My daughter looks nothing like me. When I look in the mirror, I see the Jewish-Italian pan-European mongrel that I am. Her mother – with her olive skin and thick black hair – looks vaguely Latina, or like she was born somewhere overlooking the Mediterranean. But our three-year-old daughter looks like a poster child for the master race, with long blond hair and piercing blue eyes.
Recently, however, my little girl's mom noticed that her hands look just like my hands: crooked fingers, round palm and squared-off nailbeds. The rugrat finds this endlessly amusing. “I have your hands!” she’ll shout at completely inappropriate times, like when we’re checking out at the grocery store or using a public restroom.
Largely because of this sole genetic similarity, my daughter really likes Ian Cooke. In his song “Vasoon,” the singer-songwriter croons, “I have the same hands as my sister.” I have no idea what that means, and I hope I never find out because the enigma of it is part of the joy. But my wise and insightful daughter takes it at face value, and turns the line into, “I have the same hands as my daddy.”
This hooked her in, but she also loves the sound of the titular neologism. I’ve even heard her serenading her stuffed animals with, “vasoon, vasoon, vasoon” at naptime. Suddenly, Ian Cooke is one of my daughter’s favorite musicians – second to Raffi, perhaps – and for reasons completely different from mine.
Not surprisingly, my sole offspring has always been interested in music. When she was just two years old, she began asking the names of songs and artists as she heard them. She has been known to request specific Beatles songs or to ask which instrument is making a specific sound in a recording. This might just be the most notable characteristic she inherited from her quirky pop – more remarkable than her hands.
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On a recent weekday afternoon, I found myself at the hi-dive to attend a hastily arranged record label showcase for Born in the Flood and the Wheel. Despite the fact that this show was in the middle of the workday, a surprising number of folks came out to show their support – and a surprising number of them brought their kids along. The music might have been a bit loud at points for the fragile young eardrums, but you could see the wonder and delight in the shorties’ eyes as they witnessed the truly awesome power of live music. I found myself wishing my daughter were there to share the experience.
After the show, I ran into Ian O, a brilliant musical and artistic factotum, and Ian Cooke’s key collaborator. I told him about my little girl's love for Cooke’s music and mentioned that she’d love to see him perform live. However, since she’s usually asleep by 7 p.m., her options seemed limited. We began talking about the possibilities and challenges of putting on shows that parents and kids could enjoy together that wouldn’t have to be stereotypically children’s music.
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Adam Lancaster of Morning After Records soon joined our conversation. He told us that his seven-year-old son is his musical barometer. On a recent car ride, the two Lancaster boys listened to the new Still City record and the younger one, from his booster in the back seat, observed, “It feels like he’s singing to my heart.” Lancaster says his son had a similar reaction to the Fray, so he just might be onto something.
All of this got me thinking about children and music. How do we keep kids included in the world of music – especially live music – when that world seems to revolve around late nights, loud volumes and substance abuse? I don’t have an answer for that question, but it seems to be one worth contemplating. Nothing instills a lifelong passion for music into a child better than experiencing real music as it is being performed. Children hear, see and feel things that adults don’t even notice. In many ways, they’re better suited to appreciate an artist like Ian Cooke than is any jaded, half-deaf music critic.
I would love to see some ideas from local musicians, promoters and venues for how to bring kids and local music together more effectively. It’ll certainly be good for the kids, and it just might be good for business. I can almost guarantee that my daughter will be there, singing along.
-- Eryc Eyl