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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

A few months ago on this program, we featured a story by a Los Angeles designer, Jennifer Sharpe, who collects what she calls foreign tongue recordings, hit records sung by artists who made them famous in languages such as French or German.

(Soundbite of "I Walk the Line")

Mr. JOHNNY CASH: (Singing in German)

BRAND: That, of course, is the late Johnny Cash singing in German from Jennifer Sharpe's collection. And now Jennifer is back with some new musical rarities which she calls kid funk.

JENNIFER SHARPE reporting:

A few months ago, I found some amazing MP3s on the Web. They'd been pulled off an obscure early '70s proto-rap album performed by a six-year-old girl named Angela Simpson.

(Soundbite of song)

ANGELA SIMPSON (Singer): (Rapping) Daddy, Dad-dy. All I want is you.

SHARPE: I was fascinated by the way in which Angela's confident recitations of Langston Hughes and original material over funk walked the strange line between chirpy cuteness and political consciousness. I wondered if she'd really understood what she was talking about. Certainly nothing so sophisticated ever came out of my mouth when I was six.

(Soundbite of song)

SIMPSON: (Singing) There's so much deception, deceit, hate and mistrust. I don't know what in the world is to become of us.

SHARPE: A couple of months after leaving messages on what I'd hoped was her father's answering machine, my phone rang at 7 AM.

(Soundbite of song)

SIMPSON: (Singing) Come on, Daddy. I was born here, he said.

SHARPE: With a familiar cadence, Angela explained that it was she and her mother, a poet, who'd been the creative force behind this album. As she put it, writing and tweaking poetry was just what they liked doing together. They'd begun when Angela was just two and a half in church, where she punctuated dramatic Bible recitations with arm swoops and the occasional drop to the floor. Ultimately, Angela made it to the Apollo Theater, where she appeared on the bill with fellow child prodigy Lucky Peterson. Peterson was fresh off "The Tonight Show" stage where he had just performed his hit song "1-2-3-4."

(Soundbite of "1-2-3-4")

LUCKY PETERSON (Singer): (Singing) One, two, three four.

Chorus: (Singing) One, two, three, four.

PETERSON: (Singing) One, two...

SHARPE: As the story goes, Lucky Peterson's career began at 4 AM one morning when the burglar alarm at his father's blues club went off. Peterson Sr. rushed downstairs with a gun in his hand, only to find his four-year-old sitting at the Hammond B3 organ looking mesmerized.

(Soundbite of "1-2-3-4")

PETERSON: (Singing) I love you, dear.

SHARPE: His father laid some cigarette butts onto the keys to mark out chords and then watched in amazement as his son began to play.

(Soundbite of "1-2-3-4")

PETERSON: (Singing) Good ol' candy.

Chorus: (Singing) Good ol' candy.

PETERSON: (Singing) Fine and dandy.

Chorus: (Singing) Fine and dandy.

PETERSON: (Singing) Good ol' candy.

SHARPE: If Lucky Peterson with his commercial success was at one end of the kid funk spectrum, then Nancy Dupree and her Rochester schoolchildren were at the far end of the other. Their album, "Ghetto Reality," was released on the educationally minded Folkways label as an ethnographic field recording.

(Soundbite of song)

NANCY DUPREE AND HER ROCHESTER SCHOOLCHILDREN (Recording Artists): Uh! With your bad self. Uh! A-good gaw(ph)! Born in Augusta, Georgia, James Brown...

SHARPE: Like Angela Simpson and her mother, Nancy Dupree collaborated with her students to write this album. They were mutually frustrated by the school system's dull songs that had no relevance to their lives. So they threw out the curriculum songbook and wrote their own. Here's a song about what they wanted for Christmas.

(Soundbite of song)

Unidentified Boy: (Singing) I want a house. I want a one-family house. Plenty heat and no rats.

Unidentified Girl: (Singing) I want a skirt. I want a miniskirt. It don't matter that I weigh 900 pounds.

SHARPE: I wanted to buy an original copy of this album on eBay, but lost my position as high bidder when in the last 18 seconds a record store in the UK snapped it up for $65. But that's nothing compared to the $1,000 a pristine copy of "Psychodelic Sounds" by Junior and His Soulettes is said to have sold for. A losing bidder in that auction explained to me why the album is so rare. Apparently the band accidentally warped all but a handful of copies trying to shrink-wrap them at their uncle's meat-packing plant. Luckily, it's been reissued on vinyl. Here's a song off it called "Mama Loves Tequila."

(Soundbite of "Mama Loves Tequila")

JUNIOR AND HIS SOULETTES: (Singing) Hey! Mama loves tequila, Mama loves tequila.

SHARPE: When I spoke to Angela Simpson, she told me there was talk of a reissue of her album, but she had no idea that MP3s of it were floating around on the Web. As for what she's up to these days, she recently quit her job as a black lit teacher to stay home and raise her two young children, ages two and four. When I joked that they were prime candidates for a child prodigy induction, she thoughtfully agreed. And from the way she said it, I couldn't really tell if she was kidding or not. For NPR News, this is Jennifer Sharpe.

(Soundbite of song)

SIMPSON: (Singing) But I'm talking about Harlem to you. Up here we kick everything in the--see, dear, you thought I was going to say it. But remember, I'm just a little girl from Harlem. More power to the people.

BRAND: You can listen to several tracks by Angela Simpson and other songs from Jennifer Sharpe's kid funk collection. They're at our Web site, npr.org.

More to come on DAY TO DAY from NPR News.

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