Songs in the Key of Life

By John Wood

After decades of giving of his talents and pinpoint insights to the wonderful world of family music, Gary Rosen has embarked on a new chapter of his life: a time to receive. And who best to receive from but his family – specifically, his three talented children, Lela, Penn and Eliza, who lend heft and emotion to his newest CD, Pet Sounds. Last year, Rosen was diagnosed with ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease), which on the best of days will put a hitch in ya giddyup, but Rosen sidles up and moves on down the road with musical credentials in tact.

This album bristles with immediacy, brilliance and talent to spare. It’s a pleasing mixture of new tunes and some classics written with former partner Bill Shontz, from the Rosenshontz days. A bonus track, “The Best That I Can,” featuring additional lyrics reflecting Rosen’s condition, was used as a theme song by the Special Olympics and the Massachusetts Easter Seals when it was first released:

I say ‘Don’t you feel sad, that you’ve got to slow down?’/ ‘Oh no, not when I’ve got love all around / Don’t go feeling sorry for me. I may be sick, but I can see that / I’m gonna be the best that I can …”

All three children add love, affection and priceless family memories with their performances but Lela Rosen’s angelic voice in “One Sweet Song” stands out: I’d like to sing you / One sweet song / One sweet song for you / While you close your drowsy eyes / I’ll sing the sweetest song for you. We should all be so lucky to hold family so close. Share the love with Pet Sounds.

Pet Sounds, Gary Rosen, GMR Records, 2005; $14.98 CD; 802-257-9566;


New York-based teacher and songwriter Marla Lewis has released a terrific new CD, We All Laugh in the Same Language, that incorporates solid production, a variety of bouncy musical styles and, above all, strong creative lyrics marinated with a honey-dipped voice reminiscent of Jessica Harper. Why is this album miles ahead of most first musical recording forays today? Read on!

Balancing performing with a teacher’s heart, Lewis initially earned a master’s degree in counseling and guidance then moved on to a second master’s in teaching English to speakers of other languages. Fifteen years of teaching and refining her craft with “kid-tested songs” has molded Lewis into a seasoned performer.

“As a teacher, many of my songs are influenced by my classroom experiences,” she says. “Often my students will make suggestions to improve a song in progress.”

My favorite song, one that brings tears, is “Best Friends” – a song that transcends time and age: If I’m a rainbow, then you’re the sun / Shining all my lovely colors on everyone / If I’m a paper, you’re the pen / You bring out the best in me, you’re my best friend.

Lewis is an artist worth learning more about. Add We All Laugh to your child’s CD collection.

We All Laugh in the Same Language, Marla Lewis, Plumjuice Records, 2005; $15 CD; 516-785-8456,

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