Friday, December 26, 2008

Slate Article about the "Rise Up Singing" songbook

Lie Down Singing
How a songbook saved my nighttimes.
By Emily Bazelon, Posted Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2008

Bedtime at our house has two rituals: stories and songs. (Yes, some children take nightly baths. Ours prefer dirt.) The books come first, the lights go out, and then Simon, who is 5, asks me or my husband, Paul, to sing. Three or four or five songs later, he asks us to sing some more.

We oblige. Going to sleep has never come easily to Simon. And so the lullaby medley at our house often turns into a miniconcert, in terms of quantity if not quality. This is all very sweet, I know—whenever I complain about the singing, people whose children have grown up tell me I'll miss it desperately someday. But at the moment, singing night after night gets tedious. I'm tired of my standard repertoire, and so is Simon. He has ruled out "Tender Shepherd" ("No more sheep"), "Hush Little Baby" ("I'm not a baby"), and "I Gave My Love a Cherry" ("Mommy stop singing that boring song!").

Also, almost anything in Hebrew and absolutely everything from "Free To Be … You and Me"

This is why, in our house, the songbook "Rise Up Singing" represents a nightly form of deliverance.

How many songs do most of us know by heart—beyond, that is, bits and snatches? How many of those songs wear well with kids? When folk singer Pete Seeger asked the first question of the men he was serving with in the Army in 1943, he was impressed with their responses.

Now he thinks the list would be paltry

Rise Up Singing, which Seeger helped bring into being, is an answer to the ebbing away of shared lyric and melody. The book, which has sold more than 1 million copies, according to its creators, turns 20 this year.

It is exactly as advertised on its blue, spiral-bound cover: "The Group Singing Songbook" with "Words, Chords, and Sources to 1,200 Songs."

The rest of the article is at

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