The Kids Aren’t Alright

I bought Ben Folds’ new album yesterday. In Songs for Silverman he is mostly on cracking form, with the usual mordant wit and piano-driven, character-based songs. There was one song I found rather worrying, though – one where (unless I am missing something) he sings plainly and sincerely about his worries for his daughter growing up.

Almost without exception, pop songs about children, or more accurately pop songs about the singer’s children, are two-fingers-down-the-throat moments. There are few things more tiresome than a parent who witters on to all and sundry about how wonderful his kids are, blissfully unaware that the rest of the world couldn’t care less. Yet so many musicians feel the need to rend a musical homage to their offspring. Provided they do it in the privacy of their own homes, I have no difficulty with it, but I wish they would refrain from unleashing the results on the music-buying public.

Other offenders include:

John Lennon – Beautiful Boy

Sentimental doggerel dedicated to son Sean. Immortalised in Richard Dreyfus mega-turkey Mr Holland’s Opus.

The Beach Boys – When A Man Needs A Woman

A frazzled, gibbering wreck after the abortive Smile sessions, Brian Wilson adopted a more pared-down approach to making records, resulting in two pretty underrated albums: Wild Honey and Friends. When A Man Needs A Woman is off the latter, and although musically interesting, contains the diabolical lyric ‘Pretty soon we’ll be a family of three/Then it’s not gonna be/Just you and me/We’ll share all the goodies with the ones we bring in the world..’

I often wonder if this song inspired Charles Manson.

Jimmy Webb – Christian, No

‘You can’t prevent the world from being repossessed’, Wichita Lineman composer Jimmy Webb sings to his 3 year old son Christian. ‘I must confess that we’ve left it in a sorry mess/But you can save it if you try to do your best’

Christian responds by becoming a semi-rock star with The Webb Brothers.

Stevie Wonder – Isn’t She Lovely

She may well be, Stevie, but the tune stinks to high heaven. Stevie always had a sentimental streak, but this is a severe blot on Songs In The Key Of Life. Nearly as bad as I Just Called…

Other dishonourable mentions go to Madonna (Little Star), Joni Mitchell (for that one off Blue – Little Green I think it’s called) and, of course, Eric Clapton (Tears In Heaven). Not forgetting Cat Stevens/Boyzone (Father and Son), Harry Chapin/Ugly Kid Joe (Cat’s In The Cradle).

Any others?

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April 2005

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