As my son approaches 8 months old, something strange has become clear to me: children’s songs are kind of dark. Not like Marilyn Manson dark, but when you pay attention to the lyrics, they aren’t as cheery as they seem. Let’s look at three of them.
Puff the Magic Dragon – Peter, Paul & Mary
This post has nothing to do with the theory that the song is about weed. I don’t care about that right now. I remember hearing this song as a kid when my parents would listen to the oldies station, and I remember the cartoon movie of “Puff the Magic Dragon”. At this point I couldn’t tell you what it was about, but I remember watching it.
One night I was listening to Pandora and this song came on. I got a little sentimental, thinking back to when I was a child and I was happy to give a “Thumbs Up” to make sure we got to hear it again in the future. Of course we did and I paid attention to the lyrics. I remembered that the song is about a boy and a dragon in a land called Hanali but then this hit me:
A dragon lives forever, but not so little boys
Painted wings and giant’s rings make way for other toys
One gray night it happened, Jackie Paper came no more
And Puff, that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar
Whoa! I didn’t remember that. Of course being slightly sleep-deprived it hit me kind of hard, thinking that little boys don’t live forever. The more I listened I realized that the song is about growing up and moving on from an imaginary friend to new things, but it still came across as much more morbid that I had remembered.
(On a side note, apparently the movie is on YouTube, at least for now: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0FyhTBvLu4w)
You Are My Sunshine
You can’t escape this one. There are hundreds of versions floating around out there. The particular version that came on was by the “Cooltime Kids,” which is basically an album of kid’s songs. It’s very upbeat and cheery and clearly a sing-along song for kids. Again, I had never really paid attention to the lyrics of the song until recently. It was this verse that got me:
The other night, dear, as I lay sleeping
I dreamt I held you in my arms
When I awoke, dear, I was mistaken
So I hung my head, and I cried
Now I understand that the song was not originally written as a children’s song, and has taken on some new meaning over the years, but yikes! Not exactly as uplifting as the music implied. (I couldn’t find this version on youtube, but it is on Amazon music if you want to preview it: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005X5KW3W/?tag=babyfund-20)
I’ve got to be honest, this is why we are here. The songs I listed above have some interesting lyrics for sure, but this last weekend we were happily playing with the baby and clapping along to “Alouette”. My wife asked if I knew what it was about and I shrugged my shoulders and guessed that it had something to do with counting (A wild guess on my part, but it really was my best guess). She did a quick Google search to see what she could find out, and it turns out this is what the song is about:
If you didn’t visit the link, I’ll give you the short version: it’s about plucking the feathers off of a Lark, and definitely not about learning to count.
Do you have any other kids songs with surprisingly dark lyrics? Leave a comment below!