knick knack on your own goddamned shoe.
And what a shock that he played it in heaven. Maybe he should be keeping track of AA steps, not the number of paddy whacks.
And speaking of giving a dog a bone…
She’ll be riding six white horses when she comes?
I’m feeling a little inadequate now.