Music Article

Grammy's Greatest (Children's) Hits

The best Grammy-winning Children's music -- ''Peter and the Wolf,'' ''Mary Poppins,'' and other discs will make great additions to your child's collection

The best Grammy-winning Children's music

To Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, this year's Grammy winners for Best Recording for Children, congratulations. Their Little Mermaid was a hit with both reviewers and audiences. Grammy has honored kids' records ever since the awards began in 1959, but the judges' tastes haven't always reflected critical or popular opinion. Such distinguished performers as Raffi, Ella Jenkins, Tom Chapin, Tom Paxton, Pete Seeger, Fred Penner, John McCutcheon, Rosenshontz, and Sharon, Lois & Bram have won a total of none, which is exactly two fewer than Marvin Miller. He's the guy who disbursed John Beresford Tipton's millions on TV's The Millionaire from 1955 to 1960. Miller also garnered Grammys in 1965 and 1966 for his largely forgotten readings of Dr. Seuss. Bill Cosby Talks to Kids About Drugs, 1971's Grammy recipient, sounds just as intriguing. All three recordings are nearly impossible to find. But some other winners are readily available — and in some cases even good enough to deserve a Grammy:

Peter and the Wolf Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic
Whether you're Pro-kofiev or anti, you've got to admire his Peter and the Wolf. A three-time children's Grammy winner — for versions by Peter Ustinov (1959), Leonard Bernstein (1961), and Hermione Gingold (1976) — Peter has become a classical cliché. Nonetheless, it's delightful in the proper hands, one of which happens to be waving a baton here. As storyteller, Bernstein is effective without trying to ''emote.'' As maestro, he wrings maximum drama from the music. When the wolf eats the duck you'll remember why you feel like crying every time you hear an oboe. A

Mary Poppins soundtrack
Grammy hasn't been a frequent visitor to Walt Disney's world. An album based on the movie Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, Too won in 1974 but isn't available in its Grammy-winning version. The Mary Poppins soundtrack (1964) remains available, though. Mary has Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, and songs by the Sherman brothers, Richard and Robert, whose ''A Spoonful of Sugar,'' ''Chim Chim Cheree,'' and other classic tunes earned music Oscars. Not bad for a couple of guys who, when Walt Disney first mentioned the word ''nanny,'' thought he meant goats. A

Sesame Street/In Harmony Various artists
Sesame Street has won eight children's Grammys. Like the TV show, this 1980 recording puts celebrities in with the regulars. Actually, the only regulars here are Ernie and Cookie Monster, who sing about sharing milk and cookies. Most of the selections — by the likes of Dr. John, Carly Simon, George Benson, Linda Ronstadt, and the Doobie Brothers — are forgettable, but there are two great songs kids can't get enough of: James Taylor's infectious ''Jelly Man Kelly'' and Bette Midler's joyous ''Blueberry Pie.'' B

Where the Sidewalk Ends Shel Silverstein
With a sly, gritty voice, the kind that might emanate from a car with darkly tinted windows, Shel Silverstein sounds like the last guy you'd trust your kids with. Relax. He's a terrific interpreter of his own songs and poems, which are pretty terrific themselves. In this 1984 Grammy winner you'll meet a boy who watches too much TV and turns into a TV set, a smug young trader who begins by swapping his dollar for two quarters (''Cause two is more than one''), and 33 other whimsical wonders. A

The Rock-A-Bye Collection, Volume One
Last year's winner, Rock-A-Bye contains six original lullabies played twice. One side is instrumental, the other has words sung by Tanya Goodman. Both sides make the Carpenters sound cutting edge. Not even the nursery, it seems, is safe from pretentious New Age music. New Age? That's elevator music for people who take the stairs. This tape is so uninvolving you could fall... Oh, never mind. C

Originally posted Mar 08, 1994 Published in issue #56 Mar 08, 1991 Order article reprints
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