Image: Dan Winters

As a mother, you are given unparalleled intimacy and access into the growth and development of a human body, mind and soul. Music has been woven into every part of the 12 year-long relationship I have enjoyed with my daughter. I soothed her with lullabies, taught her to speak with sung rhymes, opened new worlds to her with recordings from every corner of the planet and time period. She is intuitively musical, her pitch is precise, rhythm flows through her and she has an uncanny memory for lyrics. Recently, we started harmonising together and our singing has a sudden new dimension.

Natalie and her daughter. Image: Andrea Camuto

Kooks – David Bowie (1971)
‘Kooks’ is such a sweet, joyous song from such an unexpected source. I’ve loved it since I was a teenager but really understood it when my daughter was a baby.

We Should be Together – Harold Spina (music) & Walter Bullock (lyrics) (1938)
Although the films of Shirley Temple are all built around disturbing plot lines and horrible ethnic stereotypes, they have some incredible tunes. Tin Pan Alley songsters contributed music to all her films but the Spina-Bullock creations in Little Miss Broadway are all hits.”We Should be Together” became our theme song when my daughter was on only 3 and it still is. In the film, Shirley tap dances with George Murphy (who later in life joined Ronald Reagan in the conservative Republican politicians of California club).

1234 – Feist (2007)
My daughter was 4 years old when Feist released The Reminder and the CD was permanently embedded in my car stereo because “1234” was my daughter’s favourite song to listen to on the drive to pre-school.

If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out – Cat Stevens (1971)
One of my favorite films is Harold & Maude and that’s where I first heard this  little non-conformist anthem from the Cultural Revolution that later became a favorite song for my daughter in elementary school.

Morning Glow from the musical Pippin – Stephen Schwartz (1972)
I play this song at full volume and do interpretive dance around her bedroom if she wakes up in a foul mood.

Edelweiss – Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II (1959)
I can’t count how many times my daughter have watched The Sound of Music but “Edelweiss” is such a tender song. We watched a documentary together recently about the songwriting duo and found out that this was the last song they wrote together before Hammerstein died of cancer.

I’ll Be There written by Berry Gordy, Hal Davis, & Willie Hutch, recorded by The Jackson Five (1970)
My daughter’s father and I split when she was just 5 and he lives in Europe. She travels there to visit him and some of the trips have been very long. I remember packing a mix CD in her suitcase that started with “I’ll Be There” and it took on powerful meaning that summer.

Antarctica – The Weepies (Deb & Steve Tannen) (2008)
This song is just a perfect pop tune. Deb sings like an angel. Lots of memorable living room dancing to this track.

The Village Green Preservation Society – Ray Davies & The Kinks (1968)
An appreciation for the songs of Ray Davies is something I’ve passed on to my daughter (“Waterloo Sunset” and “Dedicated Follower of Fashion” were both close contenders for this list). We love him!

Everyday People – Sly and the Family Stone (1969)
I can’t think of a better song about tolerance and people coming together, nobody can sit out this song.

My inheritance tracks…

For the first seven years of my daughter’s life, I worked on a large-scale project in which I adapted dozens of children’s poems to music that resulted in a double album that I released in 2010. This was my gift to her. These songs are taken from that.

Equestrienne: words by Rachel Field & music by Natalie Merchant

The King of China’s Daughter: a traditional rhyme adapted to music by Natalie Merchant

The Man in the Wilderness: a traditional Mother Goose Rhyme adapted to music by Natalie Merchant

Natalie Merchant’s ‘Paradise Is There: The New Tigerlily Recordings’ is released on November 6 by Nonesuch Records, along with Companion Documentary on DVD. Dates have just been announced for a tour in March 2016, including the UK & Europe. To book visit

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