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Canadian Children’s Music Performer Fred Penner Reflects on Long Career

Fred Penner

This weekend, Detroit’s annual gathering of world music comes to Midtown. Acts from Detroit’s diverse landscape of artists, as well as musicians from around the globe, will perform during the Concert of Colors. One of those artists is iconic Canadian musician and kid’s TV show host Fred Penner. “Fred Penner’s Place” aired on CBC in Canada from 1985 to 1997 and aired stateside on Nickelodeon from 1989 to 1992.

For kids on both sides of the border, he was a mainstay alongside acts such as Raffi and Mr. Dressup and helped introduce audiences to outdoor adventures, vocabulary lessons, and folk music.

As a kid, WDET’s Travis Wright was an avid viewer of “Fred Penner’s Place.” Wright asked him who, if anyone, was Penner’s “Penner” when he was growing up?

They didn’t really exist. When I was growing up, there weren’t musicians who were specifically focused on families or children,” says Penner. “In the ‘70s when myself and Raffi and Sharon, Lois, and Bram came on the scene… It was a different concept. The whole post-war generation, the Boomers, really demanded that their children have something specifically geared for them.”

Many Michigan kids of the ‘80s and ‘90s have a special fondness for Penner. He says his approach to children’s programming was designed to create an individual connection with his audience.

When I was doing Fred Penner’s Place… the connection with that camera is as if I’m talking to one child. It’s not imagining that this is going to hundreds-of-thousands of homes. It’s always the one child,” he says. ”So when you look at the camera from that perspective, it just gives a whole different energy to it.”

To hear the full conversation, click on the audio player above.

Image credit: Fred Penner

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