Marion students laugh and learn with Grammy-winning performer

Jan 14, 2023

MARION — Performer Bill Harley told students at Sippican School in Marion something that they already know: “grownups are strange, that’s a fact.”

Harley, a two-time Grammy-winning children’s musician, author and storyteller, was met with laughter and clapping from the assembled children as he went on with his song that explained “grown ups are weird, yes that’s true, someday that’s gonna happen to you.”

Harley’s 40-year career has taken him to “over 3000 schools” in 49 states, New Zealand, India, Japan and Mexico. But on Thursday, Jan. 12 he gave two performances in Marion, around 40 miles away from his home in Seekonk. 

“For the past few years I've been hardly anywhere because of that dumb disease,” said Harley to his audience. “So every time I get out and get to see you guys I feel so happy.”

His songs put silly spins on everyday life. He sang about a homework assignment that ate a family dog, a twist on the classic “my dog ate my homework” excuse, and he led an interactive activity where kids clapped along to a song. 

Even the teachers in the audience joined in. 

Faces lit up as he told the story of “Dirty Joe the Pirate,” about a pirate who sails the seven seas plundering dirty socks from unsuspecting vessels. 

Some students watching the performance mouthed the words of the story, while others looked on in excitement as Harley spoke the words they had only ever seen in a book. 

Harley explained that “Dirty Joe the Pirate” is written and spoken in the same meter as the 1907 poem “The Cremation of Sam McGee,” by the poet Robert W. Service. 

“When I was in fifth grade I memorized that poem,” explained Harley. “So now I have a rule for myself, which is any day I don't do a show, I have to write for one hour a day, whether it's a song or a story or book.”

The story “Dirty Joe the Pirate” was a result of that practice, he said. 

Harley left the Sippican School students with one piece of advice: “take care of yourselves and be kind to each other.”