It’s June: time for croonin’ about moonin’ and spoonin’. Well, actually, I guess there aren’t too many people who croon any more. But lots of people still like to get together and bring out the songbooks for a sing-along—Beatles, Motown, the Gershwins, Snoop Dogg.
I have a collection of songbooks filled with good ol’ sing-along songs, but here are some songbooks I really enjoy because they don’t have much in the way of Junes and moons and spoons. You will want to have just the right occasion for these songbooks.
The Cat in the Hat Song Book, Dr. Seuss (1967)
This is a songbook that works as a story book, of course, since it’s full of the playful rhymes of Dr. Seuss. But it contains a “party game song,” “The No Laugh Race,” in which anyone who laughs while the song is sung is out. Great for office parties! Other gems include “Somebody Stole My Hoo-to Foo-to Bah!” and “Lullaby for Benjamin B. Bickelbaum.”
Variety: 90 Most Enjoyed Guitar Songs Using Only Six Chords (1966)
It won’t take you but one afternoon to learn six guitar chords. Then, bring this songbook along to that cocktail party full of friends you’ve been wanting to impress. Start with some old favorites like “Shortnin’ Bread” and “Go Tell Aunt Rhody,” then wow ‘em with “Just Because She Made Them Goo-Goo- Eyes.”
American Negro Songs and Spirituals, John W. Work (1940)
To bring a little Sunday-go-to-meetin’ to a party that’s veering into drunken debauchery, bring out this collection of spirituals, blues, and work songs to get things right. There’s “Do Lord Remember Me,” “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” and “Down on Me,” which Janis Joplin re-arranged and recorded in 1967. Be advised that there are some songs in here that might turn the party the wrong way again, like “Goin’ Keep My Skillet Greasy.”
The American Songbag, Carl Sandburg (1927)
Poet Sandburg collected 280 songs of America, as the front cover tells it, “ballads, hobo songs, spirituals, steamboat, railroad and lumberjack songs, close harmony ditties, colonial songs, love songs…” It could be perfect to bring along for a family reunion, if not for some unfortunately stereotypical illustrations. It includes some well-known classics, such as “Midnight Special,” “C.C. Rider,” and “La Cucaracha.” But you may prefer ones that aren’t so familiar, like “Sucking Cider Through a Straw,” “We Are Four Bums,” and “My Sister She Works in a Laundry.”
The Dirty Song Book, Jerry Silverman (1982)
So this one is for after-hours at the family reunion. Its forward is entitled “Dirty Songs Are Good for You!” Most of the titles aren’t even suitable to print here. Until you get a copy of this collection, your imagination is required for titles like “Uncle Fred and Auntie Mabel” and “Cats on the Rooftops.”
Too Many Songs by Tom Lehrer, Tom Lehrer (1981)
I’ve long been a fan of the wacky songs written and performed by this college math professor-turned-satirist. This collection features all of his classics, including “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park,” “The Elements” (the periodic table set to the tune of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General”), and “The Masochism Tango.”
New York: Songs of the City, Nancy Groce (1999)
This collection is worth having just for the many color reproductions of classic sheet music. There are favorites here spanning two centuries, including “The Boy from New York City,” “Stompin’ at the Savoy,” and “Spanish Harlem.” There are also lesser-known gems like “Bob, the Bowery Boy,” “The New York Subway” (march and two-step), and “A Little ‘Jernt’ in ‘Greenpernt’.”
So what are your favorite sing-along songs?