Adventures in Rhythm Logo

For Immediate Release
January 4, 2011


Songs of GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Winner's Chicago Childhood Out February 2011 as part of Smithsonian Folkways’ African American Legacy Series and the Smithsonian-wide celebration of Black History Month

On February 22, 2011, the African American Legacy recording series, a joint production of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture and Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, will release 'A Life of Song' from musician and educator Ella Jenkins, known as "The First Lady of Children's Music."

On 'A Life of Song,' her 29th release for the label since 1957, Jenkins offers stories and songs that speak to her years growing up as an African American child in multicultural Chicago. Children from Chicago's Donoghue Elementary and Horace Greeley Elementary schools join her in call-and-response singing on well-known songs including "Pick a Bale of Cotton" and "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands," a world that in Jenkins' version includes Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Sacajawea, and John F. Kennedy. The album's 21 tracks also include songs from Ella's 1920s Chicago childhood such as "One Two Three O'Leary," which in this rendition is sung both in English and Spanish.

Jenkins also sings on her own and accompanied by Rita Ruby's guitar and vocals on affecting tracks including the spirituals "I Want to Be Ready" and "Sing Low, Sweet Chariot"; plays "Milk Cow Blues" on harmonica; and, accompanied by her own drumming, chants a litany of "Black Royalty," including Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole, Queen Latifah and empress of the blues Bessie Smith.

Ella Jenkins has received many awards over her long career, including a 2004 GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2005, “cELLAbration”, an album of Ella’s songs performed by Sweet Honey and The Rock, Riders In The Sky, Tom Paxton, Cathy & Marcy, Pete Seeger, Tom Chapin and others, won the 2005 GRAMMY for best children’s album. She was the first woman and first children’s musician to receive the ASCAP Foundation's Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999 and earned a 2009 United States Artists award. Her “Me Too Series” films were featured numerous times on "Sesame Street," and she appeared multiple times on "Barney and Friends" and "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.” Her 1966 album 'You'll Sing a Song and I'll Sing a Song' is the best-selling title in the history of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings and is part of the Library of Congress National Recording Registry.

Parenting magazine has said that Jenkins' "simple but irresistible songs, poems, and mini-language lessons... reflect the beauty of diverse cultures." 'A Life of Song' tells Ella Jenkins' musical story as entrancingly as she has told stories in song to children for half a century.

Track Listing for Ella Jenkins' 'A Life of Song':

1. Pick a Bale of Cotton
2. One Two Three O'Leary
3. Calling a Square Dance
4. Black Royalty
5. Little Sally Walker
6. Cotton-Eyed Joe
7. I Want to Be Ready
8. He's Got the Whole World in His Hands
9. Sing Low, Sweet Chariot
10. Rock My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham
11. Standing in the Need of Prayer
12. Amazing Grace
13. Somebody's Talking About Freedom
14. Sadie Complete
15. Uncle Flood and the Blues
16. Milk Cow Blues
17. Summertime
18. The Cuckoo
19. The Farmer in the Dell
20. This Is Your Year, Children
21. I'm On My Way to Canaan Land

For more information about the 2011 celebration of Black History Month by the Smithsonian Institution, please visit:

NOTE: Smithsonian Folkways Recordings retail distribution is through ADA (Alternative Distribution Alliance) at 800.239.3232. Smithsonian Folkways Recordings releases are available through record and book outlets. Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, as well as the original Folkways, Cook, Dyer-Bennet, Monitor, Paredon, Fast Folk, Collector, M.O.R.E., I.L.A.M. and A.R.C.E. collections, are available via mail order at 888.FOLKWAYS or 800.410.9815 and via the Internet. Visit the Smithsonian Folkways Recordings website at"

U.S. print media inquiries:
Nick Loss-Eaton ( and Chris Taillie (, Shore Fire Media, (PH) 718.522.7171

Radio & promotional inquiries:
Mark Gustafson, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, ( or (PH) 202.633.6457

Online Marketing inquiries:
David Horgan, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, ( or (PH) 202.633.6458

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U.S. print media inquiries: Matt Hanks, or Mark Satlof, Shore Fire Media,, or 718.522.7171.

Radio & Promotional inquiries: Mark Gustafson, Shore Fire Media, or 202.275.1156

Sales & Marketing inquiries: John Smith, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, or 206.568.8144