Michael Endelman
February 10, 2006 AT 05:00 AM EST

Moms and dads sick of corny kiddie music have a surprising new place to turn to: surfer-turned-tunesmith Jack Johnson. The Hawaii resident wrote and recorded a soundtrack of original songs for the animated movie Curious George (in theaters this week). It’s a set of breezy, sun-baked folk-pop that’s not unlike a typical Johnson album. We asked the easygoing singer and father of a toddler where he found inspiration for his first foray into the world of pop for the pint-size.

VINCE GUARALDI TRIO A Charlie Brown Christmas ”It’s more of a jazz thing, but I really like the Peanuts music. I like how it matches the stripped-down mood of the cartoon — it’s not too overly orchestrated; it’s basic piano jazz. I wanted to do a similar thing: match the simple drawings of Curious George with a raw, stripped-down feel.”

RICHARD SCARRY What Do People Do All Day ”I was installing an outdoor shower the other day, and my son couldn’t figure out what we were doing. So I grabbed one of those Richard Scarry books that had a blueprint of a house and explained it to him. I love those books. I’ve actually learned things from them, too, like how to build a road. Really!”

BOB MARLEY & THE WAILERS Live at the Roxy ”I listen to a lot of reggae. I guess I forced it on my son — I’ve played it so much he can’t help but like it — but he just freaks out when I put this on. He bugs out and starts clapping along with it. I think it’s important not to just limit them to kids’ records…. Let them hear real music.”

DISNEY PRESENTS… Schoolhouse Rock! ”I had this in my mind when I was working — not so much sonically, but just in the way that Schoolhouse used so many cool contemporary styles. ‘The Three R’s’ on the Curious George CD is actually a remake of ‘Three Is a Magic Number’ from Schoolhouse, which is one of the funkiest kids’ songs I’ve ever heard.”

RAFFI The Singable Songs Collection ”There’s a lot of kids’ music that’s so over-the-top, the singing is too much, it’s too harsh, and there’s too many synthesizers. I like to put on something that doesn’t always jump out so much. Raffi’s pretty dope. It’s all organic-sounding, and he’s got a lot of nice songs.”

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