New Raffi! – Dog on the Floor

It’s hard to believe that with the July 27th debut of Dog on the Floor, Raffi released his 25th album, but at 70 years young, that is exactly what he did. Listening to a Raffi album makes you feel like you are wrapped up in a blanket warm from the dryer on a cold, rainy day and this album is no exception. From beginning to end it is filled with love. Love for nature, love for each other and love for oneself.

Several of the songs on the album are an ode to Luna, Raffi’s two-year-old border collie/poodle puppy. One of those tracks is “Luna’s Song” which paints a vivid picture of Luna with lyrics like “black and gray with tufts of gold,” “four little paws, soft and white,” and “big brown eyes look my way and Luna is her name.” Another song that aptly captures the relationship between a human and his dog in the jazzy “Walkin’ My Dog” in which Raffi sings “I wake up in the morning and think about walkin’ my dog” and of the dog, “She wakes up in the morning, thinks about walkin’ her dad.”

Other songs in this 15-track collection include “Market Day” and “Play Play Play” which are filled with lots of repetition to encourage listeners to sing along, a gorgeous version of the Beatles tune “Here Comes the Sun” which will enthrall children and adults alike, the fantastic stringed instrument jam, “Fiddle Dance” and the lovely “Rainbow” which starts with the soft, smooth singing of the line “I’ve been working on the railroad” that moves on to ask, when will my rainbow find me.

Raffi wraps up the album with two songs that directly address the needs of our children. The first is “Take a Breath” an important song reminding children (and the grown ups around them) that when we’re not doing fine and we want to be well, take a breath or two, be still, sing a song or two, and soon you will feel better. The bonus track uses the phrase “It takes a village” for it’s title and refrain and is a beautiful, gentle reminder that we are all (parents, teachers, librarians, neighbors) responsible for fostering future generations who will love and care for the earth and others.

It’s amazing that four decades into a career a musician is able to still produce songs that are entertaining, impactful and sure to be pleasing audiences for generations to come, but Raffi is doing just that. Another beautiful album for all to enjoy!

My First Raffi Concert

I have to admit, I didn’t listen to Raffi as a child. Somehow his music didn’t make it to our tiny corner of the world so I was raised on a steady diet of Sesame Street and Broadway musicals. Once I became a librarian though, I quickly became acquainted with storytime staples like “Shake My Sillies Out” and “Down By the Bay” and was soon a Raffi fan. Over the years I have enjoyed each of Raffi’s albums and appreciated the way he has always remained true to himself and his style of music. Then, last year I interviewed Raffi via phone for School Library Journal and my admiration for him only increased. Raffi is not just an amazing musician but a strong advocate for children and childhood and being able to have a conversation with him was a great honor.

At this point in my career, I’d listened to Raffi’s albums and talked to him on the telephone (not the bananaphone), but had never seen him perform live. Until this past Sunday. It was a beautiful spring day in Chicago and Raffi was in town as part of his 40th Anniversary tour (yes, 40 years of Raffi!) and I was fortunate enough to get a couple of tickets. Not having any small children to accompany me to the concert, I decided to go to the other end of the spectrum and took my 76-year-old dad with me. And what a great time we had.

Before the concert, mothers and fathers could be heard throughout the theater saying, “Raffi’s going to sing,” “Raffi’s coming out soon,” “Are you excited to see Raffi?” And then, at ten minutes after 1:00, there he was, the man we had all been waiting to see. The only things on the stage were a stool, a chair, a glass of water, a microphone, a guitar stand, and some bananas, but from the moment Raffi stepped on stage he had the attention of every big one and little one in the house. He jumped right in with some traditional songs weaving his own songs in as well. He sang all his classics including “Apples and Bananas,” “Baby Beluga” and “Love Bug” and with every song, the audience sang along. At one point, my dad leaned over and said in awe, “The children know all of the words.”

There were a couple of really poignant moments during the concert. The first being when Raffi paid tribute to his friend Pete Seeger with a beautiful rendition of “This Land is Your Land.” He sang the first stanza using the landmarks of Canada (Raffi calls Canada home) and the rest of the song using the traditional American landmarks. The second moment was when the whole building quieted down while he sang “Thanks A Lot.”

The concert ended with a quick zip through any of his classics that he hadn’t already performed and a rousing singalong of “If You’re Happy and You Know It.” The concert may have only been an hour long, but it was by far, the best hour of the whole week.

I was very fortunate on Sunday because my Raffi concert going experience didn’t end there. I had the great honor of participating in the meet and greet following the concert. My dad and I stood in line behind a couple of dozen families as they each took their turn meeting their idol. Raffi’s meet and greet is a very personal experience. He doesn’t sit behind a table putting a barrier between him and you. He sits in a chair with another beside him for all of his new friends. He takes time to talk with each family, give hugs where they are wanted, signs books and CDs and poses for pictures. Raffi is soft-spoken, humble and kind. It was such a pleasure to meet him. Much like my first concert, my first Raffi concert is filled with memories I will never forget.

Are YOU Ready for Valentine’s Day?

Are you looking for just the right songs to share in your classroom, during storytime or as a family on Valentine’s Day? From today through Tuesday, February 14 the wonderful variety of songs listed below are available as free downloads. There’s a little something for everyone. Pass along the love and kindness!

“Valentine (I Don’t Want to Be Yours)” – Justin Roberts
“Lovestruck Unicorn” – Recess Monkey (2017 GRAMMY nominee)
“L.O.V.E.” – Little Miss Ann
“Love Bug” – Raffi
“Closer to You” – Frances England (2017 GRAMMY nominee)
“You Can Count on Me” – Lisa Loeb
“Your Love Turns the World Around” – Brady Rymer (2017 GRAMMY nominee)
“Loving and Kind” – Aaron Nigel Smith
“Til There Was You” – Lucky Diaz
“Cancion de Amor” – 123 Andrs