Naturally, you’ll want to sing this song slower for lullaby purposes. I recommend singing the synth parts too. 

I have met David Byrne twice. The first time was randomly, in a museum. I was too starstruck to say anything intelligent, so I just complimented him on his outfit. (He was wearing a zebra-print shirt and bright red pants.) The other time was at a reception after a lecture that Byrne gave at NYU. I managed to convey that I sing my kids to sleep with this song all the time, and he listened politely, but he clearly wanted the conversation to be over so he could go home.

The DVD of Stop Making Sense includes an interview that David Byrne conducts of himself. He asks himself why he doesn’t write many love songs. He answers, “I try to write about small things. Paper, animals, a house. Love is kind of big. I have written a love song, though. In this film, I sing it to a lamp.” He does sing it to a lamp in the film, and it’s beautiful. The lyrics are Byrne’s usual collection of oblique non-sequiturs, but they add up to a touching statement of… something. “‘I’m just an animal, looking for a home, and to share the same space for a minute or two.” There’s some desperation in there, too, and a lot of melancholy. I didn’t realize how much people love the lyrics to this tune until I met someone who had them tattooed on her arm. But having sung it a few thousand times, I can see where she’s coming from.

This is not the only Talking Heads song I do as a lullaby. I also sing "Once in a Lifetime,” but I didn’t include it on this playlist because it asks a lot of the singer—I had to make up my own melody for the speak-singing parts. It does the job, though. It’s not surprising to me that kids respond so well to David Byrne. His playful, intuitive approach to language and his love of bright, repetitive, Afrocentric grooves meet my kids exactly where they live. My son heard “And She Was” for the first time when he was four, and he immediately observed how happy it sounded. He has no idea what the words mean, but he has no idea what most song lyrics mean, so it doesn’t seem particularly strange to him. Even for adults, song lyrics don’t have to make sense to be effective. Music is a kind of waking dream anyway, so dream logic works just fine as a lyrical style.

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About the Curator - Ethan Hein

Ethan Hein is a Doctoral Fellow in Music Education at New York University. He teaches music technology, production and education at NYU and Montclair State University. With the NYU Music Experience Design Lab (https://www.musedlab.org), Ethan has taken a leadership role in the creation of new technologies for learning and expression, most notably the Groove Pizza (https://musedlab.org/groovepizza). In collaboration with Soundfly, he has developed a series of online music theory courses (https://soundfly.com/courses/unlocking-the-emotional-power-of-chords). He maintains a widely-followed and influential blog (http://www.ethanhein.com), and has written for various publications, including Slate, Quartz, and NewMusicBox.

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