There are so many joys associated with being a first-time Bubbe, especially living in close proximity to my 9-month old grandson: observing all his development steps; watching him self-feed; hearing his laughter; admiring the parenting skills of my daughter and son-in-law, just to name a few. But for an eclectic music lover like me, there is another unanticipated benefit: I get to introduce (indoctrinate?) little Abraham to a range of music, including some of my favorite Broadway musicals, not to mention rock & roll classics as well.
Don’t get me wrong—when I perform my weekly babysitting duties, I generally start by opening up Spotify to hear the incomparable children’s singer-lyricist Raffi, the go-to musician when raising my own children. It’s really a blast and very nostalgic to listen to his lyrical voice and luxuriate in so many of the familiar numbers I exposed both our two daughters to endlessly: “Six Little Ducks That I Once Knew,” “The More We Get Together,” “If You’re Happy and You Know It Clap Your Hands,” “Down by the Bay,” and of course, the all-time Raffi favorite—“Baby Beluga.”
When my own kids were growing up, we also got hooked on the great Michael Feinstein’s collection for children in his iconic album “Imagination” which includessuch favorites as “The Teddy-Bear’s Picnic,” “When You Wish Upon a Star” and “Would You Like To Swing On A Star.” These songs just never get old.
But wait—as a newly minted Bubbe, I’ve discovered that there is no need to limit my baby grandson’s exposure to these children’s classics. Indeed, we have been listening to the scores of a whole host of Broadway hits including “Fiddler On the Roof,” “The Music Man,” and “Guys and Dolls” to name our current top picks. My grandson’s eyes lit up when he first heard the opening strains of the violin at the outset of “Fiddler,” and he’s particularly enthusiastic about “To Life!”
With “Guys and Dolls,” he’s drawn to several lively numbers: “Luck Be A Lady,” Sit Down You’re Rockin’ The Boat,” and of course the main number proclaiming “that the guy’s only doing it for some doll!” “Music Man” attracts him with “Seventy-Six Trombones,” “The Wells Fargo Wagon,” and “Pick-A-Little, Talk-A-Little” to name some highlights. These are all very perky numbers that epitomize Broadway. And maybe some are not so politically correct anymore, but that’s for another discussion.
But does he really love these melodies or is it just my imagination? Well, if truth be told, his Bubbe loves them so he’s probably picking up on my enthusiasm for singing along in an animated fashion. And of course, it goes beyond Broadway. I love to sing Yiddish and Hebrew melodies as well (especially Shabbat-related) in addition to a few Spanish numbers for good measure. “La Bamba,” anyone? And today I introduced him to The Beach Boys as well!
I guess my point is, it’s never too early to expose a baby to the vast array of the music that you’re passionate about, and you should not feel limited to children’s classics alone. Do you recall songs that your parents and grandparents sang to you or exposed you to? In our living room as young children, we sang and danced along to “My Fair Lady” numbers, and were captivated as well by “South Pacific” and “Oklahoma,” to name a few. My very musical grandmother had a love of singing while accompanying herself on the piano. I can still recall the words to “Three Coins in the Fountain,” a shmaltzy romantic number from the 1950s as well as “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from the musical “Carousel.”
So, douse your babies and young children with all the music you love. You’ll never know what’s going to stick. And there is no legacy more precious.
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