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30 songs in (almost) 30 days: day 29

June 27, 2011

day 29 – a song from your childhood: Kingston Trio/Sheldon Harnick: “The Merry Minuet”

This was a tough one. I have a lot of favorite songs from childhood. Somewhere, my parents have a recording of me as a preschooler singing this song:

I remember listening to my dad sing along with the Limeliters on this song:

But I had to pick The Kingston Trio singing Sheldon Harnick’s “The Merry Minuet”:

It’s a song that has worn amazingly well. The observations Harnick made in 1950s (I’ve found it dated variously 1957, 1958 and 1959, but no references in sources I trust) define the expression plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Harnick is best known as the lyricist half of the musical theater partnership of Bock and Harnick, which gave us such gems as She Loves Me! and Fiddler on the Roof. The genius of this song, aside from its prescience, lies in the contrast between its we’re-all-gonna-die lyrics and it’s sprightly and frivolous accompaniment. The Kingston Trio does a terrific job at emphasizing this contrast. The Kingston were a favorite in our house and also in our car. As poor Mr. Spy has learned over the years, my family was big on car-ride sing-a-longs. Mr. Spy should consider himself lucky that he’s never been stuck on a cross-country trip with the lot of us. He just has to listen to me.

I listened to “The Merry Minuet” enough times as a child that I was able to remember the complete lyrics after a more than 20-year gap between listenings. What childhood songs have stuck with you?

Short and sweet today. Getting ready for realtors.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. June 27, 2011 9:13 am

    Sometime in elementary school I learned all the words to Be Prepared by Tom Lehrer, and they have never left me. My son learned all the words to Poisoning Pigeons in the Park, and I remember cautioning him not to sing the song in school one day on the way to fourth grade.

  2. June 27, 2011 10:55 am

    I love it! I also come from a big sing-in-the-car family. Good, good times.

  3. freshhell permalink
    June 27, 2011 12:24 pm

    Hmmmm, I guess some of my favorite songs from childhood were sung by Kermit the Frog: It’s Not Easy Being Green,etc.

    My family was most definitely not a sing-in-the-car family. My mother is tone deaf and her singing is very embarassing. I’ve only heard her in church and church songs are not the best ones for people with limited ranges. My father, I’m told, has a good singing voice and was always in the choir back in the day. But nobody did anything but fight in the car. Maybe that’s why I hate long car rides.

  4. June 27, 2011 3:12 pm

    Hmmm. I do remember singing Christmas carols in the car on the way home from midnight mass. Also, we drove back and forth to my grandmother’s lake cottage for many a year with three 8 track tapes — 2 Carole Kings (Tapestry and Rhymes and reasons) and 1 Carpenters tape that my little brother particularly loved.

    Realtors — so are you going? Or just scoping it out . . .

  5. June 27, 2011 6:32 pm

    “Getting ready for realtors”. That may be the most exciting four words in the English language. So many possibilities.

    My parents were just a bit too old for the folk music revolution. My dad is not musical at all, and my mom is much more Velvet Fog than The Weavers, so the Wife had to instruct me.

    2 Carole Kings and 1 Carpenters sounds like the Old Testament. I guess that for some, it is.

  6. June 28, 2011 1:31 pm

    I know that song! But I never knew its name before. We listened to the Kingston Trio too. How about Tom Lehrer? Was he in your canon?

    Also, “realtors”? Did you make a decision?

  7. June 28, 2011 2:44 pm

    No decision yet, but soon. Well, my mind is made up, but my husband is still working things through. But the realtors didn’t laugh in our face at the idea of selling our house, so I consider that progress.

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