The recent death of Lois Lillenstein of Sharon Lois and Bram reminds me of the revolution in children’s music that beloved trio was part of in the late 1970’s.
It started with Raffi who was both musical innovator and social entrepreneur. He challenged the tinny sound, formulaic lyrics and Disney merchandising sub text. He founded Troubadour records believing that parents would pay regular prices for quality music for their young ones.
He was right. Children’s music hasn’t been the same since.
Raffi, Sharon Lois & Bram, Fred Penner, Heather Bishop and Charlotte Diamond were favourites at our home. They and many others offered first class musicianship, high calibre production values, authentic and joyful performances. Their thoughtful lyrics that were never condescending. They played to our spirits, young and old.
There is a generation of children who grew up on this music. Who are now our leaders or should be. Their formative musical beginnings were infused with wonder about our big beautiful world.
These modern musical troubadours illustrate another point about social innovation. It is seldom brand new. More often it disrupts what exists, then reassembles and reconfigures. The innovation is in the renaissance.
These musical icons created their own genre and it continues to grow. Most are still performing. Sadly we’ve lost Lois. Raffi, himself has a new album. In the meantime, like all successful social innovators Raffi recognizes that the broader challenge is cultural – our society is not as welcoming to children as it could be. He’s created the Centre for Child Honouring to nurture child-friendly communities and environments. And like all great social entrepreneurs he has remained true to his values, refusing to sell the rights to Baby Beluga to corporate interests. There was no way he would let them use his song to market more throw away merchandise to children.
PS – Lois Lillenstein was a mentor to Raffi. She even taught him the Hokey Pokey. Which allows me to admit I was addicted to the Hokey Pokey but turned myself around. Ahem!
We affirm our duty to nourish and nurture the young, to honour their caring ideals as the heart of being human. To recognize the early years as the foundation of life, and to cherish the contribution of young children to human evolution.
from Raffi’s Covenant for Honouring Children
There’s a big beautiful planet in the sky
It’s my home. It’s where I live
You and many others live here too
The earth is our home. It’s where we live.
-Raffi, Big Beautiful Planet
Here’s a trio of songs from Sharon Lois and Bram courtesy of CBC. Remember ‘Skinnamarinky dinky dink?’
Click below to see a class of first graders singing along with Raffi. Beautiful aren’t they?
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