Where Do the Children Play?

While driving home the other night, we heard this song on Sirius XM radio’s The Bridge, a soft-rock stream. 

It’s another one of those childhood memories for me; the album, Tea for the Tillerman was regularly played in our home, though I don’t recall who introduced it in the family. Another Stevens song, “Morning Has Broken,” from his next record, Teaser and the Firecat, was also a popular piece. It was a traditional Christian hymn, so I imagine its origin may have been part of the appeal in our then-regularly-churchgoing family. 

As I listen to “Where Do the Children Play?” at my stage in life, I’m more keenly aware of what Stevens was writing about with the song. 

“Well you roll on roads over fresh green grass
For your lorry loads pumping petrol gas
And you make them long, and you make them tough
But they just go on and on, and it seems you can’t get off

Oh I know we’ve come a long way
We’re changing day to day
We’re changing day to day
But tell me, where do the children play?

Well you’ve cracked the sky, scrapers fill the air
Will you keep on building higher
‘Til there’s no more room up there?
Will you make us laugh, will you make us cry?
Will you tell us when to live, will you tell us when to die?”

(from “Where Do the Children Play,” by Yusuf / Cat Stevens)

Fifty years after the song’s release, the words still speak to car culture, addiction to technology and convenience, mass consumption, over-building and other symptoms of our society. As Stevens acknowledges, there’s progress and change, but it’s very, very slow and seemingly still sidelined by corporate greed as opposed to progress for the common good and the planet; thus, again leading to the question, “where do (or will) the children play?” 

At the same time, Stevens has infused a lot of optimism into the world with songs like “Peace Train.” These songs still have a role, instilling hope into our collective consciousness. (And “Peace Train” is one of those songs that gives me goosebumps and tingles up my spine.)

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy. 

Here’s the official audio from Yusuf / Cat Stevens’ YouTube channel. There are many live performances on his account, but I love the instrumentation on the 1970 studio version.

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