Sunday, February 26, 2012

If I EVER See Three Little Birds On My Doorstep...

Welcome to this month’s installment of Good God, Where Has The Time Gone?!

Yet again, it's been far too long since my last post, and with continued chaos in the forecast, I'm hoping to make amends by including a giveaway for a copy of my novel Thank You For Flying Air Zoe.

It’ll be fun. I expect many laughs at my expense as the contest plays out.

So let’s begin!

As many of you know, my wife and I are the proud parents of a musical prodigy. Or at the very least, a cute little peanut who can canonically babble with perfect pitch while whaling on an empty Pop-Tarts box with impossible rhythm.

Y’know, for a seven month old.

Music was in our boy’s blood from the very beginning. When labor reached the twenty hour mark, we theorized that the peanut’s reluctance to come out was because of the cold and hushed hospital environment. Basically, we needed to turn the room into a concert hall, so we created an epic three-hour Labor Mix that spanned the alphabet from Armatrading to Yaz. It was for sure a long strange trip -- one in which we lit out from Reno trailed by twenty hounds, went to see the doctor of philosophy, and blew out our flip-flops on pop tops. Labor may have been a bit too laborious, but it was at least musical. And as we waited for the child within our hearts to rise above, we faded into Mazzy Star, and had our hearts eclipsed by Bonnie Tyler on what was for sure a marvelous night for a Moondance.

Oh, and for any future parents out there, Peaceful Easy Feeling by The Eagles is really a horrible selection for a child labor playlist. Just a little intel there for you.

Anyway, to make this extra long story short, the Labor Mix worked. So having given our son such a musical debut, we knew that we needed to maintain this momentum and properly nurture his innate talents. We needed to assemble another playlist of amazing songs.

We needed to locate a collection of lullabies that would lull the boy into a shiny happy dreamland when necessary.

Rookie parents probably know one or two lullabies tops, and for me, the most obvious traditional choice was Rock-a-Bye Baby. However, it takes all of four lines to realize that this lullaby classic was, in terms of its message, a complete train wreck of a tune.

Rock a bye baby on the treetop,
When the wind blows the cradle will rock,
When the bough breaks the cradle will fall,
And down will come baby, cradle and all.

Yeah no. My kid is not gonna be falling out of any tree, real or imaginary, until he’s old enough to build his own treehouse with construction grade cedar, and sign a waiver stating that his parents are not responsible for any mayhem that may occur when at ten feet or more off the ground.

So we turned to the next mainstream lullaby – Hush, Little Baby, which at its core, is pretty much a song about bribery. This one was also dismissed from the playlist.

Once we were fully liberated from the standards, we happily set out to take some of our own personal faves and turn them into naptime tunes. And after many, many, many months of experimenting with styles and arrangements (who knew 99 Red Balloons, a song about war, could be truly calming when slowed down!), we ultimately came to the following conclusion...

Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds is the greatest song ever recorded, and without it, our family would have been reduced to little blubbering puddles by now.

So yeah, we located the golden lullaby, which for weeks on end squired the little man to sleep with almost incomprehensible success. And the lyrics conveyed an almost unbearably sweet sentiment - one that any parent would wish upon their child:

Rise up this morning,
Smiled with the rising sun.
Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep
Singin' sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true,
Saying, "This is my message to you."

Singin', "Don't worry about a thing,
'Cause every little thing
Is gonna be all right."

Bob Marley was said to have fathered eleven children. I bet they all slept great.

Here’s the thing. In the Summer of ’85, I couldn’t get enough of the hit song St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion) by John Parr. Those were the days when if you didn’t have a song on cassette or LP, you would glue yourself to a favorite radio station, and like a cat on a rodent, slam the record button on your boombox when the song you were trying to capture came onto the air. True story – I think I spent two or three years trying to record Pilot of the Airwaves by Charlie Dore this way. With that song, I was more like Wile E. trying to catch The Road Runner.

Luckily, St. Elmo’s Fire was an easy prey song, and I nabbed it quickly. However, after playing the song probably a dozen times a day for the span of the entire summer, it got kind of old. Which brings me to a hard confession.

I love, love, love Three Little Birds. But it’s getting kind of old. So much so that I’ve taken to rewriting the lyrics to keep me on my toes.

Rise up this morning,
Dow Jones is down again.
Three little birds
Might be my breakfast
If this market
Doesn’t rebound real fast.
I bet they’d taste good with dijon glaze.

As my Marley remixes have grown ever more boring and bizarre over the last few weeks, I’ve started to shake up the lullaby playlist, turning to personal karaoke staples like Take Me Home, Country RoadsThe Gambler, and most successfully, Gordon Lightfoot’s The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Still, while Lightfoot’s nautical, rolling melody seems expressly written for the sole purpose of rocking a little one, the lyrics are a beast for any singer who doesn’t have the benefit of a karaoke monitor. And when wildly lost in the middle of such an epic song, well...

Sometimes you’ve just gotta get creative:

Concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms
Something something, the next word is Cleveland.
Don’t know the next line,
Which would totally be fine,
If my left arm had not lost all feelin’.

The wind in the wires made a tattletale sound,
And a wave broke over the railing.
Forgot the words again,
This lullaby must end,
As a father I just might be failing.

So yeah, I’m sort of in the market for a new lullaby.

And this is where the giveaway comes in -- I would love for you writers, readers, and music lovers to help me find one.

Here are the loose rules for the giveaway. In the comments section below, please give me the title of a song you’d like me to try turning into a lullaby. It can be any song at all, but please know that while I will make every effort to do your selection justice, if I don’t really know or cannot easily learn the words to the song, I will probably improvise and/or butcher it à la Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald.

And if you suggest It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine) by R.E.M., you will be disqualified on the spot.

As the suggestions come in, I will start giving each one a shot at becoming our household's 2012 Lullaby Champion. This title will be awarded to the lullaby that gets our son down faster than all the others.

And yes, I'll be using a stopwatch.

Granted, there are variables about this little giveaway that are far beyond my control -- most notably our boy's fatigue level. And for the sake of my already questionable sanity, if I'm ten minutes into the lullaby and the peanut isn't showing any signs of nodding off, I will probably pull the plug on the song. It's rough enough that he has to hear me try songs beyond my limited vocal reach, but doing so for any excess time will probably end nap time before it even begins.

So there are the rules -- I do look forward to hearing what all y'all come up with, be it from the swingin' 70s, the awesome 80s, or any other era. Also, please leave your email contact info with your post so I can contact you if you're the one who comes up with Version 2.0 of the Golden Lullaby. I will close the door to entries at this time next Sunday, and I'll try to post the times of each lullaby here in the comments section as the giveaway contest unfolds.

Thanks so much for your suggestions.

Oh, and if you're looking to send our son a gift, he would love THIS.

Really, he would. Swear it's not for his Dad.