Sonia and I met a few years ago after playing together in Brooklyn. I have always admired her music, bright optimistic spirit and her ability to share her language and culture through song. As I was building the Under the Big Umbrella tracklist, I thought it would be wonderful to include Woody Guthrie’s “Don’t You Push Me Down.” I heard Sonia’s powerful version of Woody’s “This Land is Your Land” and I knew “Don’t You Push Me Down” sung in Spanish would be especially important and timely. I am so grateful to Sonia who carefully translated the lyrics into Spanish and taught them to me for this duet. Here, Sonia talks about the meaning of the song and the process of translating it to Spanish. Enjoy ~ and in Spanish it’s, “Disfrutar!”
What does the song “Don’t You Push Me Down” mean to you?
This song is very powerful and I asked myself this very same question, followed by: Is it a “feel good” song about friends having fun with each other? Is it a protest song? Is it a song about learning how to set boundaries in our relationships? I think it’s a little bit of them all, and the beauty of it lies in the gentle way we are taken through different scenarios only to end with, “but don’t you push me down.” It’s genius. Woody Guthrie really knew how to connect with folks in a simple, yet profound way everyone could understand.
Why do you think the themes in the song, like standing up for yourself, are important for children to hear?
It’s never too early to learn to stand up for yourself! No matter how old we are, we can all identify with that. This song is a great way to get children of all ages thinking about it.
How did you meet Brady and what was it like collaborating for this duet?
I’ve been a fan of Brady’s music for a long time. We met years ago when we played together in a show thanks to my friend and publicist, Stephanie Mayers, our matchmaker! I felt a great connection to Brady’s sound and approach to family music, and I was delighted when he reached out to invite me to be a part of this album. This collaboration has been such a treat for me.
Why do you think the bilingual element of the song is important right now? Especially for a Woody Guthrie song.
Woody Guthrie spent a lot of his time giving a voice to the voiceless, and singing this song in English and Spanish is definitely honoring his spirit. In today’s world, often people who speak Spanish are afraid to stand up for themselves for various reasons… I feel honored to be making this bilingual version possible thanks to Brady’s idea.
What was it like translating the lyrics into Spanish and teaching Brady?
Translating the lyrics and adapting them for the song was not easy, but it was really fun! It took me a few weeks. I tried different versions until I landed on the one we recorded. I also studied a lot of other Woody Guthrie songs, diving into his style, learning how he used metaphors, and just looking for inspiration. Teaching Brady the lyrics in Spanish was easy, he was very excited to learn them and we really had a great time singing together!
What do you love most about children’s music?
There’s many things I love about making family and children’s music, it’s hard to pick just one, but I truly love seeing children young and old together, smiling as they imagine a better future filled with endless possibilities.