Since 2008 I've been digging through the virtual crates to uncover unappreciated or unjustly forgotten albums, songs, and artists. You have shared your own thoughts about my selections and have suggested other artists worth a listen. While it has been a blast exploring music and engaging in discussions with you, I have decided to end the “Cutout Bin” column. Other commitments and a desire to embark on a new adventure led to this choice. Therefore, to conclude this series, I'm coming full-circle and spotlighting an album that first turned me on to music as a child: Carole King's Really Rosie.
The album derives from an unlikely collaboration with Maurice Sendak, the writer and illustrator of children's literature classics such as Where the Wild Things Are. He approached King to cowrite a musical based on his books Chicken Soup with Rice, Pierre, One was Johnny, Alligators All Around (all part of 1962's The Nutshell Library), and The Sign on Rosie's Door (1960). The quirky stories of the Nutshell Kids, comprised of Rosie and her neighborhood friends, became a 1975 animated television special; Sendak and King expanded the story and songs to adapt the story for the stage. Subsequently Really Rosie became a mainstay of children's theater in the late '70s and early '80s, with an Off-Broadway production debuting in 1980.
Unlike much children's music, Really Rosie never talks down to kids; instead, Sendak's witty lyrics appeal to their sense of humor and love of a good story. King turned out to be the perfect partner in the project; her expressive, wry voice exactly matched the bravado and absurdity present in the characters. Even her piano becomes part of the narration—strident one moment, soft the next, it emulates the children's various emotions. The album at once entertains and educates, both exposes and gently corrects kids' behavior.