Franti for beginners – kids, that is.

There are certain benchmarks of parenthood that make mothers and fathers proud.  Crawling. First steps. First words.  First time making it into the toilet bowl.

For others, there are special moments that count just as much, and today, on the way home from daycare with my two-year-old son in the back seat, I reached another milestone.

We’ve been immersing Jonathan in music pretty much since he was in the womb.  He went to more concerts in utero than many people go to in a lifetime – he spent New Years Eve 2005 listening to Derek Trucks from the comfort of my wife’s belly. He went to his first outdoor festival at three months.  He saw the North Mississippi Allstars at four months.  He’s a well-traveled musical veteran.

These days, he’s into Laurie Berkner ("Victor Vito" in particular), which is palatable for a parent because she writes catchy tunes, actually plays guitar, and well, she’s not Barney.  We listen to the McCoury’s kids disc, and have other "heady" children’s music in the rotation as well.

But, he has seemed to have a special affinity for reggae-esque tunes, and Michael Franti in particular.

Around the time he was able to figure out a word or two, I had Franti’s acoustic disc, Songs From The Front Porch, in pretty regular rotation on the 35-minute trek from daycare to home.  Sure, "Ganja Babe" isn’t exactly kindergarten subject matter, but the tracks are soft, acoustic, seemed to soothe a then one-year-old having a fit in the back seat because he threw his pacifier onto the floor, far out of reach of a father trying to navigate both the resulting temper tantrum and traffic simultaneously.

Besides, Franti puts a special focus on children.  During his Harvest Ball, he routinely has a kid’s matinee show, which is how his "Sesame Street Theme" got into setlists.  Plus, he took his song, "What I Be," found an illustrator, and turned it into a children’s book .  While the title may be grammatically incorrect – not exactly setting a good example, Michael – the message is a good one.

The book sits on Jonathan’s bookshelf, and he has a good portion of the lines memorized.

So, lately we’ve been listening to the original version of the tune on the way home.  We turn it on, listen, and repeat.  And repeat.  And…repeat.  Hey, it’s better than the Barney theme song.  Gradually, we’ve been working toward the "one time" rule.  It’s taking some breaking down, but it’s working.

Fast forward to today.

We’re just pulling into the driveway, and he calls out for something barely discernable.  After a bit of child-language code-breaking, I figured it out.

"Everyone Deserves Music."

A second Franti song, the title track to the disc that "What I Be" kicks off.

I smiled with pride, because I’ve lodged two of my tracks, from the same album, onto Jonathan’s mental playlist.  It’s inevitable that he’ll find his own music eventually, because influences other than his parents will be coming into play sooner rather than later.  My first CD was Pink Floyd’s Obscured By Clouds, but I’m sure my own father was more than unhappy when I brought home Ice Ice Baby not too long after.

But, for the time being, if I can introduce my son to the positive message that Franti speaks, that’s great.  There’s the saying somewhere, that someone wrote, that music will save the world, and we certainly have a world that seems on the verge of needing a hero.  Franti’s message seems proper to me, and maybe it’ll influence my son to be the one that eventually does the saving.

If not, as long as it keeps me from having to listen to Barney, I’m cool with that, too.