Charlotte Diamond is the Joni Mitchell of children's performers and, like folkies bugging out over "Big Yellow Taxi" way back when, a whole generation of children have gone bat-so over Diamond's "I am a Pizza." Can you imagine a crowd of a hundred small children screeching and laughing and clapping out of sync with this masterpiece of childlike whimsy?
Diamond can. She sees it all the time and has for over two decades now. That's a lot of toddler-strewn hysteria for one woman to handle but that's her game. "The Laundry Monster" is the "Free Man in Paris" for two year olds.
"My focus has always been what it's like to be a kid and what it's like to be parent," she says, speaking from her hometown of Richmond, B.C.
Her first record, Ten Carrot Diamond, was released 25 years ago and her zeal for performance has wavered not a bit. She has made a successful career defining and describing the wonder of childhood through song, which she records and performs in English, Spanish and French. She's been considered a child-folk luminary alongside Raffi and Fred Penner.
Currently she's playing to many of the same kids as when she first started out, only now they're all grown up with kids of their own, often showing up to Diamond performances with their own parents who would have taken them to a show way back when. That's three generations familiar with music aimed squarely at children.
"What's great is that I just start to sing and they're all singing," Diamond says. "It's an instant sort of, 'Oh, we know this!' Which means I can take them into new stuff too and they can accept it and just start to sing."
Anybody fantasizing about backstage brawls between Diamond, Raffi and Penner better write fiction instead because she says there's nothing but love between them. They've been through the ringer together in a niche industry that's not know for producing platinum record sales. It's like a homecoming whenever they see each other.
"We have a camaraderie," she says. "We know that no form of music or artistic career is ever easy. It's always work but it's work that pays off in all these kids that we affect. That really keeps us going."
Pop musicians starting out in the early 1980s have followed similar trajectories of creative peaks matched by fame, followed by fallout and lull. But because Diamond's audience is always growing up and moving on while new kids move in, there's no one to judge the calibre of her music, to put the pressure on the way a regular pop star might feel it.
"I definitely have fans and they keep in touch with me, but the new ones coming along might never have heard some of the older songs," she says. "It's like a constant challenge because there's always someone (in the audience) who hasn't got a clue about what the music is. So you're starting, you're inspiring them.
"It's like catching them, you know, and once they get caught -and you see it happen in an audience - all of a sudden, bang! you're in the world of imagination and away you go."