Thursday, May 10, 2012

Soundtrack love: Really Rosie

From the blog  Play it and be Damned: a blog about music and stuff by Rob

Soundtrack – Really Rosie (1975)

How often do you find something that combines one of your favorites from your childhood with one of your more recent favorites of your adulthood?

The answer: Not often enough.

Years ago, when my kids were smaller, the limited amount of music they would enjoy during road trips would drive me crazy. I mean, how often can you hear the Mulan (1978) soundtrack without all those Matthew Wilder songs sounding the same? And all those Barney songs used to want me to drive into the nearest ditch …

Sure, there's Schoolhouse Rock. But truthfully, that's for kids who are a little farther along in their development. Let's face it: "Conjunction junction/What's Your function" has very limited entertainment value to a kindergartener.

Fortunately, at some point, I remembered one of my favorite albums from my childhood, found a CD of it – and managed to survive the era of little musical taste.

That album? Really Rosie (1975).

The soundtrack to an animated CBS-TV special, the half-hour show brought some of Maurice Sendak's characters to prime time: The Nutshell Kids, the characters in Sendak's pre-school books, The Nutshell Library. The series of mini-books include "Pierre," "Alligators All Around," "One Was Johnny" and "Chicken Soup With Rice."

Bringing them all together was a little girl simply known as Really Rosie, who in her own words is "a great big deal." Or at least she thinks she is. Based on a little girl Sendak never personally knew but used to sketch endlessly from the window of his apartment, the author said the 10-year-old Rosie provided him with the boilerplate for his unique kid lit characters.

In the special, which Sendak wrote and directed, Rosie thinks she can become the big star that she always knew she would be by putting on a show. And she has her friends in the neighborhood audition. They audition by performing the stories in their books.

The books were great in their own right – more than worthy anchors to the Sendak collection that includes "Where The Wild Things Are." But set to the music of Carole King, they really take off.

Three years after the mega-success that was Tapestry (1971), King was in the midst of slump. Nothing she had put out since then had approached the wonderfulness of that album. But with Really Rosie, Sendak must have been a near-perfect muse. Not only did she compose the songs, but she sang all of them – with her daughters Sherry and Louise Goffin providing kid backing vocals.

Truly, King and Sendak were really meant to be together: Two Jewish kids who grew up in roughly the same Brooklyn neighborhood. King knew what was needed to capture Sendak's magic with her 11 songs – 12 if you include a reprise of the title track.

To this day, in the same way some folks can't help sing the preamble the constitution when they read it, I launch into an internal chorus of "Pierre" whenever I hear someone say "I don't care."

Play "Pierre" by Carole King
And I can't help grin whenever I enter the soup aisle at the supermarket.

Play "Chicken Soup With Rice" by Carole King

As Sendak himself said in the liner notes to the 1999 CD reissue, King's music is "an amazing incarnation of that tough, talented street kid … She was and, of course, will always be the most Really Rosie of them all." Which is why even though "Really Rosie" has morphed into a musical theater production (Patricia Birch of Grease fame directed the original off-Broadway production, which I also saw) that is still produced by kid theater groups around the country, Rosie just ain't the same without Carole behind the mic.

Play "Avenue P" by Carole King

Here's a treat for those who missed the original special and never saw the VHS tape (it has yet to be officially released on DVD). Someone recently posted, in three parts of ten minutes each, the entire Really Rosie special on YouTube. Yes, the animation isn't the greatest (rumors are that Sendak wasn't terribly hands-on with his direction and let others take charge of the show's look). But it truly beats a "Scooby Doo" episode any day.

Or an endlessly repeated "Barney" tape, for that matter.


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