From the Archives has a new curator. We’re so excited to have PIO! Songs Editor Val Smalkin sharing her favorite songs from CMN’s rich archives. Her first pick is this empowering, encouraging song from a 1993 issue by member Tom Smith.
This song was first published in “Pass It On!”, The Journal of the Children’s Music Network (CMN) in the spring of 1993 under the title “Singing Out”. The mission of CMN is to “connect people who celebrate the positive power of music in children’s lives”. I wrote it at the suggestion of my friend Bob Blue for the opening of the New England gathering of CMN that previous fall. These days I sing it under the title “I’ll Sing it Myself” to avoid confusion with Sing Out!, the well known folk music magazine. It pretty much sums up my philosophy about singing with others.
“I’ll Sing it Myself” is a direct spin-off from “A Fitting Out”, a traditional song I learned from Bill Bonyun from Wiscasset, Maine. That old folk song tells a novice 1800’s seaman the things he needs to pack when going to sea. Bill told me that the melody is “Ratcliff Highway”, a tune well known among sailors of the time.
Bill was my musical mentor, surrogate father, and friend. For several years he was the musicologist at Old Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge, MA. He called his post at the village green “the tired feet department”. Hearing Bill strum his guitar and sing old colonial era songs, visitors would sit and listen after touring all of the old buildings and grounds. Some of Bill’s songs had thirty verses and more!
I met Bill and his wife Gene in 1974 at a folk festival in Northeastern Pennsylvania. I consider that meeting among the most influential of my life. It came at a time when I was confused and pulled in many different directions emotionally and professionally. I floundered as I tried to identify myself. Bill gave me an instant comfort, and he helped me to understand that it was ok to ignore what others expected from me, and to “sing it myself”. Perhaps that is why I attached the words and sentiment of this song to a traditional song I heard Bill sing many times.
This is the same way I feel when I am at a Children’s Music Network gathering. “Celebrate the positive power of music” indeed.
These days most of my music energy is spent as a songwriter for adults, although everything I have learned from Bob Blue and many other CMN friends directly applies. We are all Pete’s children I suppose.
You can learn more about Tom Smith, and his “Kitchen Musician” blog at TomSmithMusic.com.
“I’ll Sing it Myself”
Music: Traditional, Lyrics: © 1992, 2008 Tom Smith (ASCAP) TomSmithMusic.com
I heard what you said, “Who me, sing a song?”
“What if I try and it comes out all wrong”
Well you’re not being judged, and you’re not getting paid
There’s no pass, no fail. There is only one grade
Too ra lie laddie
Too ra lie lassie
Too ra lie laddie
Too ra lie aye
All you need are some lungs that are large or quite small
That’s the first thing to which your attention I’ll call
Just fill them with air, ‘till they look nice and round
Then let it all out with a musical sound.
Then up from the bottom, your feelings come next
That means that your heart is the muscle you’ll flex
Love, anger, fear, sadness, happiness, fun
They all play a part as you empty your lungs
Then your head comes along with a wonderful view
With stories and rhymes, some familiar, some new
They come out in verses, some short and some long
If they sound right to you then we’ll call it a song
We’ve got songs from the old days, and songs from the new
Songs when your happy, and songs when you’re blue
Songs with a message, and songs just for fun
There’s a million to sing, so it’s time we’ve begun
Hey what do you know, I CAN sing a song
And I’ll be the judge if it’s right or it’s wrong
So when I’m in the mood I’ll just go to the shelf
I’ll pick out my song and I’ll sing it myself
For the lead sheet, click here: I’ll Sing It Myself