Did your family sing together?
April 19, 2008 2:47 PM   Subscribe

Did your parents sing to or with you?

I would like people to post how old they are and whether their parents sang to or with them when they were kids. I'm curious about whether this was common, and whether it's becoming less common due to the ubiquity of electronic entertainment. I was born in 1963, the youngest of 5 children, and remember my mother singing to me when I was very young, and our family singing in the car on long trips. I don't have much memory of singing together other than in the car.

If you did sing together, what songs?
posted by arcadia to Society & Culture (90 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
to me. We rarely sang together. My highly musical ex-girlfriend, upon visiting for Christmas '05, sat in stunned silence as we droned through "Happy Birthday". It left her unable to comment on the sadness of our musical imperfection.
posted by parmanparman at 2:52 PM on April 19, 2008

I was born in 1978 and my brother in 1982. My mom always sang to me before I went to bed or when I was upset. She mostly sang "Would You Like To Swing On A Star" to put us to sleep. To wake us up in the morning, she would sing a silly song about brushing teeth and beavers. I don´t remember the words except for "brusha brusha brush-a." She also sang "Get up, get moving," some dumb song from C&C Music Factory, but that was more to annoy us in the late 80s.

We also often sang together in the car (and there were trips like from California to Rhode Island, so this is a lot of time in the car). My dad would always bust out "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall," but we all enjoyed the months of the year song, "Inchworm" by Hans Christian Anderson, many Sesame Street songs and the occasional musical number.

However, my fondest memory is of "Would You Like to Swing on a Star" and I listen to the Bing Crosby version often because my mom has since died and it makes me feel warm and fuzzy and loved.
posted by cachondeo45 at 2:52 PM on April 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

I was born in 1964, and my Dad used to sing to us kids. Mostly it was songs out of an old folk anthology book he owned - Molly Malone, Loch Lomond, Foggy Foggy Dew, Skye Boat Song, John Henry, Careless Love, that sort of thing. Also various carols during the Christmas season.
posted by tdismukes at 2:54 PM on April 19, 2008

I was born in 1968 and I think we had the same folk anthology book as tdismukes. My Mom and Dad both sang a lot. My dad had a guitar and my Mom just sort of sang in the kitchen informally.
posted by jessamyn at 2:57 PM on April 19, 2008

I was born in 1981. Both of my parents sang to me all of the time as an infant. One song that they sang often was "Sweet Haven" from Popeye. It was the only thing that could calm me down. In fact, I have a video that they took of me sitting and crying in my rocker until they put the record on and started singing to me. My father would also sing "American Pie" to me. When I was a bit older, in elementary school maybe, my mom would come into my room and wake me up by singing "Good Morning Star Shine" from Hair. I don't think any members of my family sang songs together at home, though my mother and I were music leaders together at a youth retreat for a while when I was in high school.
posted by inconsequentialist at 2:58 PM on April 19, 2008

To wake us up in the morning, she would sing a silly song about brushing teeth and beavers. I don´t remember the words except for "brusha brusha brush-a." She also sang "Get up, get moving," some dumb song from C&C Music Factory, but that was more to annoy us in the late 80s.

that was from the Ipana toothpaste commercial made famous in Grease.
posted by meeshell at 2:58 PM on April 19, 2008

I was born in 1980 and both my parents sang to me. My dad had a couple favorites, including "The Fox," and some crazy song about a billboard that advertised wonky things like Smoke Coca-Cola cigarettes / Drink Wrigley's Spearmint beer / Ken-L-Ration dog food makes your wife's complexion clear. My mom sang some lullabies to me and my sister that she made up. Very fond memories of both.

I didn't start singing with my dad until I started playing music in high school.
posted by ORthey at 2:59 PM on April 19, 2008

Yes. When I was three, and asked to be sung to before bed, my mother would sing an old cowboy song called "Cool Water," which I was inexplicably obsessed with. She also sang "I Never Will Marry," which, considering the trajectory of my life so far, she might regret. My father always sings out loud to the world in general, so I don't remember if he sang to me particularly or not, but I seem to remember that someone sang "I Will" to me. All of these memories are lovely ones. It never mattered that my mother had an ordinary voice.

My grandmother would rock me and sing "You Are My Sunshine," except for the part that goes "you have shattered all of my dreams."

I was born in '79.
posted by Countess Elena at 2:59 PM on April 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

I was born in 1976, and my brother in 1978, and my parents sang both to us and with us. My dad played the guitar and sang in a band, and my mom sang constantly, often making up silly songs or incorporating our names into others. I come from a musical family, so this type of thing seemed totally normal. In fact, my mom still sings to/with us. My sisters sing to and with their kids also.
posted by mewithoutyou at 3:04 PM on April 19, 2008

Also, my parents taught me to sing "The Minstrel Boy" when I was too young to even know what it meant to destroy your harp rather than sing as a slave. They still ask me to sing it sometimes, and I'm happy to.
posted by Countess Elena at 3:06 PM on April 19, 2008

When I was a child, for years, my father would stand in the hallway between my and my brother's rooms at bedtime and sing "Around the World in 80 Days" in his beautiful tenor voice. One of my sweetest childhood memories.

My husband and I always sang with our own kids, including four part harmony and quite complex rounds on road trips, and we always sang every patriotic song we could think of on the commute to school many days, at the kids' insistence. Go figure. Strangely, while they seemed to like singing *with* us, they hated it when we sang *to* them (No remarks about my voice. I have a really good voice, and my husband's a professional singer.)
posted by nax at 3:08 PM on April 19, 2008

I was born in 1980, and my parents both sang to me. One of my mom's stalwarts was Sing from Sesame Street, and my dad used to wake my sister (born in 1983) and me up with Red Robin. (He did not do it as a duet with Ethel Merman, though.)

If it matters, my parents were both born in 1947.
posted by Airhen at 3:08 PM on April 19, 2008

I was born in 1965, and my mom would sing us to sleep with "Scarlet Ribbons." I would sing with my dad a lot - he played guitar and piano - my song was always "You are my Sunshine."
posted by The Light Fantastic at 3:08 PM on April 19, 2008

Ah-- I'm 52, so the bedtime singing would have been in the early 60s. My kids are 19 and 22.
posted by nax at 3:10 PM on April 19, 2008

I was born in 1965, and my mother (who had been a chorine) often sang me and my sister to sleep. Her favorite lullaby was "Just Because We're Kids" from The 5,000 Fingers of Doctor T.
posted by nicwolff at 3:11 PM on April 19, 2008

I was born in '88 (which makes me feel all kinds of young in here!). I grew up listening to my Dad singing country songs to my sister and I; Alabama's "Never be One" was kind of 'our' song. We also got "Puff the Magic Dragon" a lot. "Hands Up (Give Me Your Heart" was the getting dressed/getting undressed song.

My mom didn't sing to us, and I never sang along, both for the same reason-- with the exception of my father and kind of my sister, our voices are atrocious.
posted by riane at 3:18 PM on April 19, 2008

I was born in 1982, and my parents sang to me throughout my childhood. My mom's favorites included A Spoon Full of Sugar and this funny good morning song that she would sing to help get me up for school. My dad constantly sings, and used to sing songs like Shoo Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy, Lydia the Tatooed Lady (both of which made me laugh hysterically when I was little). As a result of the warm fuzzy feelings these memories leave, I'm certain that I will sing to my own children when they come along. :-)
posted by I_love_the_rain at 3:20 PM on April 19, 2008

I was born in 1978 (parents in 1947/48), and I don't remember either of my parents singing to me. But my mom worked nights, and my dad started work right after my mom got home (around 7am), so he was probably beat by bedtime. My evenings were basically that my mom went to bed from 6-10 (before her shift at 11), and my dad would put me and my sister to bed at 9. He was more of the "read a book" type, but that wasn't every night.

Of course, my sister and I shared a room, and our room was about 15 feet across a driveway away from our best friends bedroom next door (2 sisters about our ages), so we'd kind of talk to each other or play with flashlights into each other's rooms or whatever until we fell asleep. I distinctly remember reading Rachel and Sharon (the girls across the driveway) a story one night (by flashlight!) while I sat on my windowsill.

Oh, and my maternal grandmother lived with us. She died when I was around 5. She read stories all the time. I guess my family just isn't that musically inclined. Or we're horrible singers.
posted by AlisonM at 3:21 PM on April 19, 2008

I was born in 1990. My mother has wide-ranging musical tastes and so sang to me things like R.E.M.'s "(Don't Go Back to) Rockville" and the Replacements' "Waitress in the Sky", along with Nico's version of "Le Petit Chevalier" (which I was mostly fond of singing by myself, once I learnt that her son was just my age when he performed it on Desert Shore). She was also very much a fan of Donovan, so that I heard "Happiness Runs" and "I Love My Shirt" quite regularly. Other songs she would sing included "Let's Go Fly a Kite" from Mary Poppins and Yoko Ono's "Who Has Seen the Wind?".

My father is a much better singer, but preferred tunes like "I Will", Joni Mitchell's "The Circle Game", anything by Gram Parsons, and quite frequently the Grateful Dead's entire discography. It was an interesting household.

We hardly ever sang together, except on special occasions: on the maternal side of my family the entire group sings (or drones, indeed) "Happy Birthday" at every birthday celebration, but being a group of mostly nonmusicians that is the extent. There is a very long history of singing-and-piano-playing matriarchs on my father's side, however, so family choruses are a much more frequent occasion there, particularly for Christmas carols.
posted by punchdrunkhistory at 3:23 PM on April 19, 2008

Born in 1970, parents never sang to me other than "Happy Birthday" and the occasional verse of "Yes, sir, that's my baby".

My kids were born in this century, and it's a non-stop musical recital around here.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:27 PM on April 19, 2008

Yes. We Sing, Joe Wise and Psalty the Singing Songbook. Psalty was awesome.

Oh, and Raffi.
posted by Happydaz at 3:27 PM on April 19, 2008

I was born in 1979, and my mom has a good singing voice, and she sang all the time in the car along with tapes or the radio. It was a lot of Fleetwood Mac, Beatles, etc. She also bought "Thriller" by Michael Jackson when we were kids, and she let us sing and dance along to it.

Also, the tradition is not dead...I'm 35 weeks pregnant and I made a mix CD of songs for my son. I listen to it on the way to and from work and sing along, and I plan to keep singing to him after he's born. Although someday it'll be awkward to explain to him what all the drug references mean in those Tom Petty songs.
posted by christinetheslp at 3:29 PM on April 19, 2008

Born in '66, and yes, was sung to and with - my mom, mostly, since my parents divorced when I was about three. I don't remember particular songs at the moment, but my mom and I did have a song-and-dance routine we made up to Bobby Short's songs on this album, particularly Sand in My Shoes and I've Got Five Dollars. I was, uh, kind of a ham when I was a little kid.

Albums by Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Cat Stevens and others populated our record collection, and there was a lot of singing along with those while making dinner and such.
posted by rtha at 3:29 PM on April 19, 2008

My mother sang to us all the time. She even sang me awake every school day morning until I graduated high school, some made-up thing about it being a beautiful morning to go to school. My mother, father, sister, and I all sang together in the church choir, but not really at home together.
posted by rhapsodie at 3:30 PM on April 19, 2008

My dad and mom sang to me all the time. I was born in 1955. My grandparents on my mom's side also sang to me. Dad was always singing while he was cooking--usually folk songs or occassionally some 'La Donna e Mobile"-type stuff. Mom would sing "Oh What a Beautiful Morning" and the like. The Light Fantastic mentions "You Are My Sunshine"--that was my grandpa's song for me.
posted by wafaa at 3:30 PM on April 19, 2008

I was born in 1975, and both of my parents sang to me (and to my younger sister, born in '77) ... my dad sang to me more when I was REALLY young, but even when I was growing up he'd still sing silly kid songs in my presence and for his amusement and mine even if he wasn't necessarily singing directly TO me (hmm, I think it'd take a lot more words to make this distinction clear as I'm seeing it in my mind, I'll spare you the blather ;)) The one song I most specifically remember of his went "The night was dark and dreary / the rain was falling fast / the lightning struck the bald-headed man / and knocked him on his ... butt" ... sadly, I was about 15 or 16 when I finally realized he'd been "censoring" it all my life =P

My mom not only sang to me and my sister, she has a special, separate song for each of us ('You Are My Sunshine' for me; 'After the Ball is Over' for my sis) ... she even made up songs occasionally and either sang them for us or taught them to us, to this day I can't hear 'The Blue Danube Waltz' without singing along my mom's words (again I'll spare you, but they started with "Don't play on the stairs - no-no, no-no" ...)

Fun question, it's neat to see what other folks' experiences were with parental singing! If I ever have kids I'll most definitely still sing to 'em (for now, I content myself with singing to my dog) ...
posted by zeph at 3:31 PM on April 19, 2008

I was born in 1965, and my late mother used to sing "You Are My Sunshine" to me when I was very little.

She also sang things like Janis Joplin's Mercedes Benz when I was a little older to make me laugh (she'd really ham it up with that one), and every time we heard a song from the 40s or earlier she'd sing along and knew every single word. It blew me away, how she had such recall of songs she'd heard on the radio as a child.

Of course now I understand it better. When I hear obscure early-70s songs *I* heard on the radio as a kid, I also know all the words without having ever consciously tried to memorize the lyrics.
posted by seancake at 3:41 PM on April 19, 2008

I was born in 1982. My mom sang to me a lot, and I'd sing back - which was probably painful to outsiders, since neither of us can carry a tune in a bucket. She was convinced that having the TV on all the time was bad, but having the stereo on all the time was great, so we'd be singing along to whatever was playing.

We didn't really do the Kid Music thing - instead she played a bunch of stuff she didn't think would lead to awkward questions later. Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and loads of Beatles. The Beatles are good "grown-up music" for kids. Very singable. I am the walrus, coo coo ka choo. Lots of big-band and Dixie jazz, too. My favorite song when I was young was Gillespie's "Salt Peanuts." I'd completely forgotten about that until now. Jazz is great when you are five years old and need to bounce off the walls.
posted by cmyk at 3:42 PM on April 19, 2008

I was born in 1968. My father sang to me when I was little, and he always changed the names of the girls in the songs to my own name. The one I remember most was a song about a "rootin' tootin' cowgirl" and he sang it as "rootin' tootin' cowgirl Amy"... My mom didn't sing as much, mostly because she couldn't carry a tune in a bucket, but the one I remember most from her was "Red Roses for a Blue Lady," which in retrospect seems like a strange song to sing to a kid...

I sang to my own kids all the time when they were young (daughter born in 1988, son born in 1992). I still sing along to the radio with them in the car. They sometimes impress their peers with their knowledge of 70s and 80s rock, and it's because those were the kinds of songs I was singing to them in their formative years.
posted by amyms at 3:42 PM on April 19, 2008

born late sixties; Mum used to sing stuff like "Mairsie Doats". With Dad, it was comic songs of dubious taste ("The Old Brown Cow", "Gentlemen will please refrain ...", etc).
posted by scruss at 3:43 PM on April 19, 2008

My dad is Welsh. You'd better believe he sang to my sister and I as kids. Mostly Northern English and Welsh folk songs, but I'm sure there were more modern things in amongst it all. The one that sticks in my mind the most was On Ilkla Moor Baht 'at, a cheery ditty about dying from exposure because you weren't wearing a hat when you went 'a courting.

It's 36 years since my dad first sang that song to me, and I live half a world away from Cardiff, in Australia but last night while my wife showered, I looked up the lyrics to Ilkla Moor and sang it to my 3 day old son.
posted by tim_in_oz at 3:43 PM on April 19, 2008 [3 favorites]

1972, have never heard either of my parents sing on any occasion that I can recall.
posted by nowonmai at 3:44 PM on April 19, 2008

I was born in 1988 as the youngest of four. My parents used to sing various lullabys and nursery songs to me when I was very small. The ones I remember distinctly are "The Fox," "Row Row Row Your Boat," "You Are My Sunshine," and one that my mother would sing as I sat on her lap and she bounced me up and down; the the words went "This is the way the ladies ride, ladies ride, ladies ride/ This is the way the ladies ride, going to the fair." Then "this is the way the gentlemen ride..." and "This is the way the farmers ride..." with the bounces getting successively bouncier. In addition, both my parents would (and still do) sing in a general way, not specifically to me or anyone else.

My grandfather would sometimes sing a song that went "Rachel, Rachel, I've been thinking/what a grand world this would be/if the boys were all transported/far beyond the northern sea." This, of course, was my cue to say something like "But Bapa, then you'll have to go, too!" It was all very adorable, I'm sure.

Nowadays, if a large portion of the family's together (usually meaning my immediate familial unit plus my mother's siblings and parents), we'll often sing and/or play music together. Also, my sisters regularly sing to/with their respective kids (age range 2 mos. to 10 years).
posted by Commander Rachek at 3:47 PM on April 19, 2008

Yes. Folk songs, made up songs, modern songs... We did a lot of singing.
posted by Phalene at 3:48 PM on April 19, 2008

Never remember my parents singing, but there was always music. For another sort of data point, I sing to my 4 month old daughter ALL the time. It's one of my daddy-things that I do when she gets up in the morning. I pop on the iPod and sing The Ramones or David Bowie or The Who to her as we change clothes and such.
posted by griffey at 3:53 PM on April 19, 2008

>> My grandfather would sometimes sing a song that went "Rachel, Rachel, I've been thinking/what a grand world this would be/if the boys were all transported/far beyond the northern sea.

:o :o My mum used to sing that to me :D. Except I think it became "far across the northern sea". "Nova Scotia" by Ian&Sylvia was another one that I remember from ages ago. My dad (who can't hold a tune to save his life) used to (attempt to) sing Drunken Sailor as something of a joke.
posted by katrielalex at 3:54 PM on April 19, 2008

My mother sang me to sleep most nights. Mostly musical theater stuff - the rotation was heavy in "Try to Remember" from The Fantasticks and "Til There Was You" from The Music Man. I don't remember my stepfather singing to me or to my little sister, other than, oddly enough, the Teddy Bear's Picnic song. For some strange reason he knew all the words and if we badgered him enough he would sing it for us.

My sister and I were constantly duetting in the car, usually musicals and/or Disney songs, and I think I dimly recall the parental units singing along sometimes.

I was born in 1979 and my sister in 1986.
posted by Stacey at 3:56 PM on April 19, 2008

Yes, born in 1984. When I was little, songs like Baby Beluga and that song about "If that mockingbird don't sing, I'm gonna buy you a diamond ring," etc. My dad used to sing the theme to Rawhide to wake me up in the morning (and still does sometimes when I'm visiting, argggg.)
posted by wuzandfuzz at 3:58 PM on April 19, 2008

I'm a parent. My children were born in 91 and 92. Despite sounding like a dying cat whenever I try to sing, I sang to them and with them, and I found that videos / now DVDs made singing easier, there were lots of children's programs that had singing that they had learned the songs to (The Wiggles, that sort of thing) and that they also sang in preschool, though not so much when they went to school.

For years, on drives, Queen was our staple (we couldn't agree on much else) and we'd sing along to that.

I wonder if there is a reduction in singing between parents and children, whether it's related more to increased time pressures, like daycare, commuting etc, rather than digital technologies.
posted by b33j at 3:59 PM on April 19, 2008

Born in 1988; my parents sang me to bed every night, some song that went along the lines of "Good night, my baby, good night, my love." Upon further Googling, I can't identify the song.

Whenever I stayed at my grandma's house, she sang me a song in the morning that I can't remember. My mom occasionally sang the same song to me.
posted by elisabethjw at 4:00 PM on April 19, 2008

I was born in, ahem '66 and my mom sang to us constantly. She did the whole mother goose thing, too. We sang rounds as a family, and a bunch of folk stuff, a bunch of things from the 40s, and one latin round we loved, Dona Nobice Pacem. (there were a few other rounds, one about white coral bells, which is cheesy but fun). Those are really great memories for me. None of us was born with a good voice, but we can all carry a tune, and we all adore classical and pop music.

I always sing to children when I take care of them, particularly babies. I think it is becoming less common to sing with kids, and my friends, as much as I love them, play the Wiggles and Barnie for their kids. Few actually sing, which is too bad. Children learn a lot imitating, particularly with music. And it's really never too young to reject shitty music. Not meaning to brag, but all five of us had great verbal and math skills. Singing might not be directly responsible, but I think it helped. Sorry to write so much, but your question touched on a lot of really great memories.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 4:02 PM on April 19, 2008

By the way, did any of you sing the Plastic Jesus song? We loved that one. We also used to sing Gordon Lightfoot, which is odd (we didn't listen to any other country), but I did end up immigrating to Canada...hmmm.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 4:05 PM on April 19, 2008

Born in 1988. Mostly it was singing to us, except when they taught my one-year-old self to go "ooh ooh" after "she drives me crazy" (think Fine Young Cannibals). That training stayed with me until I was at three or five, and apparently I looked scared as crap first time I heard that song again and went "ooh ooh."

My dad also likes to repeats certain phrases and bits of songs for 'comedic effect.' That's not so much singing as ending a conversation for the sake of repeating the same sentence multiple times a minute. As I grew older, Simpsons quotes and songs would appear (the Monorail Song, embiggen, etc.).
posted by flibbertigibbet at 4:25 PM on April 19, 2008

Born in 1976. My mom sang me folk songs, mostly at bedtime. 500 miles, Where Have All the Flowers Gone, Lemon Tree, Greensleeves. I didn't sing to my son, mostly because I don't know the words to anything, and I can't even sing the ABCs on key. They say kids don't care if you sing off key, but I can't stand the sound of my own voice. We listen to lots of music instead; we dance to it. Now that he's 2, if I try to sing he yells, "No singing, mommy!"
posted by peep at 4:46 PM on April 19, 2008

I was born in the late eighties. My mum and I always sang in the car together to Neil Sedaka, Roy Orbison, Cliff Richards and for some strange reason that Speedy Gonzales song.

I've never, ever, ever heard my dad sing. His side of the family don't even drone out "Happy Birthday". I don't think he even understands singing. When I sing in the car now, he thinks I'm talking to him.
posted by liquorice at 4:50 PM on April 19, 2008

This is the coolest thread ever.

I was born in 1978, my brother in 1981. My father performed in a renaissance madrigal choir and my mother was a church organist. We were a very musical family, and we sang all the time.

My strongest memories of singing, however, are of my grandfather whistling and singing in the car.
posted by billtron at 5:00 PM on April 19, 2008

My Irish-American grandfather sang everything from Please Release Me to You're the Cream in My Coffee. A few years ago, my mom entrusted me with six dusty 78s that he and his bar cronies made when they "borrowed" the recording machine used to record criminal confessions in NYC in the 40's. (They were all Irish cops who worked in Hell's Kitchen.) Those recordings mean everything to me since I haven't heard his voice since 1981 and he was one of my favorite people of all time.

My father would sing quite often into a hairbrush to us three girls, specifically "Daddy's Little Girl" which will always, ALWAYS make me cry now.

Oh crap. Damn you, Ask Mefi. Where's a tissue?
posted by jeanmari at 5:06 PM on April 19, 2008

By the way, I was born in 1966.
posted by jeanmari at 5:07 PM on April 19, 2008

New Zealand, b1970. My father never sang. I have never heard him sing, except perhaps the national anthem or hymns on serious occasions. And "Happy Birthday". Pakeha men of his generation do not sing. My mother sang a little, but not much, and she told me she had been put off singing at school after a teacher told her she was tone-deaf. My parents loved classical music though, and I grew up with considerable musical ability.

I sang to and with my daughter a lot when she was little, and we still sing occasionally. She seems to enjoy singing still, but she can't hold a tune very well...
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 5:17 PM on April 19, 2008

Born in '69 - my mom used to sing old folk songs all the time (Gordon Bok & Doc Watson sorta stuff), but the only song I remember her singing to me was the "Mama's gonna buy you a mockingbird" song. My dad played banjo for a Dixieland jazz band, and would often play for me if I was fussy. Calmed me right down.
posted by Koko at 5:19 PM on April 19, 2008

PS: the only song I can remember Mum singing was "I'm a lonely little petunia in an onion patch", with the chorus ending "... and all I do is cry all day."
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 5:20 PM on April 19, 2008

P.S. my bf's first complete sentence was "mommy, don't sing!"
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 5:23 PM on April 19, 2008

Born in 1978. My parents are musical and our family is part of an a capella church so we're big singers. Huge. Like the stinkin' von Trapps at times. Growing up, I remember Mom singing many of the nursery rhymes to me instead of just reading them. I have younger siblings so I got to hear her sing them for years and years. Our vacations were long car trips so there was all kinds of singing. As we got older we learned to sing in parts and with four kids and grandma, we were a pretty well balanced chorus. A couple of years ago when I went home for Christmas the whole family went and sang at a nursing home. (I married a strong singer from our religious tradition so he fits right in, filling the spot of the oft-absent brother; my sister's husband seems to feel a little awkward when we do the von Trapp thing. He'll learn. At least we haven't broken out the recorders when he's been around!)

Constant music is one of the ways I would characterize my childhood. It was so incredible when my son was born a couple of months ago and I watched my dad bounce him on his knee, singing songs he used to sing to me and my siblings. And sometimes as I carry a crying baby around the house, I sing the songs my mom sang to us and feel so connected to my family even though they're 5000 miles away.
posted by wallaby at 5:27 PM on April 19, 2008

My mom's side of the family is very musical. Mom, grandma and aunt all sing and play piano as do both my cousins. We used to have big sing-alongs of Lithuanian folk songs. I was able to sing a few of them until about 10 years ago (I moved away, our gatherings became less frequent, my grannie lost her sense of tone due to a stroke, and I just plain forgot the words).
With just me and my mom, though, I remember singing both songs from Sesame St. (like the Be My Echo song with Grover and Madeline Kahn) and various showtunes (Camelot, Sound of Music, West Side Story, so many more). I'm a 1973 kind of gal from Sideways country, CA.
posted by ikahime at 5:28 PM on April 19, 2008

Born in '66. Most of our music was my mom playing piano. One of my fondest kid memories was sit under the piano (it was a grand) and listen to her playing Chopin and watch the action of the pedals. She sang, but mostly old show tunes or Noel Coward or really quirky things. I knew most of Tom Lehrer's repertoire before 4th grade.

We did some singing on car trips, but it was mostly short lived as a lot of the time was spent complaining about who has moved into someone else's seat territory.

Both my wife and I sing to our daughter at bedtime, but not so much to her infant brother (yet). I also frequently pull the guitar down for them after breakfast.
posted by plinth at 5:30 PM on April 19, 2008

Oh yeah. Born in 1978. My mom would sing to us a lot and my dad would sing with the radio, records and tapes in the car.
My mom would sing "Good Morning to You," to try and wake us up/cheer us up in the mornings. She taught us a lot of songs she learned at YMCA camp that would be classified as American folk songs.
All of us sang in church choirs together up until I was in college.
My dad would bring home weird music. I remember hearing Queen in junior high and thinking they were awesome. (Still do.) But I learned about classic rock like The Beatles, the Eagles, etc. from him. Since he's the man who knows some of the words to every song ever written, I learned a lot.
I also remember he used to sing that standard "Blue Skies" all the time. Whenever I hear that, I think of him.
posted by FergieBelle at 5:32 PM on April 19, 2008

I love this question. Anyway, I was born in 1979. My mom never did anything musical besides participate in high school choir and sing in the car with her sisters, but she sings all the time. She said she sang "Tura Lura Lura" to my brother (b. 1981) and I when we were babies. And she sings in the car whenever she gets the chance. A memory I'll always treasure is she and I singing along to the Beach Boys' "The Man With All the Toys." She's a soprano and I'm an alto, so it worked out.

I think my father would rather eat glass than sing alone in public. I do remember once in fourth or fifth grade he spelled out my full name during the chorus of Van Morrison's "Gloria" while it played on the radio. I was so embarrassed.

My brother and I inherited my mom's attitude toward singing, I think. If and when I have children, I'll sing to them.
posted by princesspathos at 5:35 PM on April 19, 2008

Oh wow, this is a great thread.

I was born in the late 70's and remember my mother singing to us a lot. My dad would probably rather jump off a cliff than sing and kind of mumbles the happy birthday song, but did play the guitar a lot when we were little. My mom's side of the family is quite musical and a lot of them can sing very well. We always had either the radio on or someone was singing. We heard a little bit of everything from my mom, from folk to Sesame Street, rock to traditional lullabies.

My brother inherited the non-singing gene from my dad but likes to write music and play the guitar too. I play 4 different instruments well and play a little piano and I do sing fairly well and often. My daughter is only 5, but she has a very passable voice for her age and seems to be coming out to be pretty musical. Not like child singing prodigy or anything, but her voice is clear and pleasant and I love hearing her sing. Her dad has a decent voice and sings to her all the time too.

My daughter has been making up songs since she could talk. We listen to a lot of music and sing along with it and also sing traditional type songs a lot. I don't think we're in any danger of losing our voices to electronics around here.
posted by howrobotsaremade at 6:04 PM on April 19, 2008

Born in 1983 to a mom born in the 40s. The songs I remember her singing to me are Daisy (but with slightly different words), John Henry, Molly Malone, Go Down Moses, The Farmer and the Dell, and Aba Daba Honeymoon. We also listened to tapes and records, but some occasions called for singing rather than recorded music.
posted by needs more cowbell at 6:17 PM on April 19, 2008

Oh wow. I found one of the digital files of my grandfather's recordings if anyone cares to hear it. A bunch of his pals singing two songs that he used to sing to us. That's him kicking off their version of 'Til We Meet Again. He was a gruff old dude by the time I was born, but he still loved to sing.

I still sing the songs that he sang to us and remember him every time I hear them.
posted by jeanmari at 6:20 PM on April 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

I was born in 1968. I had older parents. When she tucked me in, Mom would sing "Three Little Fishes" and "Mairzy Doats". Sometimes my dad would sing out, "Give me back my booooots and saddle..." I don't know where that came from.
posted by Evangeline at 6:48 PM on April 19, 2008

I was born in 1979 and I remember my mom both singing and whistling tunes often around the house. My brother and I often made up songs together and I think this was because of my mother's example.

I had never seen my family sing all together until a family reunion this year when a 3 year old cousin led us all in singing You Are My Sunshine and C is for Cookie. I wept. It was beautiful.
posted by shesbookish at 7:35 PM on April 19, 2008

I'm 23 (born in '84). My mother sang Eidelweiss as a lullaby for me and my sister (who is two years older). She was in her college glee club, and has a very lovely voice. Other songs she sang to or with us: The Happy Wanderer (which I always called the Knapsack Song), Make New Friends, It's a Grand Old Flag, pretty much any Christmas carol or song in the Methodist hymnal.

My dad didn't sing with us as much (though he would recite things like "Fuzzy Wuzzy Was a Bear"), but his sisters did. With them, we sang These Boots Were Made for Walking, Wild Thing (changed to Wild Hair—it gets everywhere), There's No Business Like Maloney Business (our version of There's No Business Like Show Business), and various songs they wrote themselves (both my aunts have been professional singers—my aunt Kristi has been for her entire career).

In a strange episode of coincidence, as I've been reading (and commenting) on this thread, WNYC has been playing Roy Harris's "Folk Song Symphony." How appropriate!
posted by ocherdraco at 7:37 PM on April 19, 2008

elisabethjw, I would guess that your parents were Music Man fans like mine - sounds like they were singing "Goodnight, My Someone" with the words changed slightly for baby-appropriateness. Which reminds me that Mom sometimes sang that one to me, too, though she stuck with the original lyrics and tended to leave out the bridge.
posted by Stacey at 7:45 PM on April 19, 2008

Born in 1972, Irish mother sang to me a lot, my English father not so much. My husband and I sing constantly to our children and they are quite musical, often composing their own songs. In Ontario, there is a big push for parents to sing traditional (mostly of UK heritage) songs to children because it improves their later literacy. The programme is called the Mother Goose programme and my children listen to the cd by Kathy Reid-Naiman every night after their story books and a family concert. The Mother Goose Programme is free and held in public libraries and Ontario Early Years Centres because their was a concern that relationships between parents and children were being fragmented adn would be strengthened by traditional songs, replacing the "TV as babysitter" phenomenon. In my circle of friends we all sing to our children.
posted by saucysault at 8:00 PM on April 19, 2008

It's interesting how many people heard "You Are My Sunshine" as kids. My grandma and my mom both sang that to me. My mom sang lots of other songs too, mostly with me, since we had a pretty musical family. I was born in 1965.
posted by litlnemo at 8:15 PM on April 19, 2008

I was born in 1985, and my brother in 1987. My parents were both originally in University for Music (but both dropped out). We sang a lot as a family. When my mother returned to University to pursue a degree in Education, she used my brother and I (then about 3 and 4) to prove that you could get young children to sing songs in a round (we sang 'Three Blind Mice' in three part rounds). I also remember singing this silly 'Five little Pumpkin's' song to a tape to be played at a haunted house in my kindergarten class, and, when my mother taught choir at my elementary school, my brother and I participated every year until we left the school. My brother and I both performed in the musicals our high schools performed after we left elementary school, despite pursing academics in directions away from music. Throw in singing at church every week, and well, my family sang a lot. In the car. At rehearsal. To pass the time. I know all the words to hundreds of songs, most of them short little rounds.

I suppose my parent's background played a large role in the amount of singing we did as a family.
posted by billy_the_punk at 8:22 PM on April 19, 2008

jeanmari, I just listened to the digital file you linked to above. What a treasure you have!

And, adding to the thread again... I just remembered another musical moment with my mother. When I was very young we participated in a March of Dimes walkathon. I got tired pretty quickly, but she wanted us to keep going so we sang Sesame Street songs together, which perked me right up. And the cool thing was, as other faster-walkers passed us they joined in.
posted by amyms at 8:30 PM on April 19, 2008

My Mom used to sing a song about the Titantic and make it funny! I was born in 1955. "...husbands and wives, little bitty children lost their lives, it was sad when the great ship went down... to the bottom of the..." My mother was very musical, played the piano, violin, directed the church choir. My Dad's voice wasn't that great, but he made up for it with enthusiasm. Those are very nice memories. My favorite thing about this thread, besides the bittersweet memories? Not one snark.
posted by wv kay in ga at 8:39 PM on April 19, 2008

Lots of music around my house growing up, and I distinctly remember singing Christmas carols as a family. My mom was a church choir director and organist and my dad sang enthusiastically along. My husband and I played guitar and mandolin, respectively and sang with lots of folk-music-oriented folks for years in the '70's so our kids heard and sang along to lots of music growing up. I sang Beatles songs, "Happiness Runs" (nice that someone else heard that too!) and all sorts of silly nonsense things to my kids, who are now 27 and 34. I got to sing "Happiness Runs" to my granddaughter the other day for the first time! :)
posted by Lynsey at 9:07 PM on April 19, 2008

I was born in 1981 and my mom and as part of my bedtime routine with my mother (or my grandmother) we would sing songs like "I've been working on the railroad" and I think some sorts of like children's bible songs. We're not really a musical family except in this kinda traditional German way that everyone's expected to do music as a kid; none of us have any actual talent for it.
posted by dagnyscott at 10:01 PM on April 19, 2008

1970, born in Sweden. My mom sang to my older brother and me all the time, with my dad joining in on very rare occasions. As young kids it was usually as part of playing - so children's songs, singing rhymes, songs from kid's TV, that kind of thing. She would also sing folk songs and psalms a lot. She used several psalms as waking up songs - the most common was "Morgon mellan fjällen", which is pretty annoyingly rousing when you are a teenager asleep and dead to the world.

I'm pretty sure her singing is why I started singing myself, and I think her singing came from my grandfather - who hummed psalms and old songs during pretty much every activity. My mom and I used to sing a lot together, and still do on occasion, but my dad and brother never joined in. We never sang on car trips, but we would always sing on the boat in the summer if the weather was nice and the trip long enough. We would go over our entire repertoire of Swedish summer songs, then I would teach her all my choir songs and some pop songs, while she taught me psalms and Tommy Steele songs from the 60:s.
The only time I hear my brother and father sing, though, are for drinking songs - the traditional common Swedish ones that are sung at large gatherings.
posted by gemmy at 10:28 PM on April 19, 2008

1969, my parents both sang to us, folk, sea chanties, whatever was on the radio, songs from their childhood & young adulthood. We sang bedtime songs like popular culture has bedtime stories (though we indulged in bedtime stories as well). We sang in the car, we sang in the house... one of my earliest memories was being about 4, my brother had been born, but we hadn't moved out of that particular house yet, & it was summer & my dad was at work & my mom let me put on Christmas carols & we both sang along with them even though my dad would have poo-pooed Christmas music in the middle of summer. I'd say, yeah, we sang a lot. As my brother & I got older, we got guitars & we played & sang together a lot.

Now? I have two daughters & we sing in the car & we sing at home & we sing folk music, and whatever is playing in the living room. My husband had a proud daddy moment when he & my oldest were watching a Metallica video & the oldest says, "I want to learn *that* song when I learn to play guitar." Next day I handed her a guitar & said, "here's what a d minor looks like, let me know when you have it down & we'll work on the next chord -- maybe you can sing it to him on Father's day." We sing a lot at our house. And all the musical entertainment that goes along with singing. It's a good thing, to sing.
posted by susanbeeswax at 11:03 PM on April 19, 2008

You're gonna get some serious voluntary-response bias in here, but yeah. Born 1981; folk songs, children's songs, hymns. My store of before-age-5 memories prominently features music, including an LP on which a folk band sang "Shenandoah" a capella in four parts and taught me what unearthly beauty is (have since that arrangement several times round the piano with Dad and siblings, still unearthly beautiful) and an evening where I played with a noisy, squeaky toy continuously while my parents tried to teach my brother and me to sing "Abide with Me, 'Tis Eventide" (I'm sure they thought the lesson was a waste, but it wasn't; I learned the melody and much of the first verse that night and have never forgotten them).
posted by eritain at 11:05 PM on April 19, 2008

I was born in 68 ... my parents didn't sing to me, but my first godmother and a neighbor who was like a second mother to me did. I remember Auntie Ruthie singing "I'm Called Little Buttercup" from HMS Pinafore (she didn't tell me the what the story was about and I thought Buttercup was a black kitten) and either her or Adele singing "Thank Heaven for Little Girls" from Gigi.
posted by brujita at 11:40 PM on April 19, 2008

From the responses so far (fascinating BTW) it seems to hinge on musical ability/interest, rather than age. My parents (born 1947) have zero musical skill...I remember 1 or 2 occasions when I was little (I'm 35) and my mother tried to sing to/with me, and it was not pretty. I can't recall ever hearing my dad sing. However, when I stayed over her house in the summers, my paternal grandmother (1906-2006) would regularly sing these lines to wake me up: Lazy bones...sleepin' in the sun...never get a days work done." She sometimes also sang stuff in German, but I can't tell you what it was.

Interestingly, despite my parents' complete lack of musical ability, both my brother and I were musical: I was always in chorus/choir in school and my brother taught himself to play bass in high school.

Also, my father-in-law, who is 80, whistles incessantly. Like all. the. time.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 12:50 AM on April 20, 2008

I was born in 1987, and my mom sang to me when I was really little, younger than 4 probably. "Beautiful Dreamer" and "Hush Li'l Baby" are the only songs that I actually remember her singing. She also often sang when doing work around the house... We never sang in the car, and I don't think I've ever heard my dad sing anything other than "Happy Birthday".
Oh, and no one in my family is musically inclined.
posted by Silly Ashles at 2:02 AM on April 20, 2008

I was born in 1963 also. Both my folks played the piano and sang. My mom was fond of show tunes, my dad liked Burt Bacharach. My mother also wrote many original songs and sang those. We did sing Christmas carols together (most of the time I was listening to them play the piano and sing). My dad knows a lot of songs and sang in the choir as a boy. He'll still call up a tune now and then if he feels like it.

I used to sing "Good Morning, Mary (Merry) Sunshine," Mairsie Doats, Itsy Bitsy Spider and Raffi songs to my kids when they were little. Along with Rockabye Baby and Dream by the Everly Brothers to put them to sleep. I sang show tunes to my kids when they wouldn't do their chores (hey, it worked! A really bad rendition of Caberet or Oklahoma and they'd be picking up their rooms in no time flat).
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 3:42 AM on April 20, 2008

I was born in 1976. My parents were die-hard Peter, Paul, and Mary devotees, as well as church choir singers. There was always music in our house, my parents singing by themselves or together, and family sing-alongs, even the cheesy get together on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and sing carols.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:02 AM on April 20, 2008

Born 1972. My father liked to make up little songs about bears. I used to find it horribly, excruciatingly embarrassing until the day I realised how much it annoyed my mother. That was the day I started singing along.

They're no longer together, but he still sings little songs about bears.
posted by Pallas Athena at 6:45 AM on April 20, 2008

I'm sorry, I didn't read the comments:

My son is 21 months old and we sing to him a lot every single day -- in the car, before bed, while we are playing with legos. He's learning to sing along which makes it all the more amusing. This morning we sang Row Row Row Your Boat and the Theme from the Banana Splits while he was having his diaper changed.

However, interestingly, I don't remember my parents or grandparents singing to me at all.
posted by anastasiav at 8:12 AM on April 20, 2008

I was born in 1972, in Finland. My mother sang to me quite a lot when I was a child. There were children's songs, christmas songs and lullabies (Jänis istui maassa, Ukko Nooa, Sininen uni, Tuu tuu tupakkarulla, Körö körö kirkoon, Kello löi jo viisi), but I especially remember some songs she sang in languages other than Finnish. She spent some time in her youth in northern Norway working in the fish factories and learned some songs in swedish/norwegian; I can still sing Vi går över daggstänkta berg (falleraa...). Another one I remember her singing is Home on the ranch. At the time I though my mother was pretty cool to know and remember those strange songs (I still think she's pretty cool).

My mother has a nice, ordinary voice (as do I). She doesn't play any instruments, but her father played hymns on a reed organ and sang (and I learned to play on that same organ much later). She also sang to my younger siblings, born 1987 and 1985, though different songs I think.
posted by severiina at 11:52 AM on April 20, 2008

My father does not sing. Thankfully.

My mom's the music lover. She sang to me all the time. Lots of showtunes...I Feel Pretty, Oh What A Beautiful Morning, etc. She never really listened to rock & roll or folk music, but she played all kinds of other music for me (I remember how much she loved Harry Belafonte!) We both sang in the church choir and community choirs, too.
posted by desuetude at 4:33 PM on April 20, 2008

My father sang us to sleep with the Carson Robison song Life Gets Teejus.
I was born in 1981.

Lyrics excerpt:
The sun comes up and the sun goes down
And the hands on the clock go round and round
I just wake up and it's time to lay down,
Life gets teejus, don't it.
posted by clockwork at 5:30 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

I was born in 1978. My grandmother and grandfather, whom I spent a great deal of time with as a child, sang to me and around me, constantly. I remember Nana singing "You Are My Sunshine," "Oh My Darling Clementine," and all sorts of old southern hymns. Later in her life, when she couldn't remember the words so well anymore, she whistled instead.

My grandfather would sing to himself as we worked together in his workshop or his garden. Again, mostly old traditional songs or hymns. The one I remember most clearly is "Will the Circle Be Unbroken." Pa sounded kinda like Ralph Stanley when he sang that song.

My parents also sing -- my Dad mostly around me rather than to me, I think... singing country songs as he works on things. He'll also occasionally make up silly songs and sing them to any available audience, including my mom and I. My mom is very shy about her (lovely) voice, and I don't recall her singing to me or around me, except with the radio. But I'm sure she sang to me as a baby -- I just don't know what. That said, she and I love to sing together with the radio, especially in the car on long road trips. Give us some Everly Brothers or Beatles or Indigo Girls, and we'll even bust out the harmony. (Oh yeah. We rock.)
posted by somanyamys at 9:15 AM on April 21, 2008

Born in 1978, parents born 1942/48, and there was always a lot of singing in the house. Not to "oh, those weird neighbors" levels, but my dad loved singing and had been on Broadway (and in a do-wop group), so he would just sing to pass the time, and my mom can't carry a tune but loves music. Mostly pop/soul songs from the 50s and 60s. Some showtunes.
posted by tyrantkitty at 1:56 PM on April 21, 2008

Born in 89 (yeah yeah), I don't really remember my parents singing to me. My grandparents did, for the two years I lived with them, and I loved it. Mostly Chinese folk songs and the like. Like all Chinese families we had the requisite tolerance (if not affection) for Kararoke and my parents had a few tracks of old Chinese pop singers that they really really liked, but it was mostly humming along to something, rarely singing out loud, and never affection directed through song.

I remember going through a long list of pop songs I'd picked up from listening to my parents and singing whatever I could remember, and my mom making a comment like "wow, she... doesn't stop, does she." And yeah. :P I was around 6 if I remember correctly.
posted by Phire at 7:47 PM on April 21, 2008

My mom used to sing to me all the time when I was little (I was born in '77). Still does, even. In fact, she would usually just break into song when something jogged her semantic web a little in everyday conversation.

Since then we've done a lot of singing together in the car. She taught me how to sing harmony -- without instruction, by example -- to Paul Simon and the Grateful Dead. Last time we drove together down the California coast we were singing along with Soul Coughing at the top of our lungs.

What did she sing? Good lord, what didn't she sing:

Russian folk songs and songs set to the words of Russian poets like Akhmatova
American folk songs
Commercial jingles from the 50s
Willie Nelson
Musicals (yes, I got "Buttercup" from Gilbert and Sullivan too; also "Frank Mills" from Hair and the title song from Cabaret, which is one of the few songs I know she doesn't get right)
Sea chanteys
Rap (totally friggin embarassing to be woken up to her rendition of "Mama Said Knock You Out" on a Saturday morning)
Stuff we picked up at Girl Scout camp
Irish tunes
Nirvana (she knew about them before anyone in my class did)
Handel's Messiah (we both sang tenor with the school choir)
Stuff from the Mickey Mouse Club from when she was little (we got Mairzy Doats too)
African-American spirituals
Kate Bush
Things she wrote herself

I luv my mommy. She's been doing open-mic nights down in Arizona lately.
posted by gusandrews at 1:58 PM on April 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Born in the early 70s. My mother sang all the time too and with us - music hall songs, folk songs, nursery rhymes, protest songs, hymns. She, my sister and I sing a lot to my baby/toddler nieces. I can't sing but they don't care and I've stopped being self-conscious about it. Some things, such as rocking a heavy small child to sleep, are much more bearable when singing.

(Late, found via podcast.)
posted by paduasoy at 7:20 AM on May 11, 2008

what a lovely thread that I am months late to but want to participate in anyway

Oh my, yes. I was born in '83 and my sister '86. My mother and all her siblings have pretty decent voices, and she would sing us to sleep every night. When we were really little, it was a litany designed to bore us to sleep: "Mommy loves you, Daddy loves you, Laura loves you, Grandma loves you, PawPaw loves you" ad nauseum. When we got old enough for requests, she sang "Sleep Baby Sleep," "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," and "The Fox Went Out On a Chilly Night." Unfortunately I inherited my father's voice, but I still sometimes sing those when I'm alone.

My extended family also has a huge trove of goofy old songs which we sing at the slightest provocation.
I'm a villain, a dirty rotten villain
And I leave a trail of blood where 'er I go (how low)
I delight in picking out a fight
And blipping little babies on the head 'til they're dead
I have gotten a rep for being rotten
I put poison in my mother's shredded wheat (how neat)
I am the blot on the family escutcheon
And I eat--grr-rr!--raw meat!
[evidently part of a longer camp song, but I've never heard all that, and this fragment has been in our family for at least four generations, such that second cousins who've never met before sing it with identical timing and intonation]
[My grandfather's favorite lullaby:]
Oh he hugged her and he kissed her in the moonlight
And the moonlight shone bright as day
Oh he hugged her and he kissed her in the moonlight
And the moon gave 'em dead away
[switching tunes entirely]
She died, she did, she died of a broken rib she did
She died, she did, she died of a broken rib she did
She died she did she died she did she DIIII-ied!
These polar regions are absurd, their charms I cannot see
Refrigeration by the mile does not appeal to me
I'd rather be a cannibal a-roasting in the South
Than having icicles on my teeth each time I open my mouth
[but you've got to do the whole thing at top speed and chattering your teeth so it comes out "These piggedityolar riggedyegions"]
I wish I was a rhinocarareous, a hippopotayhemus, hahahaha
But as I am not, and never can hope to be, a rhinocarareous, a hippopotayhemi
I'm a boonjug, I'm a teeble,
And I huzz and bit my tead against a hee, hahahaha

and that's quite enough for this old thread
posted by hippugeek at 9:25 PM on November 8, 2008

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