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Bill Harley has been called "the Mark Twain of contemporary children's music," and the comparison is apt. Harley's songs and stories cut to the heart of everyday life with a broad appeal. Although he uses a wide range of genres in his music, from reggae to doo wop to country & western, it's his ability to turn a simple, heartfelt phrase in lyrics and stories that stick with you. Every one of his children's recordings has won some kind of national honor.
Harley grew up in the Midwest and Connecticut. Although his escapades in elementary school and junior high figure prominently in his storytelling, Harley was not a problem child. "I never spent much time in the principal's office, despite what people think. I behaved well enough that grownups left me alone, so I held the adult world at arm's length. I still do."
Harley graduated with honors in religion from Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. But it was social action that really interested him. Harley worked in a program to help children and parents deal with violence, and was active in a variety of other community service programs.
Harley started performing for children in 1980, mostly in the New England area. With his wife and manager, Debbie Block, Harley created his own label, Round River Records. In 1985, Round River released Monsters in the Bathroom, a collection of folk songs and stories with such titles as "Black Socks" and "What's the Matter With You?" The success of Monsters encouraged Harley to release Fifty Ways to Fool Your Mother in 1986, and Harley started appearing nationally in regional storytelling and folk festivals.
Round River's 1987 release Cool in School featured one of Harley's best stories, "Zanzibar." The story of a boy's procrastination on his fifth grade report, "Zanzibar" is reminiscent of Arlo Guthrie's "Alice's Restaurant" -- but better. Cool in School won a Parent's Choice Award, and solidly placed Harley among the Top Ten performers of children's entertainment.
Harley has always enjoyed collaborating with other artists, and it's this adventurousness that has added a great range of recordings to his credits. Harley worked with Peter Alsop in 1988, and the result was Peter and Bill in the Hospital, a reassuring group of songs for kids. In 1991, Harley recorded the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. songfest at his house, and the result was I'm Gonna Let It Shine. Featuring the talents of over 20 folksingers, I'm Gonna Let It Shine chronicled the songs of the civil rights movement in the '60s. The album was selected Entertainment Weekly's Best Recording of the Year.
In 1996, Harley again collaborated, this time on a stage musical for elementary age children. Lunchroom Tales: A Natural History of the Cafetorium featured several stories and songs, including "Morning Announcements," a hilarious send-up of the typical audio piped into classrooms. Harley followed the success of Lunchroom with a 1997 collection, There's a Pea on My Plate, filled with typically sensitive songs about losing at soccer and fear of vegetables. The Grammy-nominated Weezie and the Moon Pies (1998) became a parent's favorite. Ever prolific and versatile, Harley continued to release albums of songs and stories into the first decade of the new century, including Play It Again (1999), The Battle of the Mad Scientist (1999), Down in the Backpack (2001), Sandburg Out Loud (2002), The Town Around the Bend (2003), cELLAbration: A Tribute to Ella Jenkins (2004), The Teachers' Lounge (2004), One More Time (2005), Blah Blah Blah (2005), I Wanna Play (2007), Yes to Running! Bill Harley Live (2008), Rock & Roll Kids (2010), The Best Candy in the Whole World (2010) and High Dive and Other Things (2012).
Bill Harley is a children's entertainer and storyteller who has been called "the Mark Twain of contemporary children's music" by Entertainment Weekly. He uses a range of musical styles and appeals to children and adults with quirky, heart-filled lyrics. He received the Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album For Children (albums consisting of predominantly spoken word versus music or song) for his albums Blah Blah Blah: Stories About Clams, Swamp Monsters, Pirates & Dogs and Yes to Running! Bill Harley Live in 2007 and 2009, respectively. Harley's latest CD is High Dive was released 2012. In addition to children's music, he performs at storytelling festivals around the country including appearances at the National Storytelling Festival.
Harley has also published six books. These include: Sitting Down To Eat which was selected as an American Booksellers Association Pick of the list; Sarah's Story a Storytelling World Award Winner; and The Amazing Flight of Darius Frobisher his first novel for elementary students. He is currently working on another novel and has another picture book slated for publication. His second novel for children, Night of the Spadefoot Toads, was released in October 2008.
Harley has performed for more than 2500 schools and currently lives in Seekonk, Massachusetts.
Nominations 1999 Grammy Award Best Spoken Word Album For Children; Weezie And The Moon Pies2008 Grammy Award Best Musical Album for Children; I Wanna Play2010 Grammy Award Best Spoken Word Album For Children; The Best Candy In The Whole World
Awards 2001 National Storytelling Network's Circle of Excellence Award2006 Parents' Choice Gold Storytelling World Award; Joey, Chloe and the Swamp Monsters2007 Grammy Award Best Spoken Word Album For Children - Blah Blah Blah: Stories About Clams, Swamp Monsters, Pirates & Dogs2009 Grammy Award Best Spoken Word Album For Children - Yes to Running!2009 Green Earth Book Award Children's Fiction - Night of the Spadefoot Toads2010 Rhode Island Humanities Council Lifetime Achievement Award
Bibliography 1989: Peter Alsop & Bill Harley: In the Hospital1995: Nothing Happened1996: Sarah's Story1996: Sitting Down to Eat2001: Bear's All Night Party2006: Do It Together: A Collection of Favorite Songs2006: The Amazing Flight of Darius Frobisher2008: Dirty Joe the Pirate2008: Night of the Spadefoot Toads
Harley's "Rules of the Universe" and philosophy 
"Rules of the Universe" It's always harder to put something back together than it is to take it apart.If you spend all your time cleaning your desk, you'll just have a clean desk. That's not enough.Listen - you're missing something cool.All children should be given a ukelele when they're born.We're more alike than we are different.If you're older than two, and can't sing a song and tell a story, you're in trouble.Sometimes, a plate of spaghetti is the best thing in the world.
Philosophy ("Free advice, if you want it") 
"Everybody worries about things being 'educational' with kids. I believe everything is educational, in that it says something about how one looks at the world - it imparts a knowledge, or world-view. Children learn more from context than they do from explicit lessons, so assume they're working to understand something - they learn vocabulary and language not from a dictionary or worksheet, but from conversation, they learn songs not from reading music, but from singing with someone who loves to sing, and they learn hope and kindness and cooperation not from being told to have them, but by experiencing them."