Song 60: Woody Guthrie, “Riding In My Car (Car Song)” (1951)

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The line on children’s music is that so much of it is obnoxious and shrill, that you have to listen to the same song millions of times until you can’t take it anymore. Some of this is true. Really, though, it’s getting easier and easier to find good kids’ music, and much of it just ends up falling in your lap. The first time we took Lilly to the Boston Children’s Museum, she climbed into an old wooden car that has a button on the dashboard. When you press the button, this song plays. We listen to it every day.

Sure, there are other songs that Lilly is crazy about that I am getting very sick of (such as “Some Nights” OH MY GOD SOME NIGHTS), but this one has yet to reach that point. I think it’s because Guthrie sings it in such an offhand way, as if he’s coming up with it on the spot, and he’s constantly amused with himself, especially after he makes a car horn noise.

I actually sing this one to Lilly every night in a rocking chair at bedtime, between “The Wheels on the Bus” and “Five Little Pumpkins”, a series of songs that somehow makes sense in context. It’s become a Song That We All Know, a song that tends to be on every once in a while, and I love that. It’s just around.

In the liner notes to his record Nursery Days, Guthrie wrote, “I want to see you join right in, do what your kids do. Let your kids teach you how to play and how to act these songs out. (These and thousands of other songs.) Get your whole family into the fun…I don’t want kids to be grownup. I want to see the grown folks be kids.” Easier said than done, of course, but that’s about all there is to it.

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