The Quick 10: Adult Versions of 10 Children's Songs


Parents everywhere probably know these songs all too well "“ the ones your kid sings over and over at all hours of the day and night. It's always the one you hate most that they insist on getting hooked on, isn't it? But there's some hope: some adult singers have covered some of the classics over the years, hopefully providing you with versions that are a little more to your taste than The Wiggles. Here are 10 of them.

1. Harry Belafonte and Odetta, There's a Hole in the Bucket. This folk song has been around for ages, but Belafonte and Odetta didn't record their version until 1961. It charted at #32 in the U.K., making a very old song quite popular again. You can hear why for yourself:

2. Old MacDonald, Frank Sinatra. This isn't your three-year-old's "Old MacDonald," that's for sure.

3. The Wheels on the Bus, Roger Daltrey. From Magic Bus to Wheels on the Bus? Yep. The Who frontman was the voice of Argon the Dragon Bus Driver in a DVD for kids called The Wheels on the Bus: Mango and Papaya's Animal Adventure. Don't expect any Tommy-like antics from the rocker, though "“ he pretty much sticks to the basics.

4. Frere Jacques, The Beatles in Paperback Writer. If you've ever noticed something a little familiar in the background of Paperback Writer, this is probably what your ears are picking up on. It's just some backing vocals by John and George "“ see if you can catch it the next time you hear it on the radio (or fire it up on the iPod, if you're a Beatles freak like me).

5. My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean, Tony Sheridan and the Beat Brothers. Speaking of the Beatles, they did a pretty rockin' version of this old Scottish folk tune back when they were still a rather anonymous backing band. It's been suggested that the original version of this song actually refers to Charles Edward Stuart, AKA Bonnie Prince Charlie, but I have a feeling the Tony and Beatles weren't thinking of it that way.

6. Skidamarink, Jimmy Durante. This song was originally in a Broadway musical from 1910. Although the musical flopped, the song stuck around and became a favorite of kids everywhere. I bet most people from my generation remember it from The Elephant Show. And because I now have this stuck in my head, I think you should too:

7. Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport, Elvis Costello. This quirky hit from the 1960s was actually an adult song first, grabbing top ten spots on international music charts when it debuted. But its weird, funny lyrics were perfectly suited to kids, and it quickly became a favorite of children everywhere (and still is "“ The Wiggles did a version of it a few years ago). Elvis Costello rather unexpectedly covered it for a 2003 episode of Frasier.

8. Skip to My Lou, Nat King Cole. Although the song dates back to at least the 1800s, Nat King Cole put his smooth spin on it for his 1962 album Ramblin' Rose. You can sample it here.

9. Teddy Bears' Picnic, Jerry Garcia. Since the Grateful Dead sometimes used a little dancing bear as their mascot, it only makes sense that Jerry would have covered this children's hit. You can preview it here. By the way, Garcia isn't the only one who put his stamp on this song "“ so did Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney and Anne Murray, among others.

10. There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, Cyndi Lauper. The song was made into a Caldecott-winning children's book, and in turn, the book was made into a video. Cyndi Lauper provided the voice, although it sounds more like lively spoken word than actual singing to me. You can decide for yourself though:

I imagine I'll be revisiting some of these childhood favorites in the next couple of years, and I'd like to have some non-treacle-y versions to fall back on. Can you suggest any others?