American Children

Is one great piece enough to makeyou buy an album? In this case, yes. The title song here is so moving, so heartwarming, so…right, it gets the highest praise I can muster: It could be a Coke commercial.

”American Children” features Richie Havens and his guitar, with accompanying vocals by a host of talented singers, among them Maria Muldaur and Taj Mahal, and a full gospel choir. The melody is simple, mournful, and reminiscent of the big Live-Aid song ”We Are the World.” The song’s message is even simpler: Everybody’s different, but everybody ”hopes for peace.” Peace would be nice, but at the very least I hope for another song this beautiful in a few years.

The title cut would be enough. But there is more on American Children. Muldaur’s rendition of Bob Dylan’s ”I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” strips the song of suggestiveness and turns it into a lullaby. It was a little weird to hear my 2-year-old yelling, ”Baby tonight!” for hours after hearing this, but I guess that means it’s a hit.

Taj Mahal contributes his sweet ”Deva Devalita,” and Dave Van Ronk sings a toddler self-esteem number called ”I’m Proud to Be a Moose.”

And then there is the witty, bluesy Fred Koller’s ”You Got to Relax,” which is addressed to a stressed-out preschooler. It’s hilarious: ”Relax your belly, wriggle your elbows, think of strawberry jelly,” Koller growls. It’s no Coke commercial, but it made this stressed-out listener relax. A

American Children
  • Music