Here’s Something: Charette’s legacy is more than music

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Congratulations to children’s singer-songwriter Rick Charette for his many years of attention and devotion to Maine children.

Charette, 71, who was born in Westbrook and lives in Windham, in September announced his semi-retirement from performing regularly, a career that began almost four decades ago.

Charette explained his stepping back from the performance circuit on his Facebook page saying, “I have decided that the time has come to turn the page and to embrace the next chapter in my life. I am retiring from school performances beginning this fall, but will continue to perform scheduled concerts with my Bubblegum Band through the end of this year. Beyond that, I will keep the option for band performances open.”

Charette will be truly missed. He has more than 4,800 likes on Facebook and the many posted comments responding to his semi-retirement announcement are touching.

Charette has performed in hundreds of schools, at L.L. Bean’s New Year’s Eve concerts and Portland’s annual Christmas tree lighting events. It’s sad to see him step back, but we knew the time would come eventually. Charette is obviously loved in Maine and beyond.

And Charette loves his audience as well, as he made clear in his semi-retirement announcement:

“When I reflect on the last 35 years of performing for you, your children, and grandchildren, I feel very blessed to have been able to share my songs with you. Honored really, that my songs have been part of so many people’s growing up years. It has been an amazing career and I cannot thank you enough for all the joy you have given me.”

As someone who finds it hard to relate to children, I most admire Charette for his ability to connect with kids. His fun-loving imagination is boundless, evidenced in the titles of his songs, which include “Five Hundred Tee Shirts,” “Four Bouncing Jelly Beans,” “Frogs in the Road” and “Fuzzy Fuzzy.” And those are titles just starting with the letter F. His music anthology is loaded with similar childlike fantasy and flights of imaginary fancy.

Charette has somehow retained his child-like innocence and wonder. That is a trait sorely lacking in today’s world.

He is to be honored not only for his ability to connect with the younger generation, but for his entrepreneurial spirit of identifying a need in the marketplace (a lack of child-focused music) and going about rectifying the situation.

Charette aimed to enter the music business early in life and quickly realized there was little music written and performed solely for children. He knew his own heart and abilities, and determined to carve his own niche in the music world. He did a pretty good job of it, selling 325,000 CDs along the way and making a successful living doing something he loved.

Charette has a big heart for kids and has used his position to help them. One example of this is the annual Christmas concert and toy drive for about the last quarter-century at Saint Joseph’s College in Standish. The concert was held again this past weekend and yielded “tons of toys,” according to Charette, for needy boys and girls in the Lakes Region.

Charette’s music is well known and revered, especially in Maine. Pretty much all kids around these parts know Charette’s “Alligator in the Elevator” and “I Love Mud.” These are children’s classics, and Maine kids – and their parents, who also grew up on the songs – are going to miss their creator.

When I was a reporter and editor for the Lakes Region Weekly and The Suburban News before that, I had the pleasure of interviewing Charette more than once. I found him to be focused on others, soft-spoken and kind-hearted. He has a youthful exuberance rare in today’s stuffy, jaded world. I left those interviews wishing I could be more like him. He was an inspiration to me as he has been to generations of Maine kids.

Sure, Charette has a natural gift for entertaining children, but his greater talent is showing children – and adults – how to be kind and gentle. Besides his fun, catchy lyrics and guitar rhythms, Charette will be remembered for being a great person and influence. In a culture where men too often feel uneasy being kind and gentle, Charette stands out as a true gentleman.

John Balentine, a former managing editor for Sun Media Group, lives in Windham.