R.E.M., the Dixie Chicks and Maroon 5 are singing for a considerably younger audience on a new compilation album, Mary Had a Little Amp, set for an October 5th release. The collection features prominent artists issuing new songs or re-interpreting children's classics to benefit People for the American Way's Project Kid Smart and Start Smart America. The organizations are working to guarantee preschool education for all American children.
"Obviously musicians have a power to bring an issue at least into the public's view," says Julie Burton, Project Kid Smart director and compilation co-organizer. "We talked to the Dixie Chicks and we asked them to consider doing this with us. They really stepped to the plate and said, 'Yes, let's see if we can make it happen.'"
The Dixie Chicks contribute a new rendition of the Kermit the Frog classic "Rainbow Connection," drawing on their experience as mothers. "Maybe the most miraculous thing about being a mother is seeing the incredible capacity a young child has to learn," the trio said in a statement. "Imagine if all children in our country had the chance to go to a good school early on."
R.E.M's offering, "We Walk," is a fitting one, as the band debuted the song on children's network Nickelodeon in 1983. "I've always thought it was a neat little gem," says band manager Bertis Downs, who sits on the board of People for the American Way. "It was never a single or anybody's idea of a commercial song, but it's cool, and it's kind of a kid's song."
Other album highlights include a rare version of Graham Nash's "Teach Your Children," which Burton describes as "the coda to the whole CD" and Maroon 5's take on "Pure Imagination," a song from Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Mary also boasts new songs by Moby, a collaboration between Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson about "Superman and flying over buildings" and Jack Johnson's re-working of the "3 Rs Song."
"This was not a hard issue to approach the artists with," Burton says, "because children are our future."
The Mary Had a Little Amp track listing:
"Sing Along," Blue Man Group featuring Dave Matthews
"Baby Mine," Bonnie Raitt
"Rainbow Connection," Dixie Chicks
"Teach Your Children," Graham Nash
"Wild Wild Party in the Loquat Tree," Indigo Girls
"3 Rs Song," Jack Johnson
"When You Wish Upon a Star," Joe Henry
"Gentle Breeze," Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson
"Little Star," Madonna
"Pure Imagination," Maroon 5
"Lifeline," Nancy and Ann Wilson with Brian Wilson's band
"We Walk," R.E.M.
"How to Be Strong," Roseanne Cash