(Los Angeles). Kids just wanna have fun — or at least that’s what remember from my childhood. But they also want to explore and dance and sing and have friends and sleep and dream. All of that is magically encased in a CD and sing-a-long coloring book produced by the mother-daughter team of Tracy Newman and Charlotte Dean, I Can Swing Forever.
Tracy, who wrote for Cheers and Ellen and other television shows for years while quietly plotting her return to the world of folk music she experience in her teens and a brief stint in the New Christy Minstrels. In Swing, she and her daughter and many collaborators have captured perfectly the songs and images of the world parents everywhere want their children to experience before the frenetic entertainments of the world take over.
The 18 songs on the CD, divided into Playtime and Bedtime, have just the right balance of happy melody and imagination lyrics that create pictures in a child’s mind. The sum total conjures up a world – by no means all imaginary – that parents can sing to their children, children can sing to their parents and sing with their friends. Some songs are old, some not, but they all sprout flowers, moonbeams and rainbows from the speakers.
I love it that the lyrics of the title song, “I can Swing Forever” include dad – he can swing forever in the song too. Without being preachy, I think swinging forever with mom or dad is just what a child today needs after seeing snatches of the news over her parents shoulder or hearing it on the radio in the carpool (see Tracy’s album, I Just See You for her thoughts on that suburban institution) .
Especially joyful is “Piccolo Mini” in which Tracy and her child accompanist, Millie Auslender, sing as fast as they can until they break down into giggles. “Jumpa Jumpa Jumpa” takes children jumping free over the mountain and over the sea to feed horses and milk cows with one hand, something they just can’t do with a TV cartoon show, especially if mom or dad is there singing with them. Tracy and Charlotte manage to slip in some French, “Ah Si Mon Moine” with a child chorus singing with them ..… maybe a subversive message is that sure, you can sing in French, and maybe learn to speak it too.
But it is not quite all fun and games, “Pick Up Your Clothes” is self-explanatory but even there Tracy adds a twinkle and a bit of grandmotherly advice. She points out, “your body is young and close to the ground so it is so darn easy to bend down”. Even more fun is when grandma “pops” – the silly, but serious consequences (like eating your food with the dog on the floor if you don’t pick up your clothes) remind children to love their moms more than one day in May
The bedtime songs bring back memories of camp songs I sang with my daughter when she was child – our personal version of “Run Along Home” was often the beginning of the campfire ritual. From there Tracy and her daughter carry a child through various stages to bed – tired, drowsy, almost asleep, and finally cruising into dreamland with “Sleep in My Arms” and “Things Are What Seem (Time to Sleep).
Tracey, her daughter, her band and her many collaborators on I Can Swing Forever have given a magical gift to parents and children everywhere. Don’t be afraid to color outside the lines while you sing and laugh with it.
Patrick O’Heffernan. Host, Music FridayLive!
Tracy Newman and Friends
I Can Swing Forever CD and coloring book