Funny Bugs, Giggleworms & Other Good Friends
With the possible exception of Woody Guthrie, no songwriter is more heavily represented in today’s collective repertoire of children’s singers than Malvina Reynolds (1900-1978). ”Morningtown Ride” and ”Turn Around” are two ubiquitous examples of her writing, and deservedly so.
Reynolds herself recorded extensively, but her voice — wavery and off-key long before she made Funny Bugs, Giggleworms & Other Good Friends in 1973 — is at best an acquired taste. The resident 5-year-old critic listened to a few seconds of this album and made the face she usually reserves for overcooked macaroni. So much for exposing kids to source material, music in its original (and often unrefined) state.
But once you get past the voice, a task easier for adults than youngsters, there is much to appreciate on Funny Bugs, which celebrates creatures from insects (”Hello, Ladybug”) to dogs and cats (”The Pets”) to carousel steeds (”Black Horse”). Gently, Reynolds preaches respect for living things that share our world. ”Lobsters live at the bottom of the sea/ While I’m at the bottom of the air,” she sings on ”Place to Be.”
Perhaps the best song here is ”What Time Is It?” which argues that without clock or calendar ”The rabbit needs no dinner chime/And the ducks know when it’s summertime.” It would sound great done by a bluegrass group or polka band. In Reynolds’ case, the pen was mightier than the voice. B-