Steve Cotler

Steve Cotler

Little Songs on Big Subjects

When we were very little, my brother and I had a record entitled Little Songs on Big Subjects. Sung by The Jesters, one of the first groups to record commercial jingles, the tunes, written by Hy Zaret and Lou Singer, emphasized tolerance. Zaret, who died in 2007 just a month shy of 100, told me in 2002 that he thought of the songs as short, catchy jingles.

We played the LP until the grooves wore out.

Little Songs on Big Subjects was a big hit. In 1949, The New Yorker, in a Talk of the Town piece about Zaret and Singer’s new project—songs about the just-born U.N.—noted that an executive of WNEW, a NYC-based radio station, estimated that tunes from Little Songs on Big Subjects had been broadcast (I’m guessing he meant nationwide) “almost half a million times to date.”

Little Songs on Big Subjects is long out of production. Searches on the web currently yield no copies for sale.

  Lou Singer & Hy Zaret    (c. 1948)

Lou Singer & Hy Zaret (c. 1948)

There were 11 songs:  “What Makes a Good American,” “Brown-Skinned Cow,” “Columbus Said, “Si, Si, Signor”,” “I’m Proud to Be Me,” “Close Your Eyes and Point Your Finger,” “Ol’ Commodore Gray,” “Traveling Broadens One,” “It Could Be a Wonderful World,” “There Were Thirteen Colonies,” “I’ve Got a Church, You’ve Got a Church,” and “American Hymn.”

A couple of tunes (“I’m Proud to Be Me” and “It Could Be a Wonderful World”) have been covered by others, but my favorite, “Close Your Eyes and Point Your Finger,” one of the first tunes I ever memorized, is MIA.

Here are the lyrics accompanied by the original Soglow illustration from the record:

Close your eyes and point your finger,
On the map just let it linger —
Any place you point your finger to,
There’s someone with the same type blood as you!

England, China or Alaska,
Mexico or Madagascar,
Indonesia, Ireland or Peru —
There’s someone with the same type blood as you!

No type of blood is better,
No type of blood is best,
Each type of blood is just as good —
No better than the rest!

Close your eyes and point your finger,
On the map just let it linger —
Any place you point your finger to,
There’s someone with the same type blood as you!

In the mountains or in the valleys,
Rich hotels or slum-like alleys —
Any place you point your finger to,
There’s someone with the same type blood as you!

Plumbers, bankers, men of science,
Clerks or teachers, dwarfs or giants —
Makes no difference what they are or do,
There’s someone with the same type blood as you!

It may be “A” or “AB”,
It may be “B” or “O”,
Whatever type it may be, sir,
There’s one thing you should know:

Nature has no fav’rite nation,
Color, creed, or occupation —
Any place you point your finger to,
There’s someone with the same type blood as you!

Someday you may be in danger;
Then along will come a stranger
With a bit of blood to pull you through…
A stranger’s blood may save your life for you!

Close your eyes and point your finger,
On the map just let it linger —
Any place you point your finger to,
There’s someone with the same type blood as you!

[These lyrics were copied from the original record sleeve.]
Words: Hy Zaret
Music : Lou Singer
© 1947 Oliver Music & Argosy Music (ASCAP)

*     *     *     *     *

Full disclosure: Singing under the name Pobba, I recorded “I’m Proud to Be Me” and “It Could Be a Wonderful World” on my CD “My ‘Magination.”

Similar or related posts:

  1. Little Songs on Big Subjects–Download
  2. Little Songs on Big Subjects–Cover Records
  3. Little Songs on Big Subjects: “Ol’ Commodore Gray”
  4. Little Songs on Big Subjects–Sung by Bibb & Gilbert
  5. Little City in the Everglades

76 Comments

  1. Abi says:

    I have never heard these songs in their original format, but they still mean a lot to me nonetheless as I have heard you sing them countless times. I know the tune to the above song so well, just from listening to you, that I was able to finally sing the whole song for myself with the lyrics you posted. Thank you!!

    Promise me you will sing these to my kids as well?

  2. mel says:

    I remember as a child back in the early 50′s hearing some of these on tv and they were accompanied by some simple cartoons.

    • larry nilssen says:

      I also remember these – simple cartoons and a catchy melody in the early 50′s- for example:
      If everybody should look the same
      Wouldn’t life be a mixed up game
      It would be a smart man who knew his wife

      But nature made each one of us look different etc

      • Steve Cotler says:

        Larry–
        You must be referring to a different album. The lyrics you quote are not on Little Songs on Big Subjects. I’d be interested to know where they are from.

  3. andrea says:

    ahhhh!!! My husband and I are nearing the final steps of adopting children and had this strong desire to obtain a copy of the album I listened to over and over again as a child. I didn’t recall the group or album title but knew it had “Close Your Eyes and Point Your Finger” and “It Could be a Wonderful World.” Did the search and just found your website. Please let me know if you ever find a copy of the album!

  4. Jon Jaffe says:

    I am a musician in Austin, TX. I have the original 78s. If anyone wants a copy for personal enjoyment, I hope to digitize them when the weather is bad for golf.

  5. I too learned the “little songs on big subjects” when I was about 4, and I too have been searching on the ‘net for a copy. I actually remember the lyrics to a few of the songs, e.g., “you can get good milk from a brown-skinned cow” and “I’m proud to be me” and “it could be a wonderful world” and several others. UNICEF must have an archival copy somewhere????

  6. N. Printz says:

    I too grew up with this album, which I still have. I’d like to tranfer it to a CD so my younger family members can enjoy it.

  7. Susan says:

    I did not know these songs were on a record. When I was a child in Pasadena, CA, we sang them in Unitarian Sunday school. I can still remember most of them… “George Washington liked good roast beef, Haim Solomon liked fish. But when Uncle Sam served liberty, they both enjoyed the dish!” I would love to see the lyrics to all the songs… are they available anywhere?

  8. Jeff says:

    Does anyone know how I could get a copy of this album (or preferably CD)? – I’m looking specifcally for the song “Close Your Eyes and Point Your Finger”. Thank you so much.

  9. Richard Strell says:

    I am a vintage paper dealer and whenever I come across a book or record album of this fabulous series on songs, I save it. I have a a couple of copies. They are very wonderful to own, read and listen to.
    I memorized the words to all the songs in the 1950′s and carry them always in my mind and try to instill their importance in the mind of my 11 year old daughter. I don’t think she needs any more prompting from me or anyone. She is so “color blind” already that I appear to be a racist to her just because I dare to even divide people into races. She sees us all as earhtlings. homo-sapiens.
    Anyplace you point your finger to… there someone with the same type blood as you!

  10. Jacalyn B says:

    I’ve recently reconnected with an old classmate from 5th grade. Our teacher played “Little Songs on Big Subjects” till we had each memorized all the words.

  11. Jacalyn B says:

    I can’t wait to hear your CD…it will bring me back to 1960…Hyde Park…near the University of Chicago (from whence our President hails)…to Bret Harte Elementary School – Miss Betty Bodian’s 5th grade class – Room 206. She taught us every single song on that album. We wrote the lyrics for our penmanship exercises. If you are able to locate one of those albums, please let me know! Thanks again.

    • Corinne O says:

      I still remember Betty Bodian, 6th grade, 1968. She influenced me more than any other
      teacher at Bret Harte. What else do you remember? Is she still alive? Thanks…

      • Jonathan Wishnick says:

        Betty Bodian was the best teacher. She influenced us to become the people that she knew we were. All were empowered in her class to think, learn, laugh, be civil and care. I think of her often, with fondness and awe.

  12. Jacalyn Birnbaum says:

    Miss Bodian was really unforgettable … Sad to report that we lost her on April 20, 1996 … a few months shy of 90 …

  13. Brigid says:

    Ol’Commodore Gray is on YouTube, and probably It Could Be a Wonderful World although not in the first pages of hits. Anyone know of others on YouTube? I, too, would love a copy of the music and/or sheet music. We had a song book and I suppose my mother played them. She could still sing with us when Alzheimers had removed most memories.

  14. [...] a previous post, I spoke about “Little Songs on Big Subjects,” tunes of tolerance written by Hy Zaret [...]

  15. Meryl says:

    Thanks so much for this, Steve. Wow. These were unique treasures. Wasn’t there one more: “George Washington liked good roast beef, Chaim Solomon liked fish, but when Uncle Sam served liberty … they both enjoyed the dish?” Was that not from this album?

    I’ve alerted my friend Peter Muldavin, AKA “Kiddie Record King.” I suggest that anyone looking for anything from back then contact him: http://www.kiddierekordking.com/ He is a find and has pretty much whatever you’re looking for.

  16. J. B. Roth says:

    I have a set of the Jesters singing Little Songs on Big Subjects which is in fairly good condition. My computer program can clean out 99% of the noise. I could then make CDs from them along with most of the art work from the jacket cover.

    The contents are:
    1. What makes a good American?
    2. Brown-skinned cow
    3. Columbus said “Si, si, signor”
    4. I’m proud to be me
    5. Close your eyes and point your finger
    6. Ol’d Commodore Gray
    7. Traveling broadens one
    8. It could be a wonderful world
    9. There were 13 colonies
    10. I’ve got a church – you’ve got a church
    11. American Hymn
    11. There were 13 colonies

    What’s it worth? I don’t know. Make me an offer.

    J. B. Roth

    • Lynn Sullivan says:

      I would love a copy of the CD you are making. I have no idea what to offer. I want to use it in my church because the songs were so important to my childhood and still relevant today.
      what next???

  17. That’s interesting about these recordings… we’ve been discussing the Commodore Grey commercials on my Mama Lisa’s World blog…

    http://www.mamalisa.com/blog/the-us-governments-commercials-in-the-50s-about-tolerance-and-diversity/

  18. csk says:

    I was in 4th grade and learned many of these songs. Thanks for remembering along with me.

    Now I have grandchildren and would love to share these with them – unfortunately the world still needs the messages these songs convey.
    If anyone finds a CD or even the original book, I would be so interested.

    Thanks
    csk

  19. Hello Mr. Cotler,

    I was searching the web for Little Songs on Big Subject which is a 2-record set of 10″ 78RPMs. I have that set, but I wanted more info on it. Thanks for having a photo of Hy Zaret and Lou Singer on your website.
    I have professionally digitized the tracks onto CD and I’m enjoying the songs as I did when I was 4 back in 1950. If you would like me to email you those tracks in mp3 format, I’d be glad to do so.

    What you might not know is that the Bachelors also recorded those songs on the VOX label. I beleive I also have that set.

    Regards,
    Benjamin Roth-Aroni

  20. audrey Whitman says:

    Hi,
    I was looking for a copy of “Little Songs On Big Subjects” and was directed to this site. I too had this album when I was but a mere child and listened to it over and over again. I would love a copy to give to my grandson who is turning 8yrs old this month.
    You offered to make a copy of the CD for
    10 dollars. Please let me know where to send the check.
    Thank you for your generous offer.
    Sincerely,
    Audrey Whitman

    • Sandy Bruss says:

      I am a Kindergarten Teacher. A retired grandmother at our school, who was volunteering in my class, started singing “I’m Proud to be Me”. I just loved the message. She told me about the “Little Songs on Big Subjects” album that she used to play to her 4th Grade class. Could you please let me know how I could purchase a CD for my class?

    • Lynn Sullivan says:

      I will also buy the cd of the songs for $10 if the offer is good, let me know
      Lynn

  21. Benjamin Roth-Aroni says:

    I Steve,

    I just found the 3-record 78rpm set of the Bachelors singing “Little Songs……” It has a song that the Jesters’ set does not have. It’s called “The Poor Old World”. Tomorrow, I’ll scan the words and email them to you as well as digitize the tracks and get them off to you as well.
    Regards,
    Benjamin Roth-Aroni

  22. Benjamin Roth-Aroni says:

    I have clean audio files of the Jesters singing Little Songs on Big Subjects. I can make a CD for $15 and mail it.
    Pay through PayPal to

    t-shirts@rovin.net

    with your mailing address in the email that accompanies payment.

    J. B. Roth

    • Jacalyn Birnbaum says:

      WOW! I’m sending the $15.00 via Pay Pal for a copy of Little Songs on Big Subjects -an album that left an indelible impression lasting almost 50 years. THANKS! Jackie B

  23. Tobie Fnzel says:

    Just remembered another stanza from one of them”

    I may not know a lot of things,
    But one thing I can state:
    Both native-born and foreign-born
    Have made our country great.

  24. Edward Morris says:

    I was just Googling around when this song hit my head and I thought I’d see if I could find it by inputting “any place you point your finger to” and “same type blood as you.” And up it came. I’m 74 years old and recall listening to this ditty on a battery-powered radio in the backwoods of West Virginia when I was a kid. It’s really comforting to be able to resurrect it.

  25. Jerry Gray says:

    I love all these comments about this record that made such an impact on kids so long ago. I and my group from Canada, The Travellers recorded a kids record in 1970 which sold almost 100,000 copies. I remembered the song If We Could Consider, from somewhere, and included it in the kid’s record: “THE TRAVELLERS SING FOR KIDS”
    Whenever I perform for the past 40 years anyhow, I always start with If We Could Consider whether it is an adult or a kid’s show. I’ve never seen the original, but I have just ordered a repro of it, to hear all the songs.
    Jerry Gray
    The Travellers
    Canada
    If anyone wants THE TRAVELLERS SING FOR KIDS that includes If We Could Consider let me know at grayg@rogers.com. The CD is still available from me.

    • Steve Cotler says:

      The name of the song (by Zaret & Singer) was It Could Be a Wonderful World, not If We Could Consider. It was recorded by Pete Seeger and the Weavers, among others.

  26. Hannah says:

    Steve Cotler is my tutor at Healsdburg California’s Fitch Moutain School. He is the most intelligent person i’ve ever met.

  27. James Young says:

    I have just uploaded the Jesters version of Little Songs On Big Subjects, and you can download them for free at tbmod.bandcamp.com. I also loved these songs as a child in the 60′s. Bless my liberal, civil rights activist parents.

    Enjoy, James

  28. Judy Floam says:

    Thank you all for these comments. They played the record to my grade school class in New York (in the late 1940s) many times, certainly enough times for me to memorize the words. The ending of the “brown-skinned cow” song goes: “the color of the skin doesn’t matter to me”.

    • Steve Cotler says:

      The words to the last verse are:

      As the peach pit said to the apple core,
      “The color of our skins doesn’t matter anymore.”
      Ho-ho-ho, can’t you see?
      The color of your skin doesn’t matter to me.

  29. Linda says:

    I loved these songs as a child and have looked for them periodically over the years. My dad was a civil rights activist in the 60′s, so these songs were my first introduction in the 50′s to the importance and value of all kinds of people.

  30. Norman Bar says:

    LITTLE SONGS ON BIG SUBJECTS.

    Hello,

    You may have found this already but you might like to go to a site I have just found. I know nothing about it. Actually I think I have the records somewhere in the loft.

    http://tbmod.bandcamp.com/download?enc=mp3-320&id=1482909096&ts=1295056541.3935256841&tsig=a9bbce93c17a85fc8cddea47b141798e&type=album

  31. Judith Weiss says:

    I was singing songs from the album tonight and found this website. My brother and I got it from a record club as the monthly offering. My mother took it to my third grade class in 1948, foreshadowing Brotherhood Week. I may have been the only Jewish student in the school. I recall being mortified. I think the song with the line, “You get white milk from a brown skinned cow; the color of your skin doesn’t matter no how,” would be seen as politically incorrect today, though well-meaning. I am happy to know I can hear it again some sixty plus years later.

  32. eleanor friedman says:

    I’m so glad people remember them. I sang them all when they were published in People’s Songs (remember that?).

  33. Sam says:

    Do you know if this album is Public Domain?

    BTW. Thanks for posting this. It is wonderful!

  34. Sam says:

    Thanks, Steve. That was a big help.

  35. Usha says:

    Dear Mr.Cotler, I am a resident Indian and I was so delighted to find the lyrics of the song “close your eyes and point your finger” which we used to sing in junior school way back in the 50′s at Bangalore, specifically while celebrating UNO day. I am looking for the lyrics of another similar song which has words somewhat like this…”to the wheat fields, to the corn fields, where the yield is all too low; comes a farmer….da da daa daa, daa da daa daa…UNO.

  36. Lisa Lobdell says:

    The Michael Feinstein Initiative holds the papers of Hy Zaret, the lyricist for Little Songs on Big Subjects. Songs from his other works “Science Songs” and “Experiment Songs” are now available on iTunes with more to come.

  37. Lisa Lobdell says:

    previous post should read “Space Songs” not “Science Songs.”

  38. I am very pleased and proud to announce that “It Could be a Wonderful World” (the 1967 album) is legally available as high quality files on iTunes, Amazon, and other sources of digital music. Please see our public Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/argosymusiccorp.

    (I posted a similar thread Tuesday in another thread on this site.)

  39. We now have a public web site, and it includes links to legal copies of these wonderful songs:
    http://www.argosymusiccorp.com

    Thank you for all the enthusiastic comments; they really helped spur me to get these songs back in circulation.

  40. Peggy Snider says:

    I grew up on these songs and came upon the 78 album when my mother died and made a CD for my grand-kids. At the time I looked for information about “the making of” (more than what was on the cover) and could find nothing. Tonight I came across the CD, started listening and did a Google search. How wonderful to find that you have republished this work. I still know all the words. These songs help shaped the adult me.

  41. Jack Turner says:

    I remember when I was growing up in Kansas City, Missouri, in the 1950′s, there was a television commercial using the lyrics to “George Washington liked good roast beef, Chaim Solomon liked fish. . . ” In retrospect, it surprising that tolerance was advertised in that manner in a relatively homogeneously WASPish town. On the other hand, I went to grade school at J. C. Nichols School, which was nearly half Jewish. We celebrated Hannukah and Passover along with Christmas and Easter and sang Hebrew songs in choir. Also, K. C. had Rabbi Samuel Mayerberg, who was a prominent advocate of civil and human rights who was perhaps most famous for speaking out against the corrupt Pendergast Machine, which dominated K. C. politics for decades. Although I myself was born and raised as WASPish as they come, I’ve always counted myself blessed to have grown up in a place that had such a yeasty mix of Jews and Gentiles.

  42. I would like to find how to pay royalities for Little Songs on Big Subjects by the Jesters for my website about to be published.
    Can you send me information on paying royalties for using these songs.
    thanks
    nancilee Wydra 772 xxx 5538 text or email above

Post a Comment

Your email is never published or shared.