One Track Mind: Raffi "Robin In The Rain" (1976)

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So far we’ve covered Canadians and children’s music but we haven’t yet covered Canadians doing children’s music. Until now, that is.

Recently I was driving my eleven-year-old daughter to school and in a fit of nostalgia, she wanted to listen to the old Raffi record in the car’s CD changer. Eventually, she skipped over to a song that has a charm that transcends age: “Robin In The Rain”.

The song is attributed to a “Claire Senior Burke” and published in 1939, but it was Raffi who made it into a widely-known children’s song. It’s obvious that is was written some time ago as a line like “showers always make you gay” doesn’t quite have the innocent ring to it that it used to.

The more important thing that gives this song a classic feel is the lovely arrangement Raffi used for it. With mainly his acoustic guitar and his deep, almost flat vocal in focus, Raffi gives it a lightly swinging, vaguely vaudeville feel. Chris Whiteley adds a short but precise trumpet solo, and this does even more to give the tune a Satchmo sensation, only with minimal accompaniment.

The topic is no mystery, and the lyrics will remain in your brain for years after you last hear it, like it or not:

Robin in the rain,
Such a saucy fellow.
Robin in the rain,
Mind your socks of yellow.
Running in the garden on your nimble feet,
Digging for your dinner with your long strong beak.


The song is part of Raffi’s Singable Songs For The Very Young and most Gen X and Gen Y’ers (and their parents) know this record from their youth. It was Raffi’s first children’s record and helped to catapult him into what the Washington Post once declared “the most popular children’s singer in the English-speaking world.”

I was too old for Raffi by the time he got into this line of work, but as a parent seeking out appropriate music for a little one, it didn’t take long to find out about him. This record has a special allure in it’s simple, lean but imaginative arrangements, well-chosen mixture of traditional and original songs and Raffi’s clear, warm voice recorded right up front.

It was also recorded with some mandolin and bass drum help by a young guy named “Dan Lanois” and was supposedly taped in Dan’s makeshift studio located in the basement of his mom’s house.

Yes, that Dan Lanois.

Sample: Raffi “Robin In The Rain”

   
























“One Track Mind” is a more-or-less weekly drool over a single song selected on a whim and a short thesis on why you should be drooling over it, too.

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