Video Spotlight – “1 4 3” performed by Andy Z

While everyday should be Mister Rogers Day, the official celebration as declared by Mister Rogers’s home state of Pennsylvania is May 23. Why May 23? It’s the 143rd day of the year which also happens to be Mister Rogers’s favorite number. But 143 is not just any random number. In fact it holds a lot of significance. For Mister Rogers, 143 symbolized “I Love You.” I is one letter long, love is four letters long and you is three, hence 143. Veteran children’s performer Andy Z has taken 143 and created a lovely song in the spirit of Mister Rogers and his philosophy of kindness and love. His video, “1 4 3,” explains the meaning of 143 set against a colorful, joyful animated background. As the normalcy of life returns, it’s more important than ever to remember that we need to continue to care about one another and show that care in big and little acts of kindness. Don’t just sit there, get out and spread the love! 

Video Spotlight – “Juneteenth” performed by Fyütch and Alphabet Rockers

On June 17, President Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law, making June 19 a federal holiday. Today’s video spotlight commemorates and celebrates Juneteenth. Music and social justice artists Fyütch and Alphabet Rockers have teamed up to set the historical record straight on the emancipation of slaves in the United States. Working with African American historian and scholar Dr. Sherri Arnold Mehta, they created “Juneteenth,” an anthem that honors the soldiers and families who strategized and worked for the freedom of all. This song is based in Dr. Mehta’s research which focuses on letters written by Black men who served in the United States Colored Troops (USCT) during the Civil War. Dr. Mehta is the descendant of two ancestors who served in the USCT. Her ancestor Jefferson Michie, who was present in Galveston, TX on June 19, 1865 for the reading of General Order No. 3, is on the cover art (above) of this song. Do you know the story of Juneteenth? Watch the video for “Juneteenth” below to learn more.

Video Spotlight – “It Always Could Be Worse” performed by Animal Farm

What began as a fun video to remind children to be grateful because the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, took on a whole new level of meaning during the pandemic. Released as a track on their 2018 album, We Are One, Animal Farm‘s “It  Always Could Be Worse” features a child (in the song)/a bear (in the video) bemoaning the fact that they woke up with a sore throat/had to ride in the backseat during a road trip/ate too much banana cream pie and got a tummy ache. In each instance the character is then approached by an animal who explains that they have things a little worse off. For example imagine having a sore throat when your neck is six feet long like the giraffe’s, having to fly everywhere like a bird, or having four tummy aches at a time like a cow. Each instance reinforces the message to listeners that “That’s right it always could be worse/Try an attitude of gratitude, it’s really not that hard!”

Based on a collaboration between Animal Farm’s David Ladon and Charlie Malave and Lily Emerson, the creators of the webseries Adventure Sandwich, the video for “It Always Could Be Worse” took a full year to complete and masterfully matches the quirky melody and lyrics with amusing cardboard (and a splash of digital) animation. Finished in February 2020 and originally slated to debut in April 2020, Animal Farm never imagined what was to come. By mid-March they chose to delay the release of the video because it didn’t feel right to be touting the message of “it always could be worse” while people were losing jobs and loved ones to Covid. At that time, Animal Farm chose a new date – June 2020 to release the video but again chose to move the date back because it didn’t feel right to debut it in the midst of the social unrest following the death of George Floyd. The next release date was scheduled for October 2020, but once again Covid cases were soaring and the time still wasn’t right. A fourth possible date for release was chosen – April 2021 and finally, the time was right. Vaccinations were on the rise, cases were on the decline, and the world started to feel a little less scary. 

In his songwriting workshops for children, David talks about how our relationship to art changes as we change and his journey to release this video is a perfect example of that. “In the song and video, we use these silly vignettes about feeling uncomfortable to offer perspective on how things could be worse. But this last year has truly shown us how bad it can get. For me this song feels more relevant than ever as we navigate going forward and engaging with a world that has been scarred by the pandemic. Even for me as a performer and co-writer of the song, I find new meaning in it.” Enjoy the video below, then take a few minutes to reflect on how your view of the phrase, “Things Always Could Be Worse” has changed over the past year.

Video Spotlight – “Magnolia Tree” performed by Suzi Shelton

So often Spring is celebrated with the blooming of flowers and arrival of baby animals while Fall is the time when trees are allowed to shine as they lose their leaves and prepare for winter. Suzi Shelton’s new song and video “Magnolia Tree” changes that. This charmingly animated video gives nods to Suzi’s Brooklyn home base while featuring a fantastically diverse group of young friends who gather under a beautiful magnolia tree as its springtime leaves and flowers make an appearance. Created through a collaboration between Dallas-based artist Jackie Land and Venezuela-based illustrator and animator Alcides Urrutia, who has worked with Latin Grammy winners 123 Andrés, the video perfectly pairs Suzi’s light, uplifting vocals with images that capture the freedom that comes with being outside and the joy of finding a special place to hang out with friends. “Magnolia Tree” is the perfect way to kickoff Spring.  

Video Spotlight – “Keep On Looking” Performed by Nanny Nikki

Chicagoland’s Nanny Nikki may just be releasing her first original single, but she’s not unfamiliar with children’s music. As a nanny for nearly 15 years, Nikki Rung was able to weave her love of singing into her day job, Now, as a mother, Nikki is putting that love of music and that work experience to good use as her alter ego – Nanny Nikki. In 2020 she debuted several videos featuring classic children’s songs and rhymes as well as “You Sing & I Sing,” a series on Nanny Nikki’s YouTube page. Each episode features Nikki and a very special children’s musician like – Miss Jamie, Stacey Peasley or Red Yarn – performing a wide array of music. Now Nanny Nikki is spreading her wings even further with her first original song, “Keep On Looking.” As the song says, whether you lose a marble, your cape, or your favorite cuddly, don’t give up – keep on looking! Nanny Nikki exudes energy and joy that will draw children in and find them employing their own “binoculars” to keep on looking for things wherever they may go. 

Video Spotlight – “The Mystery Baby”

There are so many things about “The Mystery Baby” that just tickle me. In this unique take on a bedtime song, the cute storyline tells of a little baby who also dresses like an old school P.I. to fight the bad guys. In a twist toward the end of the song, viewers learn that the Mystery Baby doesn’t go out and about to do battle, but it is in his dreams where he conquers the scary monsters and that listeners can be heroes too – as soon as they go to sleep. The video features images that can also be found in the song’s accompanying picture book created by C.R. Sutherland and illustrated by Nick Decamino. The classic comic style illustrations perfectly capture the whimsy of the song while the smooth, jazz vocals provided by Felice LaZae give it a bit of that film noir quality. I look forward The Mystery Baby’s further adventures coming later this year.

 

Video Spotlight – “Giant & Colossal Squid” performed by Marsha and the Positrons

Welcome to Shark Week! However, rather than highlighting a song about a family of sharks, instead I want to shed some light on two other creatures of the sea – the giant squid and the colossal squid. In their latest video, Washington, D.C. based Marsha and the Positrons shine a spotlight on these two fascinating creatures. Filled with lots of fun facts about these invertebrates, “Giant & Colossal Squid” is a fun science song from the album Positronic. The lightheartedness of the song is perfectly paired with a video that combines the live action band with animation and simple puppetry. The lyrics appearing on the screen as they are sung is an added bonus and helps listeners to catch all the details being shared about these fascinating animals. Add “Giant & Colossal Squid” to every animal lovers playlist.

Video Spotlight – “Marley Sitting On A Pumpkin Seed” Performed by Simon Stanley

Listening to “Marley Sitting on a Pumpkin Seed” has had me thinking a lot about the role that pumpkins have played in my life. Growing up, pumpkins were a big deal at our house. We would grow our own pumpkins, carve them for Halloween and the very next day my mom would cook them down and freeze the pumpkin to be used for pies at Thanksgiving and bread at Christmas. While many folks around us would bake their pumpkin seeds to eat as a snack, we would dry ours out to plant the following year.

As an adult, sometimes we grow our own pumpkins and other times, like this year, we go to a local pumpkin farm and pick some out to take home. Now, rather than carve our pumpkins, we sit them in the front yard and project videos of singing jack o’lanterns on them during Halloween and use them as decoration leading up to Thanksgiving. This November though, the squirrels had a different plan and within two weeks post-Halloween had eaten so much from the inside of the pumpkins that they collapsed in on themselves (the pumpkins, not the squirrels). My husband decided to put the fate of the pumpkins in Mother Nature’s hands and dumped the whole pulpy mess in the garden to see if any of the seeds will surprise us next summer by taking root all on their own. 

In Simon Stanley’s recently released bluegrass-infused single, “Marley Sitting on a Pumpkin Seed,” a little tiny girl is sitting on a seed while listening to the music blowing in the breeze. This lyrical video features a lovely image of Marley, created by Auckland designer Rebecca Ter Borg. In the song, Marley is introduced to various instruments while the melody encourages viewers to clap and tap along. Listening to this upbeat ditty, I just close my eyes and imagine that there is a tiny Marley or two enjoying my pumpkin seeds and the music in the leaves as they continue to fall from the trees. “Marley Sitting on a Pumpkin Seed” is the perfect way to bid fall farewell.

 

 

Video Spotlight – “Dog Alphabet Song” performed by Grin Brigade

When he’s not busy these days being part of the entertaining duo Randy & Dave, Dave Kinnoin and a whole host of friends (including Randy Sharp and Red Grammer) are busy making music as Grin Brigade. The group’s second album, All I Do Is Hop, is filled with 29 songs that cover an incredibly wide range of topics. One of those tracks is the “Dog Alphabet Song.” While the tune is fun to listen to, there’s nothing quite like watching the video that goes along with it. The dog days of summer may already feel like distant memories, but this video featuring dogs of every shape, size and breed, will be the uplifting hit that your fall needs. Brighten any day by watching with the young dog and animal lovers in your life.  Can’t catch all the types of dogs as they go by? Check out the lyrics (and chords if you want to try playing it yourself!) here.  Enjoy!

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