If you've been a kid, or had a kid, in the last four decades, you've almost certainly heard of Peter Combe. And heard Peter Combe - he's written and performed, to quote the title of one of his albums, Songs for Little Kids.
Hundreds of them.
Combe has celebrated the pleasures of Spaghetti Bolognaise and a Toffee Apple and suggested unusual ablutions in Wash Your Face With Orange Juice. In the last song - official title Mr Clicketty Cane - apparently bellyflopping in a pizza is a step too far for the recorded kids' chorus.
But not, apparently, for some of Combe's fans.
On a few separate occasions when he has performed the song, including a 21st birthday and a gig at the University of Melbourne, inspiration - or insanity - took hold and people did, indeed, bellyflop into pizzas.
But don't expect Combe to follow suit when he comes to Canberra for the first time since 2018.
"I wouldn't do it or recommend other people do it," he says.
What he will be doing is singing his greatest hits at the Canberra Theatre - including Mr Clicketty Cane.
"I have a three-generation audience - young kids today who enjoy the music, their parents who knew songs like Toffee Apple and Newspaper Mama in the 1980s and '90s...and the other audience is grandparents."
This concert is aimed at all of them, and he will be backed by the Fabulous Combettes, a locally selected and rehearsed children's chorus.
Combe says when writing songs for children, "There's no simple formula.
"I get ideas for songs and write them down so I don't forget and when I get myself into a songwriting phase I go back to the ideas that I've written down."
He tends to write groups of new songs together and says, "Inspiration can only come when you get down and do it."
While, as he says, there's no simple formula, it's not hard to find recurring ideas and techniques. Many of his songs are about phenomena of interest to young children such as Red Balloon and Rain, and he draws on familiar fairytales too, like Jack and the Beanstalk.
"Food finds its way into a lot of songs," he says.
"Probably it's because I love food myself - there are very few foods I don't like."
Among those few are canned beetroot and baked beans, so we probably won't get songs singing their praises.
In addition, he says, "A catchy chorus where you can sing along works well.
"Kids love silly voices and I love doing silly voices."
Most of his songs are timeless, though he says that with one of his hits, Newspaper Mama, "I almost need to write a digital version". That's not a criticism of the song itself: he points out "the hook for the song is quite wonderful" with its vaguely reggae sound and the song does have "a sense of history".
Combe, 72, was born in Adelaide and was a fan of folk-rock music including the Springfields. He worked as a primary school teacher and music teacher which gave him first-hand knowledge of what children liked and presented Music Time on the BBC and Let's Have Music on the ABC, music programs for kids.
While Combe might be "pigeonholed as a children's performer", as he says, his first album, Vagabond, was aimed at adults and he performed in the rock musical Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in Sydney.
Most of his work, though, has been aimed at children, including musicals and operettas on subjects ranging from Robin Hood to the Magic Pudding.
While acknowledging his major focus on material aimed at kids, Combe describes himself simply as a songwriter and points out that "Any good children's song has another level".
One of the songs that influenced him was American folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary's Puff the Magic Dragon.
"There's a children's level," he says, "and an adult level about the loss of childhood. It's a wonderfully crafted song."
He's also a fan of another American folk singer-songwriter, Tom Paxton, whose songs include The Marvelous Toy.
Combe says he is often recognised in public and is "absolutely happy about it". And why not? Combe's popularity has endured for decades and he's done very well out of it. He's won three ARIA Awards for best children's album, been recognised for his work with a Medal of the Order of Australia, and sold more than one million albums and DVDs.
And, he says, he still enjoys writing songs and touring. It sounds like there's a good chance this won't be the last Canberrans see - and hear - of him.
It's also a good bet we won't ever see him bellyflop into a pizza - not intentionally, anyway.
- Peter Combe's Greatest Hits Show is on at the Canberra Theatre on Saturday, April 10, 2021. canberratheatrecentre.com.au.
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