You knew it was coming, but it’s perhaps a bad year for Sharon & Bram to retire from the road.
Since forming in 1978 the revered children’s entertainers (known as Sharon, Lois & Bram until third member Lois Lilienstein opted out in 2000, passing away in 2015) have left their mark on successive generations with songs like Peanut Butter, I Am Slowly Going Crazy, One Elephant, and the wildly popular Skinnamarink.
More importantly, along with fellow performers like Raffi and Fred Penner, they helped inculcate pre-schoolers with what we like to think of as basic Canadian virtues: kindness, compassion, and generosity. In the process they’ve picked up Juno Awards, sold millions of records, and hosted their own CBC program in the ’80s, The Elephant Show, as well as Skinnamarink TV, which ran from ’97 to ’99.
Considering the current state of the nation it’s fairly clear that we still need Sharon & Bram, but a long deserved retirement from touring beckons. They’ll be out on the road until July, playing their greatest hits as well as a number of newly recorded numbers, including The Hug Song and The Colour Song, along with a re-recorded version of Skinnamarink. We spoke with Sharon Hampson and Bram Morrison about their long career.
Q: You know who else is in the midst of a farewell tour? Lynyrd Skynyrd. Has anyone ever yelled “Freebird” at a Sharon and Bram concert?
Bram: Not that I can recall; has anyone ever yelled Skinnamarink at a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert?
Q: Touché. Interestingly, I knew Skinnimarink as a Jimmy Durante song, not as yours, though millions of Canadian kids would differ.
Bram: No, he sang a different song. (Sings) “ink a dink a ink a dink a inka dink a do.” They sound a lot alike, but they’re different. Skinnamarink came from an old musical in the early 1900s. It was only in the last few years that we discovered this. Lois learned it from a cousin, who learned it at camp. We looked for the roots of that song for years, but it was only fairly recently that we found out where it actually came from.
Q: You’re going on a farewell tour, but you’ve recorded a number of new songs in advance of it. Are you continuing to record?
Sharon: We actually haven’t recorded since we were a trio, but Bram suggested we do a number of songs written by my husband.
Bram: Sharon’s late husband Joe was something of a renaissance man. He was the bassist in a folk band called The Travellers, and he wrote and arranged really good songs that I feel may have been forgotten by the public. We selected a few and put our stamp on them.
Sharon: The newly recorded version of Skinnamarink will be released in the fall with a beautifully illustrated book called Sharon, Lois & Bram’s Skinnamarink, and that’s the last thing we’ll be working on. The road is hard, so taking a break is probably a good thing at our age.
Bram: I don’t know how old you are, but I’m 15.
Q: I’m a little saddened about all of this, because we need Sharon & Bram even more now considering the current political climate. You both live in Ontario, right?
Bram: (The provincial election) was a terrific surprise to us, we had no idea it was on the horizon and when it happened it was a shock.
Sharon: It was a crushing blow that matches our depression at what’s going on in the U.S. These are still relevant songs, singing about the value of differences, singing about peace, and children are the ones who are trying the hardest to change the world. It’s the truth; it’s the kids who are saying that we need to get rid of the guns.
Q: That’s why you need to hammer at the adults now.
Sharon: We often find our audiences are full of young adults who still want to sing those songs; it brings them back to happy childhood memories.
Q: Fred Penner has been going around doing adult-only shows on occasion.
Bram: Fred is great. He puts no limits on what he does and takes on lots of new things.
Sharon: We’ve done that as well, played pub shows at universities. We did a concert in London that was a cabaret, where adults could drink wine and beer as they listened. It was amazing and I’d love to do more like that.
Q: You’re both lifers in the music world. Does not having any long term plans frighten either of you?
Sharon: It’s not frightening at all. I think you have to be ready to let the world open up in ways that are unexpected and surprise you. I love what we’re doing and could carry on, but I’m also happy to stop right now. It’s going to be a pleasure to play these shows to old fans and friends, and new ones as well. That’s the greatest part of this, that we get to sing a song and everyone will be there to sing along with us.
Bram: That’s right; everyone will be singing along with us all through these concerts.
Sharon: Right from the first note. Bram always says something that I like. He says that we have the best seats in the house, because we get to both hear and see the audience sing, and that’s very sweet.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019
Sharon, Bram & Friends are currently touring in Alberta. They have Atlantic Canadian stops coming up in May. Check the schedule at sharonandbram.com