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Dan Zanes is back - Brooklyn Paper

Dan Zanes is back

“I’m grateful for my family and friends. I know that many of us will singing together this Thanksgiving. I’m grateful that within a mile of my house there are families with roots in China, Senegal, India, Colombia, Ireland, Trinidad, Israel, Yemen, Mexico, and even New Hampshire. I’m grateful that I live in a city that has a park with a drummer’s grove. I’m grateful that almost everywhere in the world when people gather to sing and dance there is food. I’m grateful for all of life’s musical possibilities in the coming year — and sweet potato pie.”
Dan Zanes, musician
Photo by Mindy Tucker

Believe it or not, Dan Zanes still questions whether he can sing.

Even after five albums with the 1980s pop band The Del Fuegos and eight as a children’s musician — one of which garnered him a Grammy — those doubts still nag the Fort Greene-based kiddie rock star.

“We all have the voices in our heads that say we’re not that musical,” said Zanes, who, by the way, sings with a warm, lazy growl. “I just don’t let it stop me anymore. I want to set a good example for my daughter. I don’t want to be hiding in the corner, not throwing myself into things. I’d rather set an example of someone who can step through inhibitions and participate in life.”

With his baby girl now 16, Zanes admits those days of setting an example might be over, but he still has tons of other kids to inspire.

Since releasing “Rocket Ship Beach” 10 years ago, Zanes has skyrocketed to the top of the kiddie music scene, packing outdoor concerts with strollers, enjoying an almost constant rotation on channels like the Disney Channel and Noggin, and getting some of the best in the business (Aimee Mann, Lou Reed, Matthew Broderick) to sing on his albums.

Zanes has found more success as a children’s musician than a garage rocker, more often playing schools than stadiums, and while that prospect may rattle some, Zanes is just genuinely grateful to still be making music.

“Music saved my life for sure. That’s what gave me focus and a creative outlet, and a reason to get up every day,” said Zanes, who’s now known as much for his wild, unkempt gray hair as his kid- and parent-friendly rock. “I’ve been very, very lucky to then be able to have not one but two careers in music. It’s practically unheard of.”

And after 10 years on the kiddie throne, he’s still able to channel his inner four-year-old.

“I have so much in common with young people, so it really isn’t much of a problem to find things to sing about that have emotional meaning for me, as well as a 4-year-old,” said Zanes. “When I’m writing, I think about things like friendship, my neighbors, Brooklyn, people, the weather. There aren’t any songs about learning how to eat with a fork, but there aren’t any songs about drinking and old girlfriends, either. Somewhere in the middle is where I live.”

That place includes dancing, a sense of mystery and — this is key — a party. And the rocker will certainly bring it when he plays this Nov. 28 at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, where he’ll be joined by Father Goose, a Jamaican emcee who’s been with him from the beginning, and the BAM/Restoration DanceAfrica Ensemble.

“It’s been 10 years since our first CD came out, so we’re celebrating 10 years of handmade all-ages music,” said Zanes.

Dan Zanes at the Music Hall of Williamsburg [66 N. Sixth St. between Kent and Wythe avenues in Williamsburg, (718) 486-5400], Nov. 28 at 3 pm. Tickets $25. For info, visit www.danzanes.com.

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