In Memoriam: Patty Zeitlin

Throughout all the years I have composed and performed for young children, I have been fortunate to have been influenced and mentored by some brilliant songwriters. One of the most inspiring was my longtime friend, the author, playwright, songsmith, and early childhood icon, Patty Zeitlin.

The classic Educational Activities children’s albums that Patty recorded with Marcia Berman are considered by some to be the birth of music for kids and their families. Spin Spider Spin, I’m Not Small, Everybody Cries Sometimes, Won’t You Be My Friend, and Rainy Day Dances, Rainy Day Songs are pioneering works, alongside those of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Malvina Reynolds, and Hap Palmer records for young listeners.

Many of songs that most inspired me as a songwriter were written by Patty. I was honored she allowed me to record one of her masterpieces so many years ago for my album The Giggling Dragon. It was produced by another dear friend, Dennis Scott.

Spin Spider Spin
words and music by Patty Zeitlin 
© 1974 Patty Zeitlin, Bullfrog Ballades
performed by Dan Crow

As I walked out this morning, spin spider spin
Just as the day was dawning, spin spider spin
I saw a tiny spider a pretty web begin
I saw him swing from a silver string, spin spider spin

As I came home this evening, spin spider spin
Just as the day was leaving, spin spider spin
I saw a tiny spider and pretty web all done
I saw him swing from a silver string before the setting sun

He’s not the kind that bites you, spin spider spin
Just the kind that delights you, spin spider spin
A tiny harmless spider, the kind that catches flies
So let him swing from a silver string a pleasure to your eyes

We lost our friend, Patty, on March 17. My forty-some-year association with her is a huge part of my own career path. Her talent was at the zenith of songwriters I have known. Her melodies are pure magic, and her lyrics are compassionate, perceptive, and even mystical.

Patty Zeitlin was my collaborator, influencer, supporter, and dear friend.

Read the interview with Patty Zeitlin and Marcia Berman in the Spring 2000 issue of Pass It On!