I hate Barney.
There isn’t much on the planet that I hate. I dislike raw tomatoes, but I’ll eat one if it’s served to me. I think dubstep is kinda silly, but I’m well aware that there are folks who think robots humping makes for a good time on the dance floor. They’re welcome to it, no harm, no foul.
But not Barney. Barney the purple dinosaur can bite a meteor as far as I’m concerned. He’s bad for kids, and he’s bad for adults who feel they have to put up with his insipid songs in the name of teaching kids some kind of moral lesson. It’s B.S.
There’s a reason the first of my posts to this music section of the blog had Stevie Wonder’s appearance on Sesame Street. It’s something that I really don’t ever want to forget. You can teach your children with good music. But more important than that, to me, is that you don’t have to eat what they feed you.
I was at Jazz Fest a few years ago, and listened to a seminar by Danilo Perez, an awesome Panamanian jazz pianist. He went through his set, and talked a bit about rhythms and different patterns, and then at the end he said he wanted to leave us with something that he hoped we would take to heart. I’m paraphrasing, but his message was this:
Don’t eat what they’re feeding you. On the radio, you’re only getting a diet of junk food. You’re getting that junk food on the air because that is what some panel of businessmen have decided they’re going to sell you this month. It has nothing to do with good music. It has only to do with money. So when you eat that, you are starving your brain, and your soul. There is a whole world out there of music that will feed you and keep you going, but you need to find it, and you need to fight to get it in your head, because it’s not going to be fed to you. You aren’t going to get it from your radio. You need to find it, and be the hunter that feeds his family.
As a new parent, I’m realizing that I need to hunt down the music that is going to feed my family right. Teaching my child nursery rhymes is well and good. And I’m definitely not above singing the “Itsy-Bitsy Spider” to my little girl. She giggles and loves the hand-jive that goes with that song, and always has. But I also put on Stevie Ray Vaughn and we dance in the living room to “The House is a-Knockin’.” Because she needs to know who Stevie Ray Vaughn is, even at the age of 11 months. She needs to be calmed by Miles Davis, as she winds down the day with some block-fort building. She needs to start the day sometimes with Harry Nilssen singing “Gotta Get Up!”
But she also needs to hear some new art that’s being created by artists who aren’t dead. She’ll always hear her old man because I never shut up, but she’ll also grow up hearing art from Rose Colella, who sings with a voice that bridges the distance between Ella Fitzgerald and today’s sound.
She’ll climb into Jim Tashjian’s Treehouse, because you need a little indie acoustic after your snack time.
And she’ll bang on pots and pans in the kitchen as she listens to Diana and the Dishes, because she just won’t be able to help herself.
None of these artists is aiming at kids, but the stuff I remember best and most fondly from my childhood wasn’t. I was listening to Stevie Wonder, and Bernstein, and Jimi Hendrix, and the Chicago Symphony Orchstra. My parents took me to see Amadeus four times in the theatre because I begged to see it again and again. I wasn’t the demographic for that film. The music spoke to me as a kid, as good music always will. Don’t treat your kids as fools, and don’t feed their ears junk food.
My little girl is going to grow up knowing that Barney’s hokey pokey is NOT what it’s all about. Good music fills you up, it doesn’t just turn you round and round.