Ella Jenkins: The First Lady of Children's Music (and a hometown girl)


When I was growing up, my parents took me to see local childrens' musician Ella Jenkins in concert. I've been fortunate enough to be able to take my own kids to see this cultural icon perform as well. It's pretty amazing for a performer to entertain generations of families -- but Ella Jenkins isn't just any ordinary performer.

Jenkin's new CD, "A Life of Song" offers stories and songs that speak to her years growing up as an African American child in Chicago. "A Life of Song" is part of the Smithsonian Folkways' African American Legacy Series.

The album is a mix of spoken word, call-and-response singing with school
children (something that Jenkins is known for), and songs with and
without musical accompaniment. We've been listening to this CD in our
car for the past few weeks and my kids especially love her rendition of
"He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" and "One Two Three O'Leary." The
tone of the album differs from contemporary kid's music because of
the use of the spoken word introduce each song -- but it is a welcome change of pace for our ears.

If you haven't already, be sure to introduce your Chicago kids to this hometown treasure -- and see her perform live if you can!

Leave a comment