Ralph's World is a place where the girl next door has a dinosaur, where green gorillas eat red bananas and throw blue tomatoes, and where a grown man makes a living - and a good one at that - singing silly songs.

(Soundbite of song, "Fee Fi Fo Fum")

Mr. RALPH COVERT (Singer): (Singer) It doesn't matter what you look like, if you've got some Fee fi fo fum. And let me tell you everybody got some. Jump up and down.

NORRIS: Ralph Covert started a career as a rock musician with the Chicago-based indie band called The Bad Examples, the group with a devoted local following. He earned national fame and a Grammy nomination when he decided to try to set a good example for kids with upbeat lyrics and pop melodies that parents also appreciate.

What started as a sideline has become his main act: Ralph's World. He says the key to writing for kids is to forget you're writing for kids.

Mr. COVERT: One of the things about kid's music that's so exciting is it reminds me of that period of the late '60s and the early '70s when rock music still had that innocence because of the cultural innocence that was so childlike at the time. So, in a lot ways, in kid's music, you get to explore almost like that Beatles, Kinks, type of crazy play crown.

(Soundbite of song, "Fee Fi Fo Fum")

Mr. COVERT: (Singing) And let me tell you everybody got some. Twist and shout. Everybody twist and shout now. Yeah.

NORRIS: Ralph, you're a guy in your forties, you got a mortgage and a lot of responsibilities. How do you - when you sit down to write music, do you have to somehow get in touch with your inner eight-year-old to be in the right, write this kind of music.

Mr. COVERT: My inner eight-year-old kind of drives with a car.

NORRIS: The reason I ask you is that you go back and forth. I mean, sometimes, in a song like "Coffee" writing from perspective of a kid looking up at adult, like, mommy and daddy aren't quite the same person, and how they get that cup of ground stuff.

(Soundbite of song, "The Coffee Song")

Mr. COVERT: (Singing) M-o-m-m-y needs c-o-f-f-e-e.

NORRIS: Yeah. And then, the early times, you're writing from the perspective of an adult that seems to be looking back at childhood.

Mr. COVERT: Mm-hmm.

NORRIS: You seem to have, sort of, go back and forth in your perspective and your music.

Mr. COVERT: Okay. I'll take your word for it. "The Coffee Song," I was doing little kid's music class at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago. I walked in one morning and the moms were all collectively having a morning. And they looked at me and they said, you've got your cup of coffee. We don't have anything. The least you could do is write us a coffee song. And you've got eight to 10 moms, staring you in the face - you do what they say.

NORRIS: So did you come up with a coffee song right on the spot?

Mr. COVERT: I wrote and sung on the spot.

NORRIS: Let's hear the song.

(Soundbite of song, "The Coffee Song")

Mr. COVERT: (Singing) M-o-m-m-y needs c-o-f-f-e-e. D-a-d-d-y needs c-o-f-f-e-e. I love my kids. I love my kids. Gosh, I love my kids. But I need what I need, and I need a lot of what I need. And that's c-o-f-f-e-e.

And on and on it goes.

NORRIS: So, did they have the desire, the fact that the moms, sort of, perk up and get to a better place after hearing this?

Mr. COVERT: Absolutely. They were smiling and laughing and we went on from there. And it was all good.

(Soundbite of song, "The Coffee Song")

Mr. COVERT: (Singing) I want a latte, a cappuccino. And tonight, I think I'll have a little vino. M-o-m-m-y needs c-o-

NORRIS: The arts can help children make sense of their world. And we live in what some might say a very interesting time, certainly very challenging times.

Mr. COVERT: Yeah.

NORRIS: Kids right now are trying to make sense of some, you know, really complicated and sometimes, scary stuff.

Mr. COVERT: Yeah.

NORRIS: Do you ever use your music in that way to help kids make sense of things?

Mr. COVERT: I have performed a lot of shows, at some, I wrote a lot, right after that whole 9/11 catastrophe. And every interview, they would, well, how have you changed your music to reflect this. And I said to every single interviewer, I have not changed it one bit, because these children's childhood is more sacred and more relevant than any grown-up tragedy.

And there are things in some of the Ralph's World songs that are not about all lightness and froth. But, they're on a human level, not on a daily news broadcast level - because the arch of their life is going to cover plenty of everything, thank you.

A hug and a kiss and a tear are far more important and universal, you know, than things that we end up dealing with in our adult day-to-day life.

NORRIS: They'll get to that.

Mr. COVERT: They'll get to that. In the meantime, let's rock.

NORRIS: Ralph Covert, thanks so much for letting us visit your world.

Mr. COVERT: Thanks so much for talking about it.

(Soundbite of song, "Clean My Room")

Mr. COVERT: (Singing) I don't want to clean my room. I don't want to clean my room. I don't want to clean my room anymore.

NORRIS: Ralph Covert, he's the musician behind Ralph's World.

(Soundbite of song, "Clean My Room")

Mr. COVERT: (Singing) I don't want to clean my plate. I don't want to clean my plate. I don't want to clean my plate anymore.


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