Last week I shared the initial installment of my Adventures with Food, in which I share recipes, tips, lore, and my own exploits preparing, serving, and repurposing the food our family eats. But also, since the birth of Stringbean, I’ve been developing my own “Dancing Baby” playlist on iTunes where I gather the songs I love that I consider appropriate and fun for Stringbean and now Butterbean. We generally wind down any given evening by dancing to two songs before reading a story in bed.
As my Dancing Baby playlist has grown so have my children, so I’ve had to update the name, which is now the Dancing Kiddo playlist. I’ve also started to subdivide it—by subject, by theme, by mood, by situation—which has provided a wonderful outlet for my obsessive-compulsiveness.
It’s with this in mind that I present the first Dancing Kiddo subdivision I developed, Songs about Chickens.
“Do the Funky Chicken,” Rufus “Hound Dog” Thomas—As the nickname implies, Rufus Thomas gained early fame through his connection to the seminal “You Ain’t Nothin’ But a Hound Dog.” Big Mama Thornton first recorded the song in 1953 before Elvis got ahold of it, and Thomas responded with the knockoff “You Ain’t Nothin’ But a Bearcat.” He then went on to greater fame as a DJ and performer of dance songs, many of which were variations on the most enduring of them, “Do the Funky Chicken.” This one holds a special place in my own personal history, as my mom says one way my father impressed her when they first met was his proficiency with the Funky Chicken. (He could also rollerskate backwards.) In case you want to impress your spouse or your child, you can learn to do the Funky Chicken here or here.
“Chicken Lips and Lizard Hips,” Bruce Springsteen—I consider this, a playful take on possible dinner suggestions that seems to come straight out of a Roald Dahl novel (or even better, from his Revolting Recipes Cookbook), one of Bruce’s greatest songs, and I’m a huge Bruce fan. Let’s just hope none of its recipes end up in my Adventures with Food.
“Fried Chicken,” Parry Gripp—A great thing about this minute-long ditty is that it serves double duty, being a goofy-but-danceable tune while also giving singalong time for Stringbean’s “I-Am-a-Robot” voice. This song is from Gripp’s album For Those About to Shop, We Salute You, which contains 51 jingos he actually pitched for commercials. None of them sold, but they make for a spectacularly listenable utopia of pop snippets (though a handful of them are decidedly non-child friendly).
“In the Mood,” Ray Stevens –This song rivals the Hamster Dance as the Dancing Kiddos song that most gets on my wife’s nerves. Just imagine the great Benny Goodman-Louis Prima song as clucked by a hundred or so chickens. Stevens is an established master of the gimmick song (“The Streak,” “Santa Claus Is Watching You”), and this is possibly the zenith—or the nadir— of his gimmickry.
I feel that I should end this segment with an acknowledgement of one major inspiration for my Dancing Kiddos playlist. Many of you have probably heard of Greasy Kid Stuff, the legendary radio show that ran from 1997-2006 on WFMU. Taking its name from a line of Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Free,” the music show is ostensibly for children, with the disclaimer that adults should like—or at least be able to stand—the music their kids listen to. Husband-and-wife DJs Belinda and Hova moved to Portland in 2006, and they now stream the show live on Sundays on Portland’s 94.7. Thankfully WFMU has archived ten years of broadcasts. I still try to listen every now and then on Sunday nights, and I also come back frequently to the FMU archives.
I hope both my Dancing Kiddos playlist and Greasy Kid Stuff provide you and/or your children with a smile, and keep all of you dancing!
John Proctor is our resident dad and writes on his experience living and raising his two children in Brooklyn. He has lived in Brooklyn since 2000, and been a father since 2009. Besides keeping company with his wife, two daughters, and chihuahua, he also writes memoir, fiction, poetry, criticism, and just about everything in the space between them. His work has been published in Superstition Review, Underwater New York, Defunct, New Madrid, Numero Cinq, McSweeney’s, New York Cool, and Gotham Gazette, and he serves as Editor for Hunger Mountain Journal of the Arts. He teaches academic writing, media studies, and communication theory at Manhattanville College. He can be reached at email@example.com and would love to hear from all of you!