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Fred Penner comes back like the cat for Love and Records

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There is more to Winnipeg based children's musician  Fred Penner than his signature song “The Cat Came back.”
 Penner will  be playing CKXU's Love and Records, Sept. 12 in Galt Gardens at 5 p.m.

“ I’ve been performing or 43 years, so  I have a pretty solid base of songs to draw from,” said Penner, who started out as a folk singer and still performs a lot of  non-children's related shows.

“It’s pretty broad. I engage the audience,” he said, noting he has a vast repertoire of ’60s and ’70s folk  music he can perform.

“It’s not just about  observing the audience, it’s about engaging them,” he said.

 He is keynote song, the Cat Came Back is actually a n old folk song which has also evolved with Penner ever since he discovered the song in an old encyclopaedia of folk songs.
“Me and my brother in law were sitting around jamming and looking through this book in 1978. It was  a double volume and the page magically opened to ‘The Cat Came Back,’” he said.

Fred Penner plays Love and Records this year. photo Submitted“It’s actually an old folk song from 1892 from the Northeastern United States that was performed at chautauquas. It had this great chord progression, Em, D, C, B7, which is used in a lot of other songs like Hit the Road Jack— Hit the road cat- so the song has become a medley,”  he said adding  it had some pretty violent lyrics about a lot of bad things happening to the cat who persevered and survived in spite of them.

 He recorded the original for his debut album in 1979 and re recorded it for his Juno award winning new album “Where in The World,” in which the ever changing cat  turned into a world traveller.

“I wrote it so the cat didn't want to come home, so it had been to Pakistan, Afghanistan, all over the world. I’ll write different verses for it depending on what is happening in the world. Though I don't know if I’ll write a new one for Love and Records, though it is very possible,” he laughed.

He said his own travels as a musician  may have accidentally found  their way into the cat‘s journeys.

“That’s a great question. I hadn’t even thought of that, but it”s very possible,” he said.

Penner is pleased to have been a professional musician over the past 43 years.
But like a lot of things in the music business, timing is everything.

 “When I came up, Raffi, and Sharon, Lois and Bram had been playing for a few years and I came up and we became the big three. I grew up at a time when a lot of baby boomers,which I am,  were having children and demanding good children’s programming. There was Robert Munsch and Michael Lee and Sesame Street came out around that time too. It’s undergone some changes, but it’s still going,” said the 68-year-old proud father of four, who hadn’t originally planned to be a musician.
“Went to university and earned a BA in psychology and economics. Then in the mid ’70, my younger sister had Downs syndrome passed away and my father shortly after. I was being the dutiful son, but I realized economics wasn’t my bliss.  If it wasn't for music, I’d probably be dead, It’s such a part of my life experience,” he said, adding he had a job offer in economics when he  graduated.
“I’m glad I didn’t take it,” he said.
 He is excited about the next phase of his life.
“It appears I’ve become an elder. I’m 68-years-old now. People are seeing me as an elder, so I’m getting a lot of TV spots and non-children related web series,” he said adding he is honoured to  be asked to host the 2015 Polaris Prize Gala in Toronto later this year.
“It is encouraging to be given this opportunity because it is a whole celebration of  the generation of musicians who grew up listening to my music. So it is a very empowering thing,” he said. He is also being asked to work in special education and music therapy.
Fred Penner plays Love and Record in Galt Gardens, Sept 12 at 5 p.m.


 — By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor
Last Updated ( Tuesday, 08 September 2015 11:08 )  
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