Monday, October 15, 2012 Meet Ella Jenkins, the "First Lady of Children's Music"

John Malveaux of sends a link to this story, from which we post an excerpt:

Smithsonian Magazine
July-August 2012

By Aviva Shen

The Grammy winner celebrates her 88th birthday with a new album that reflects her lifelong love of kids' music

Ella Jenkins’ repertoire of call-and-response songs have kept generations of children singing along for more than 50 years. On most of the folk songs Jenkins has recorded, children sing, yell, clap, and whistle to the tune of her harmonica, ukelele or her warm alto vocals. With no formal training, Jenkins drew on the sounds of her childhood in the diverse working-class community of south Chicago, blending gospel, blues, Latin dance music and nursery rhymes. Her distinct style earned her the title of “First Lady of Children’s Music” and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. On August 6 she’ll celebrate her 88th birthday and her Life of Song,  as her most recent album from Smithsonian Folkways (2011) is rightly titled. Jenkins reflected on her love of children and her own musical childhood in a phone interview with the magazine’s Aviva Shen.

When did you get interested in music?
I’ve always liked music. Even when I was a child in our neighborhood, we sang and made up rhymes. It was very important to be able to carry a tune and to learn songs. In the neighborhood I grew up in [in Chicago] there was the Regal Theater, which had live entertainment. There were singers and tap dancers. Tap dancing really intrigued me. Pretty soon I asked my mother if I could go to one of the centers and learn how to tap dance. I liked listening to the popular singers of the day. Most of the children, if they like the singer, they try to imitate her

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