Raffi is marking the 40th anniversary of "Baby Beluga" with a fresh version of the classic song that was inspired by a beluga he visited at the Vancouver Aquarium back in ’79. The new version features the world’s most famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who has also been performing a series called "Songs of Comfort" during the pandemic. "It took my career to a whole new level,” Raffi recently told the CBC about “Baby Beluga”. “In recent years, in concert, I've heard a whole new generation who I call 'beluga grads' — adults who grew up singing 'Baby Beluga' — who bring their own kids to the concerts.”
Iconic is how to describe this 1994 hit. If there’s one thing we love more than pretending that a banana is a phone, it’s puns, and this song is crammed with them. "It's a phone with appeal!" No wonder "Bananaphone" has been covered so often and in styles as diverse as barbershop, metal, dubstep, and bluegrass. Bananular!
“A peanut butter sandwich made with jam / One for me and one for David Amran” is how the lyrics start. A lot of people think the lyric is “one for David M.” but this rumour was likely started by people named David M. who wanted a peanut butter and jam sandwich from Raffi.
Who is David Amran and why does he get a sandwich? David Werner Amram III, 89, is an American composer, arranger, and conductor. He plays piano, French horn, Spanish guitar, and pennywhistle, and he’s a singer. And he’s a friend of Raffi’s. So: sandwich. This jam (sorry) is on ‘Singable Songs for the Very Young’, which came out in 1976. In this pic, that's Pete Seeger on banjo, Raffi, and David Amram on tin whistle in 2012.
‘Brush Your Teeth’
This is another gem from 1976’s ‘Singable Songs for the Very Young’. Raffi sings it a cappella and the hook is really the “ch ch ch ch, ch ch ch ch” part. It’s the best “ch-ch-ch-ch-“ since Bowie’s “Changes”. The album version is in the key of E but when Raffi performs it live, he sings it in G, and that, friends, is the level of Raffi detail you can count on from us, your No. 1 source of Raffi details today.
‘Something In My Shoe’
This has the lyrical honesty of a Simon and Garfunkel joint. The protagonist here is troubled by an intrusion in his apparel. But despite his efforts to rectify the situation, the issue only worsens. First, he was contending with only “a little wee stone (clap, clap)” but by the end of the ballad, our hero is contending with “a locomotive (toot, toot)”. It’s a classic tale of man versus environment, accompanied by a kazoo. Here’s a pic of Raffi on tour with his then-wife Deborah Pike in 1989.
'Dog On The Floor'
There’s so much tension in this piece. It’s almost unbearable. There is a dog on the floor. And Raffi delivers that news like he’s telling a ghost story by a bonfire. "There’s a dog on the bed on the bed / Oh I hope that she is fed” OMG us too, us too. Pro tip: If Raffi’s singing about a dog, the song was likely inspired by his puppy, Luna.
‘Apples and Bananas’
This track is major. “I like to ite, ite, ite ipples and bininis / I like to ote, ote, ote, oplles and bononos”. Yaas, queen. This is a legit classic: The song was a traditional North American kids song that plays with the sounds of words, which is lovely and goofy and very silly. Released on 1985’s ‘One Light, One Sun’, Raffi’s version is obviously superior to those of Barney and the Wiggles.
'Down By The Bay'
Raffi didn’t pen this one. He told 'Vulture' that it’s a traditional kids song, it came from England, and it might have been a soldier’s song. Raffi liked that kids could make the song their own by adding their own rhymes in the chorus. For if you do, what would your mother say?
This Raffi classic has become a standard children’s song. It’s strong enough to survive a cover by Barney and keep on shining. Hold on to your hats for this Raffi fact: This cut is from 1976’s ‘Singable Songs for the Very Young’, which was co-produced by Raffi’s brother Dan and Daniel Lanois, the now-famous Grammy-winning producer who has done legendary production work for U2, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Robbie Robertson, and Brandon Flowers, among many others.
'Corner Grocery Store'
This troubadour’s tale from ‘Corner Grocery Store and Other Singable Songs’ (1979) takes us to a store where cheese is sliding on its knees and corn is a-blowin’ on a horn. But in a "Twilight Zone"-style twist, your eyes are dim and you can’t see because you haven’t brought your glasses. The upside is you get to put a lot of mustard onto singing “I! have! not! brought! my! specs! with! me-e-e-e!”
‘Shake My Sillies Out’
We looked up the sheet music for this classic by Raffi and it’s in the key of D major and the instruction is to play it “brightly.” Delightful. This song invites you to shake, shake, shake your sillies out, but the second verse encourages you to clap, clap, clap your crazies out, making it the perfect salve for our times. Raffi Fact: He’s such an institution that he is parodied on “The Simpsons” with the character Roofi, who sings songs like, "I Like Ice Cream", "One, Two, Tie Your Shoe", "Helpful Bear on the 28th Floor", "Tickets, Tickets", and "Nonsense Song". (Maggie is a fan.)
“Django” is a Romany term meaning "I awake”, so that’s what Raffi is singing about in the opening of this track: “Let’s play, come on / On this jazzy django day”. "Let’s Play" is the title track off Raffi’s 2002 album, which also features Nova Scotia fiddler Natalie MacMaster and Dr. Jane Goodall.