TAMARA KEITH, HOST:
It might not seem that long ago, but the 1990s were really a simpler time - no Twitter or Facebook. Email was a novelty. And there were way fewer options for phones. You had your home phone, and if you were fancy, maybe a car phone. Of course, you also had your banana phone.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BANANA PHONE")
RAFFI CAVOUKIAN: (Singing) Ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, banana phone. Ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, banana phone.
KEITH: It's a phone with a peal. The artist behind that song is Raffi. And he remains one of the biggest names in children's music. His other hits include "Baby Beluga" and "Down By The Bay." Raffi's been making kids music off-and-on since the 1970s. And his new album, called "Love Bug," is his first children's song album in 12 years. Raffi Cavoukian joins us now from the CBC Studios in Victoria, British Columbia. Welcome.
KEITH: Hello. Now, this is your first album of children's songs in 12 years. That's like two or three generations of tiny-tots. Why return now?
CAVOUKIAN: I just felt that it was time to do new songs that express love in a new way and joy and celebration of the real world in the digital era. This is the first Raffi CD of the digital era.
KEITH: Indeed it is. And let's play a little bit of "Love Bug" the title track.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOVE BUG")
CAVOUKIAN: (Singing) Everybody's got a love bug, a love bug deep inside. Love bug, where the hugs come from. Love bug, best kind of bug around. It's the love bug. It's the love bug. Love bug...
KEITH: This has a total Tom Waits feel. Is that an accident?
CAVOUKIAN: (Laughing) Perhaps it is an accident. "Love Bug" is a love song, as you can hear. I mean where do hugs come from really? Where does that impulse to hug someone come from?
KEITH: So I have a little love bug of my own - a 2-year-old. And last night, I put some of your greatest hits on and he had his milk, because it was bedtime, and the music comes on. He sets his milk down the floor and starts dancing. He needed his whole body to respond to your music.
CAVOUKIAN: (Laughing) Wow.
KEITH: And do you have any idea what it is about your music that just connects so well with children?
CAVOUKIAN: There's maybe something in my voice that's playful and respectful at the same time, and maybe they feel in me, in my voice, a friend. And by now, I have many millions of what I call Beluga Grads - those who in their early years sang Raffi songs, and "Baby Beluga" of course, and now who are adults and have their own kids. So I love the long enduring play of this music.
KEITH: I'm wondering if - as you write your music if that's one of your goals.
CAVOUKIAN: Well, not really but I do hope that on this "Love Bug" CD that there will be a number of songs that will become either earworms or songs in your heart. There's a song called "Water In The Well" - there's a song called "Doggone Woods" where I bark like a dog.
KEITH: I want to ask about that one, actually, let's hear a little bit.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DOGGONE WOODS")
CAVOUKIAN: (Singing) Plenty of bark in the Doggone Woods, plenty of bark I say. All the trees, they leave their mark each with a different bark. Woof-woof. Woof-woof. Woof-woof-woof-woof-woof-woof. Ah-wooof, ah-wooof. Woof-Woo-hoo-hoo-hoo.
KEITH: How do you do that? You know, if I want to sing along at home, how do I make that bark happen?
CAVOUKIAN: Baby, just go for it. That's what Tom Waits would say - just howl.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DOGGONE WOODS")
CAVOUKIAN: (Singing) Ah-wooof, ah-wooof. Woof-Woo-hoo-hoo-hoo.
Of course it takes years of practice to perfect the art - but, you know.
KEITH: Now coming out of college, you were part of the Toronto music scene and, you know, you were influenced by Bob Dylan and other great folk musicians.
CAVOUKIAN: Yeah, yeah that's it.
KEITH: You set out to be a musician and you certainly are. But you became this children's superstar - by accident?
CAVOUKIAN: Well, I - you know, don't forget that I'm a children's advocate as well. So there's a serious side to me as well.
KEITH: What are the things that you look at right now that most worry you about what's facing children?
CAVOUKIAN: I think the digital technology and it's foray into every aspect of our lives is worrisome for those in their early years because the job of a new-born is to bond with the real world. So that's why I say to parents infotech can wait.
KEITH: I'd love to listen to another track from "Love Bug" called "Mama Loves It."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MAMA LOVES IT")
CAVOUKIAN: (Singing) A happy home is the one where the kids are asking how. How can I help, Mama? How can I help, Papa? Oh, please let me help.
KEITH: Do you ever feel like, please don't ask me about "Banana Phone" again. No, I don't want to play "Baby Beluga" one more time.
CAVOUKIAN: No. I'm just thrilled and honored that people love these songs. I sing the hits in my concert show currently. In fact, the new music doesn't make it into the show because... (LAUGHTER)
KEITH: What? (Laughing)
CAVOUKIAN: ...Folks want to hear what they know, and I respect that. And I respect my young audience and their need to play with the musical toys that they're familiar with. So that's what I do.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BABY BELUGA")
CAVOUKIAN: (Singing) Baby Beluga. Oh, Baby Beluga.
KEITH: Raffi Cavoukian. His latest album of children's songs is "Love Bug." Thank you for being with us.
CAVOUKIAN: My pleasure. Woof-woof.
KEITH: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Tamara Keith. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.