Singer-songwriter Alastair Moock’s queer-inclusive Be a Pain received a Grammy nomination yesterday for “Best Children’s Music Album.” The album, which seeks to inspire young listeners to become leaders for positive change, includes a song for his nonbinary child, one that praises Harvey Milk, and another that invites young listeners to imagine leaders who are LGBTQ, among other identities.
In the title track of Be a Pain: An Album for Young (& Old) Leaders, which I wrote about when it was still being crowdfunded, Moock shares the examples of Rosa Parks, Billie Jean King, the Parkland students, and Harvey Milk:
Harvey Milk, he chose to run
for the council board and won,
even though folks said, ‘You can’t, because you’re gay.’
One brave LGBTQ elected leader ran and knew
You can change things if you choose to be a pain.
In “What Is a Leader?” Moock invites listeners to reflect, “Is a leader a man or a woman? Are they LGBTQ? What color would their skin be? Does a leader look like you?”
Mostly poignantly, “Go Shine (Song for Elm),” written for his nonbinary child, begins:
You are who you choose to be
When you choose to be who you are
The world may be confused by you
But you know who you are
and is alone worth the price of the album. The rest of the songs, with folk, bluegrass, and blues influences, include equally inspiring and catchy tunes about other human-rights activists, as well as ones that look ahead to the next generation and that remind parents that we ourselves should abide by the lessons we teach.
Led by Grammy-nominated producer Anand Nayak, the album features guest spots from a diverse group of musicians including Sol y Canto, Alisa Amador, Reggie Harris, Rani Arbo, Sean Staples, Crys Matthews, Mark Erelli, Kris Delmhorst, Melanie DeMore, Heather Mae, and Boston City Singers. Matthews is a lesbian and Mae is queer—and DeMore was a founding member of the Grammy-nominated vocal ensemble Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir, long beloved by many queer women and others.
Both Moock and his wife, writer and parenting blogger Jane Roper, have supported the queer community in additional ways. Moock performed last February at First Event in Boston, a long-running conference for “transgender and gender expansive people and those who love and support them.” Roper wrote a piece last year for public radio’s WBUR on they/them pronouns.
Moock’s 2015 All Kinds of You and Me, which covered concepts like family, gender, ethnicity, and social justice, was also queer-inclusive and gender expansive, with songs about families with two moms or two dads, boys who wear dresses, and girls who climb trees.
Clearly being LGBTQ-inclusive isn’t a detriment to making a lauded children’s album—or two. We knew that already last year, however, when a Grammy nomination went to the Alphabet Rockers’ The LOVE, which includes “We Royal,” a song celebrating trans, gender non-conforming and two-spirit heroes, as well as other tracks about social justice and the spectrum of gender. (Read more about it here.)
Bonus queer fun fact: Moock contributed his “Go Shine (Song for Elm)” to the (not Grammy-nominated but awesome) Trans & Nonbinary Kids Mix album compiled and released earlier this year by Julie Lipson of Ants on a Log. Another of this year’s Grammy nominees for Best Children’s Music Album, the Okee Dokee Brothers (Songs For Singin’), also contributed a song to that project, as did the Alphabet Rockers.
All of the nominees are worth a listen, as they’re a far cry from the insipid and repetitive kids’ music of yesteryear. Aside from Moock’s work, I’m particularly fond of All The Ladies, by Joanie Leeds, a single mother as well as a musician. Her album is a feminist manifesto of songs about girl power, sisterhood, female potential, Mother Earth, and RBG. Dog On Fleas’ I’m An Optimist is simply great fun, and Justin Roberts’ Wild Life offers an exploration of the hopes and fears and excitement of new parenthood. Congratulations to them all!
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