New Song – Lady Aberlin’s Muumuu
Took a bit longer than expected to finish – I had some trouble getting the mix right (it’s not) and also I wanted to get some lady vocals in there (courtesy of my lovely and talented sister Lacey Kohl). But now, here it is.
One of the nice things about being a father is the opportunity to watch Mister Rogers again. I have such fond memories of the show from when I was a kid, and watching it still makes me all happy and fuzzy inside. It’s just so great. Fred Rogers was a genius and a saint and probably a space alien from the planet Love, Johnny Costa can make pianos play just by thinking about them – the whole thing is so mellow and pleasant and awesome. If opium were a TV show, it would be Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.
But watching it again for the first time in many years, I was reminded how much I loved (I should say: LURVED) Lady Aberlin. I always picture her in this one particular blue dress with flowers on it, I have no idea if it’s a muumuu. But she’s pretty and has a pretty voice and she’s so nice to little Daniel Striped Tiger. I’m getting all flushed just thinking about it. This song is sort of a love song to her, by way of that dress.
This song is heavenly. It truly is a beautiful day in the neighborhood now.
Luke M says
Bliss. Your songcraft just gets better and better.
Shopmonkey Chris says
Betty Aberlin might like to hear it - according to IMDB, she's still available for work, if JoCo wants her to do some backup vocals... which would be, I have to admit, totally awesome.
I also am a big fan of the late Fred Rogers. I had the good fortune to chat with him when he spoke and performed for our music department at Rollins College in Florida. Before he even opened his mouth, you could tell that surely this was the kindest man who ever lived. I was amazed: for all the millions of fans he had, he seemed (and, I think, *was*) genuinely interested in each and every one those he met as an individual. There will never be another like him. Some trivia that illustrate my point, from Mental Floss magazine can be found at:
We also have a great fondness for Mr. Rogers (the person and the show). Our son even has a middle initial "S" that he doesn't know stands for "Striped Tiger"... unless he's reading this... in which case - GET OFF THE COMPUTER AND DO YOUR HOMEWORK!
Wow. I have no idea what this Mr Rogers thing is (don't bother telling me, if I could be bothered I'd have found it out) but damn that tune is nice.
I also have no idea what this Mr Rogers thing is (maybe it's because I'm British?) but the atmosphere of the song and the info about it puts me in mind of Playschool and the Magic Roundabout. It's like the happy curiosity of a child on a sunny summer's day.
I love it!
Mr. Rogers Neighborhood was a children's show on public television. Fred Rogers, the host, was probably one of the best human beings that ever lived.
Utter gorgeousness. The kind of thing you feel you ought to feel guilty for enjoying. Like MaW, I can't claim to have the TV show in my frame of reference, but I still feel priviledged to share vicariously in JoCo's memories.
This really is a lovely song. It evokes some old and simpler memories.
It is easy to underestimate sometimes the effect Fred Rogers had on people of my generation. When I graduated from UConn in 1991 Fred was our commencement speaker. When he came out, I swear that 3000-some Liberal Arts majors LOST ... THEIR ... MINDS. Seriously the place went nuts. By pure chance I had ended up in the first row of the Gampel Pavillion and as he walked by I waved to him, and there is nobody on this planet who could convince me he didn't wave back at me. His speech was sweet and inspiring. Just an great individual.
Jack F says
Very nice song. This really shows JoCo has a much wider range than a casual listener might think.
Stacey Leggieri says
I found a nice video clip of Lady Aberline in the Land of Make Believe:
No muumuu, but you can see what JoCo's going on about anyway. :D
Thank you for more listening pleasure Jonathan!
Awww that was just lovely :)
I've never seen the show (living in NZ and all...) but now I'm intrigued! :P
The lady vocals were just right too btw, quite evocative!
I feel like I've just spent a sunny afternoon on a beach being fanned with palm leaves by muumuu-clad singing ladies.
OK, now I remember Lady Aberline.
I had confabulated the puppets Lady Elaine (Lady __) and King Friday (who wore a blue cloak). Somehow, that didn't seem like a good subject for a love song.
I'm glad I can stop shuddering now.
Oh, the memories. I have many fond memories involving Mr. Rogers.
Also, the melody reminds me a little of the song that Michael Caine sang in The Muppet Christmas Carol.
Brilliant lyric and a great bossa nova rhythm. Much more sophisticated than the actual lady, I suppose. but that's not a complaint.
I very much appreciate how you take creative inspiration from so many varied sources. Keep up the good work JC.
It's great! I can't help but think that some bongo drums in the background would add to it, but maybe that's just me. Great stuff! Keep 'em comin'!
Super Dave says
I loved watching this all come together. Excellent melodies, clever lyrics, and a wonderful display of your chord vocabulary. Any other "fake" styles of music you want to jump into, I know I'd love to hear. Thanks for the great song!
I've been lurking for ages. Found you though "Cast On" podcast. Is it totally geeky to admit my husband and I play your music whenever we're travelling. Our 4 yr old has been know to run around the house saying he's "Tom Cruise Crazy" (even though he has no idea what he's talking about). This latest song is great. I've been telling everyone who will sit still to listen to you and buy your music and have been sending your URL to all sorts of folks. Hopefully they'll all buy something!
Beautiful. I don't have many memories of Mr. Rogers neighborhood, though I know I watched it. For me, the analogy would probably be to Mr. Wizard as a TV personality.
Anyway, never posted here before and just wanted to tell you thanks!
Sounds like Astrud Gilberto. That's a good thing. =)
Fred Rogers really understood children and how they think and feel. I think he raised a lot of kids from my generation. If anyone still cares about anyone else anymore, he's probably responsible for it.
Turned out very beautiful indeed. :)
listening to this song and reading the Fred Rogers wiki, brings me to tears of mixed emotion, thank you Jonathan Coulton, Thank you.
Excellent song. Next to this "The Girl From Ipanema" is crap. Simultaneously evocative of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood and the warm sandy tropics which is not an obvious pairing, but the sort of thing you do so well. It's also great to hear that Mr. Roger's is loved by people today who were probably too cool to admit it when they were younger. I watched him when I was little, in college sometimes when I couldn't get a date and was trying to repair what little self esteem I had left any way I could, and now with my 3 year old girl. Wonderful tribute. Fred would've loved it.
Roman V. says
A Mr. Rogers-inspired song, for the win Coulton. For the win.
Lady Aberlin says
Dear Jonathan -
I can't imagine a more wonderful surprise - and it is a lovely song, with discerning lyrics, on many levels. One of the reasons for the mumu (I know the one you mean - from Afghanistan, I think) aside from the no-budget-for-wardrobe, was the Lady A, was not supposed to be "alluring", but a Big Sister creature - Fred was very clear on this. Hence the shapless empire dresses, which are worn over and over, ovrr the years. This Friday one of the "operas" airs: Windstorm in Bubbleland. I came to Pgh. and found my eay into the Neighborhood because I followed a very funny parody of "Girl From Ipanima" I wanted to sing. It was in THE MAD SHOW (a revue based on Mad Magazine), and unbeknownst to be, it had been written under a false name (Esteban Ria Nido) by Stephen Sondheim. It was called "Boy From". This is more than you wanted to know, but the "softer side" might lie within the pages of a book of poems just published (The White Page Poems), and I do have a bit of back-up cred, having been t=in the original company of Getting My Act Together. There's a funny bit on utube under Alice at the Palace, about halfway through The Lobster Quadrille....but I'm wandering. No one has ever seen fit to honor my character with a song - since Fred. Women continually approached Lady Aberlin's mu mu and asked whether she was pregnant over the years. Daniel Striped Tiger was perhaps my only child. I will ber the wonderful heaven & earth 'round my shoulders from now on, and listen to this lovely song again and again.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I will run and tell King Tuesday immediately!
Lady Aberlin says
llots of typos: apologies: over & over, over the years....found my way into.....unbeknownst to me...(omit t=)...I will bear...
Lady Aberlin says
Mister Rogers... now where have I heard that name before?
...Mister Rogers in a blood-stained sweater! :o
I'm really going to have to find out who this guy is now!
Wonderful to have a comment from the Lady herself, but I'm just a bit curious. Wouldn't she know that the Neighborhood of Make-Believe's royal family was King Friday, Queen Sarah Saturday, and Prince Tuesday?
Luke M says
I can vouch that that is indeed Betty Aberlin. And I can also attest that fans often remember details of their favorite shows better than the performers do. Stephen Fry was once terrified by a man in the street who screamed "Flanders pigeon murderer!" at him...until the man apologized and said he had just assumed Fry would recognize the "Blackadder" reference.
Jonathan, I waited so long to hear the finished product, but you had to take a call. Me: "8 bv's?!" You: "yep, 8!" I originally thought baby had received character dolls from Mr. R's NoMB from WQED or a local. ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL! I had no idea!
Then a message from Ms. Aberlin, Oh My!
The Yinzer's Dahntan might joy one. ;-) !
Maybe Prince Tuesday has been crowned since the death of King Friday?
I thought it was great that she wrote in and, what is more, loved the song
Oh, Brits, oh my goodness. With all the crazy cultural junk we export to you, we never sent over Mr. Rogers???
OK, think of the kindest, gentlest, sweetest man you could ever imagine. Now think of him on an earnest public television show, looking straight into the camera and telling you that you -- YES, YOU, RIGHT THERE! -- are a wonderful and special person, just by being you. No matter what you look like or if you mess up and say something mean or get angry or scared. Mr. Rogers loved you. By all accounts, he was just that marvelous, wise and kind in person, too, and never too busy or famous to speak to a child, or a former child, who recognized him.
Half of his show took place in his house -- he'd always start it off by changing from work shoes and jacket into his sweater and sneakers, while singing "It's a Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood." Then he might get a visit from Mr. McFeely, the mailman, with a special delivery, perhaps a film of a crayon factory tour, for example. We might watch him make something in his kitchen or visit with a neighbor. Then, he'd sit down on this bench seat in front of a track, and a toy trolley would come out and whistle at him, and we'd follow the trolley into the Neighborhood of Make Believe.
And that is where beautiful, sweet young Lady Aberlin (a human) lived, along with a man in a dog suit called Bob Dog, a human handyman, and puppets: monarchs (King Friday XVIII, Queen Sara and Prince Tuesday), a grouchy old lady who lived in a merry go round called Lady Elaine Fairchild, X the Owl, shy Daniel Tiger, and of all things a chair-manufacturing puppet guy called Cornflake S. Pecially. Adventures ensued, of course, but at the end the trolley would always take us back into Mr. Rogers' living room for the goodbye song.
It's the kind of show you outgrow pretty quickly when you hit elementary school, because it's for "babies", but never, EVER forget. Once your "I'm a big kid now" defiance wears off, usually by late teens or college, you can see again how awesome that show was. That show was magnificent, a ray of sunshine and kindness, and I hope it's never forgotten.
The day Mr. Rogers died I was driving my car when I heard it on NPR. (Like Loudon Wainwright III, look up his song "Hank and Fred" on iTunes.) I cried and cried, and I think I had to pull over. I am crying now just thinking about it and listening to JoCo's beautiful new song.
Andrea is right about everything. Also there is this awesome footage of Fred Rogers testifying before the senate and saving public television, which makes me weep.
And OMG Betty Aberlin left a comment! I. Am. Freaking. Out.
This song was just what I needed today, thanks. Happiness and joy! My cares melted away there for a few minutes.
That is just lovely, that you heard from Lady A. herself. Congrats! (And thanks for the link to Fred Rogers' testimony, which was also quite moving.)
It's been a goosebumpy kind of day. I spent much of my commute today listening to "A Talk with George" (which I just discovered) again and again, and words can't express how much I love that song.
Re: Angelastic's post
That's from Lemon Demon's song "The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny" www.lemondemon.com
The song's free.
Lady Aberlin says
The pleasure is so mine! And yes, the make-believe goes on beyond the circle of PBS - cousin Tuesday has indeed inherited the Kingdom, and he is a young, wise King. He is Tuesday the First. The castle dress-code has been relaxed, although the old mumu still hangs in the M room closet. Draped in clouds.
"Correct as Usual, Lord Coulton"
You have no idea how much I needed this song today :D
Very soothing. I love it
Eric j says
Can someone get Lady Aberlin a copy of the Lascivious Biddies' song "Neigbor"? I think she'll be pleasantly surprised.
Thanks for brightening my Singles Awareness Day. Code Monkey like Muu......Muu.
ouija repair says
Very, very nice! The background vocals sort of of took me back to the Dionne Warwick or Herb Alpert era. At least I think that's why I imagined I was listening to it on a walnut-grain console stereo, Eggcelent, as always.
“Correct as Usual, Lord Coulton”
I'm sure that made your fannish heart squee, Jonathan. Heck, I had a moment of absolute squee for you.
Out of curiosity, is this the aforementioned dress? Also, I guess you're not the only one who had a bit of a crush on Lady Aberlin.
Patrick M says
Oh, good. I've been a fan of Lacey ever since her early work in the Coul-tones.
Jeff Eberlin says
I thought it was Lady Eberlin all of these years... are you telling me it's Aberlin? :-( :-(!!!!
the Moffitts of Princeton says
are ALL big fans of BettyKayDay!
Martha Garvey says
Betty Aberlin also had a kickass radio show when I lived in the burgh. Thanks, Jonathan...
Jonathan Whittum says
Hello to all from a long-time Mr. Roger's neighborhood fanatic. I just wanted to comment on a page where Betty Aberlin had also done so. Just to "breathe the same air" so to speak, in an electronic format as it were. Somehow I always knew I would marry a woman who reminded me of you, Lady Aberlin, and I have. There was always something so comforting about you, like I knew you and you knew me even through the TV. Try as he might have, Fred did NOT prevent your beautiful womanhood from shining through upon me. I am glad; you were an early inspiration among a choice few, in realizing the beauty of, and feeling love for, womankind. It will be fun if you get to read this, from surely one of your biggest fans!
Betty aka Lady Aberlin says
ongoing thanks, Jonathan and dear peeps!
fyi the Neighborhood is in jeopardy...see: savemisterrogers.com
wow! Martha - I am thrilled that you heard my WYEP radio show (Stone Soup, Armadillo Mermaid) - it was such freedom! - a sequence of an evening might be Tom Rush, Lenny Bruce, Benny Golson & a sory by Flannery O'Connor - real Public Access Radio as distinct from National Public Radio. As in, you want air time? Go right ahead.
& Chapomatic? Fear not. My scene in Kevin's latest film wound up on the cutting-room floor *shuddering sob* so I will have to wait until the DVD "out-takes" to see whether I got the Pittsburgh accent correct, or in any way acquitted myself.
Jonathan? Thanks for the head's up = apologies for hijacking the thread, and many thanks for the cyber soap-box.
and Jonathan W. - you do me great honor. I think coming from a broken home as I did, with a tv and the kindly voices of radio announcers as father-figures, made me overmuch loyal to the program - that I might be part of giving what I had so longed to receive...and did receive in my young years from a salad of Milton Berle, Kukla, Fran & Ollie, and Mister I. Magination (the unsung Paul Tripp). Thank you for your lovely affirmation.
Averagejon? Many other people fused Lady Aberlin with Lady Elaine Fairchilde. the puppet shadow side of Fred, named after his adopted sister Elaine - she who countered Lady Aberlins unfailing sweetness with mischief and the tlling of truth to power. Perhaps together we made up one person...?
Eric? I tried but could not find the lacivious ladies song...I am not too computer savy though.
Betty aka Lady Aberlin says
story by Flannery O'Connor (probably "Everything That Rises Must Converge")
drat. yat: yet another typo.
Russ Rogers says
Growing up with the name "Rogers," I would sometimes get teased by kids at school. "Hey, MR. ROGERS! Is it a beautiful day in YOUR neighborhood?"
I guess boys with the surname, "Rogers," must grow up either loving and defending Mr. Rogers or hating him. I love him.
When people asked me as a kid, "What do you want to be when you grow up?", I would sometimes reply, "An architect, or Mr. Rogers." And it was true. I longed to grow up and write songs and be funny and entertain people, especially children.
And you know what? I did it! I'm a children's entertainer! OK, the children I entertain mostly are my four daughters. But I've also been a working children's entertainer, a singer/songwriter/comedian for about sixteen years now! I was in a duo, "Kit and Kaboodle" for a decade. And now I have a solo show called, "Rusty's Rocking Jamboree!"
Fred Rogers and I aren't related. But my mother once had dinner with HIS mother! Fred Rogers was actually an ordained Presbyterian Minister. The Minister at Mr. Rogers' church when he was a boy (and his neighbor) was my Great Uncle, my mother's uncle!
Did you know Fred Rogers went to High School with Arnold Palmer!
I wrote Mr. Rogers a fan letter in 1996. I sent him a Kit and Kaboodle album as a token, as some kind of proof his influence, a tribute. He was very kind. He took the time and wrote back a very nice letter. He also sent me a photocopy of an article Life had done on him too.
Fred Rogers was a kind man. He was also a REALLY good song writer. He knew how to be simple. And some of his harmonies and progressions can be tricky as all get out. He didn't dumb down the music. And he was FUNNY! People forget how witty, biting and insightful the satire of The Land of Make Believe could be. Maybe because his comedy wasn't cruel. Even a pompous oaf like King Friday remained loyal and lovable. Lady Elaine was never evil, just ornery and mischievous.
Here's a beautiful video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UcvRMHz4mb4
And Fred surrounded himself with talent. Johnny Costa was a master. The background music to each episode is peppered with flashes of genius, little musical jokes, touches and flourishes. The way Fred Rogers could flow from conversation into song and then back, it's a tribute to both Fred and Johnny! They made music seem effortless.
And Betty Aberlin was right in there. A beautiful actress and singer. She went for YEARS talking to puppets without ever getting smarmy or saccharine! Not a false note. Oh my goodness, I just IMDBed her! She was in "Dogma" and "Jersey Girl"! I've seen both of those movies and didn't notice. Obviously Kevin Smith is a fan too!
I'm rambling. I'm sorry.
Jonathan, this is a gorgeous song. A lovely tribute. Thank you. When I grow up, if I can learn how to write songs half as good as this one, then you will still write songs twice as good as mine!
Joe K says
What a strange odyssey that landed me here ...
Just the other day, after probably six or year years of not seeing the show, I stumbled across a "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" episode on TV (the one where Fred interviews Lou "The Incredible Hulk" Ferrigno and Bill Bixby). The show, as usual, included a visit to the Neighborhood of Make-Believe where Lady Aberlin did much to maintain a cheerful, comforting environment. She made me smile then, as she did 20 some years ago when I would look forward to watching the show (which already was mostly in syndication) each morning on PBS with my very small children. I think I looked forward to those shows more than my kids did!
The shows helped honed my parenting skills, although I don't think I consciously approached viewing them day after day with that objective in mind. I just thought they were great TV for kids, and great opportunities for parents to spend with their kids. Fred's excellent show on divorce, in particular, would help me not long after I first saw it when I went through one myself. It gave me ideas on how to broach the subject with my own kids and how to reassure them that my love for them would be unchanged despite the imminent split of their mom and dad. I have always been grateful to PBS, Fred and the show's cast for that.
I tip my had to Betty for taking the time to acknowledge your work, your song and your toast to a wonderful, beautiful woman, Jonathon. Like the others, I find the song tuneful, enjoyable and very appropriate.
Lady A was/is so hot. So damn hot. Even as a kid, I knew the deal.
Cheri Herald says
re: Lady Aberlin--one thought led to another:
Lady Aberlin Denied
When I grew up
I wanted to be Lady Aberlin
from the land of make-believe
soft-spoken, reserved, ever-so-nice
But ladies need backing
Strength is required to slay dragons
dig moats--protect the castle
In my world
knights were too busy
polishing their armor, admiring
I learned a bit
of the dragon’s fire
how to wield my own sword
draw a quick bow
Lady Aberlin calloused
behind armor forged of necessity
but chafed at the steel
I kept waiting
for that white horse
whose rider would arrive
Lady Aberlin would don proper silk
and soften her stride
But crusades are long
the best knights
always seemed to be absent
imprisoned, or otherwise occupied
I no longer wait
at the tower window
for one good knight to set Aberlin free
I’ve learned to ride--securely astride--
bought my own horse
But, ah, there are nights
when the wine is sweet and the moon is full
that I sit by my weathered window
and a wish still rises
to a distant star
9/12/2009 Cheri Neuman Herald
Thanks, Jonathan Coulton and Betty Aberlin, for the poetic inspiration.
To extend this thread into another year--
Lady A-- Believe it or not, the memory of Paul Tripp (Mr. I. Magination) has survived at least one more generation. I grew up on his album "Billy On A Bike" and the one where he meets Rip Van Winkle. I ripped it from vinyl to MP3 for my own enjoyment, but I think it's also here:
I came upon this thread via a link from the Mister Rogers Neighborhood page on Wikipedia. Marvelous stuff! All of the comments are so loving and caring and full of great memories, but to have a few by Betty Aberlin herself - what a tribute to your songwriting!
I absolutely adore Fred Rogers' work, and I sometimes wondered if MY WIFE and I might be the only adults around who watch the show with no children present. Now I know for sure we're not - and how wonderful to know that!
If you'd like, my own tribute to Fred Rogers (a written one) is at...
Thank you for this. It made my day happier.