The best-known song in Kenny Loggins’ catalog may be “House at Pooh Corner,” which appeared on the album Kenny Loggins With Jim Messina Sittin’ In before the two were officially a duo. Based on the popular children’s book of the same name, this now-classic song that Loggins wrote as a teenager was actually first recorded by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band on their 1970 album Uncle Charlie & His Dog Teddy.
More than 20 years after those recordings, Loggins added a new verse to the song reflecting how his life had come full circle since those days, making it the title song of his all-star family album, Return to Pooh Corner.
In a 2014 interview in The Tennessean with Bart Herbison, the director of the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI), Loggins explained the story behind the success of a song that ordinarily may have been impossible to cut for legal reasons.
“Well, (I was) going on graduation in high school, and for some reason, I was thinking about that last chapter in The House at Pooh Corner. It was the first book I ever read. The last chapter is where Christopher Robin is leaving the Hundred Acre Wood, and he’s telling everybody goodbye. I felt like that was akin to what I was going through in high school. Some part of me knew that I was leaving my childhood behind. I didn’t really think it through like that. It just sort of came through.”
“I wrote this song about Winnie the Pooh, but I was 17, and I didn’t really have any awareness that I wasn’t allowed to write a song about Winnie the Pooh, and that there were people who owned that copyright. In those days, as a songwriter, you’d go around to different parties, much like what’s happening here in Nashville where you have writers in the round … At this one party that I went to, there were a couple of guys from a band called the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. They were an up-and-coming act, and they loved that song. They said, ‘We’re looking for songs for our album. We want to record that.’”
“I was really excited, and I’d never had a song recorded. About a month later, I got a phone call from John McEuen, who at the time seemed to be the leader of the Dirt Band. He says, ‘Kenny, I’m really sorry, but we won’t be able to record that song. We’ve been inundated with phone calls from Disney lawyers for the last few weeks, telling us that we’re not allowed to record a song about Winnie the Pooh.’”
“I was going on a date that night, and I mentioned to my girlfriend, ‘I’m kinda bummed tonight because I thought I had my first song recorded, and it’s not gonna happen. The Disney lawyers put the kibosh on it.’ She looked at me and says, ‘Disney lawyers? Let me talk to Daddy about that.’ I did not know that I was dating the daughter of the CEO of the Disney corporation.”
“Twenty-something years later, (I was) about to have my fourth child, and my first thought was, ‘Oh my God, I’m going back into the land of Barney (the Dinosaur) again. This is going to be like, ugh, somebody shoot me.’ I had been there three times before. But then I thought, ‘Why doesn’t somebody make an album for kids that parents could love as much as the kids?’ Because when kids get into music, they’ll play it a thousand times.”
“I started, and the first thing that struck me was, ‘Write a new verse to ‘House at Pooh Corner,’ because I wrote that as a kid, and now I have a completely different perspective on it as a dad. So I wrote a third verse, and my oldest boy named it ‘Return to Pooh Corner.’ And then he went on to be a songwriter, too.”
Loggins recorded “Return to Pooh Corner,” with the new verse, as a duet with Amy Grant, as part of the eponymous album that also featured family-friendly works from John Lennon, Paul Simon, Jimmy Webb and other major writers. The song has since been covered by other artists, including CCM artist Philip Sandifer for Disney’s Winnie the Pooh Lullabies.