BetteBack May 22, 1991: Some stars shine on stellar ‘For the Children’ compilation

Daily Herald Suburban Chicago
May 22, 1991


A certain 3-year-old with whom I am on intimate terms calls this the “Give a Dog a Bone” record. Never mind that there are 19 other songs on the album, recorded by a constellation of stars as a benefit for the Pediatric AIDS Foundation; this child adores Bob Dylan’s rendition of “This Old Man,” and insists that it be played again and again.

Maybe he realizes that this is the first song Dylan has done in a generation that he has not mutilated in some way. Probably not. The child and I are in full agreement that this traditional, unadorned (except by harmonica) version is just wonderful.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for every soryg on the album.

Some of this is fairly forgettable stuff, or worse. Stephen Bishop’s “Davy Crockett” is unsuccessful camp; Barbra Streisand’s “A Child Is Born” is overblown; there may be some renditions of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” that are worse than Paul McCartney’s, but neither the 3-yearold nor I can imagine one.

Some songs are nice – Pat Benatar’s a cappella version of “Tell Me Why,” Debbie Gibson’s medley of nursery rhymes, James Taylor’s “Getting to Know You,” Sting’s “Cushie Butterfield.” And Meryl Streep gets another chance to show off her fine voice with “Gartan
Mother’s Lullaby.”

But with a few exceptions, there’s not a lot of energy here – perhaps the artists were inhibited by the project’s sad purpose.

The exceptions: Ziggy Marley’s “Give a Little Love.” Harry Nilsson returns from utter obscurity to do “Blanket for a Sail,” a bit of carnival music run amok. Bette Midler and Bruce Springsteen do their best with “Blueberry Pie” and “Chicken Lips and Lizard Hips,” respectively.

And let us not forget Little Richard, who at this late hour of his career is making a habit of stealing the limelight wherever he goes. Kids like his “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” complete with squeals and screams, but older kids – say, those in their 30s or 40s – may like it even more.

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