Hush little baby, don’t you cry

NS February 21st, 2010

…mama’s gonna sing you a lullaby.

Or is she?

A recent survey found that although 40% of parents thought lullabies were great tools for teaching children words and music, only 12% knew the words. More and more, parents are singing pop and rock songs to their children, or TV theme tunes. And there’s nothing wrong with that, of course. When I sing The Noble Baby to sleep, I’m known to throw in some Carol King (‘Child of Mine’), Joni Mitchell (‘The Circle Game’ and ‘River’), Aerosmith (‘Dream On’) and even some Rolling Stones (‘Wild Horses’), among others.

But I have to say, I am a huge fan of traditional lullabies. I think they’re not only beautiful and comforting but an important part of our oral storytelling history. My mother sang or played them for me and my sisters all throughout our childhoods, as did her mother before her. I know the words to at least a dozen still popular in the US and have learned many more while here in England. I have been singing ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ to my daughter every night since she was a baby and as soon as I turn out the light and begin, she automatically settles down onto her pillow and nods sleepily while I half-whisper the words. My 17-month-old son, always on my hip at bedtime, imitates her and rests his head on my shoulder. He’s learning quickly that lullaby time means sleep time.

What I didn’t know, however, is that there are three more verses to ‘Twinkle Twinkle’! And did you know that Little Bo Peep has five? Already we have lost big parts of these songs and what little remains is fading fast, which makes me quite sad. That’s why when I heard about this fantastic campaign to Save The Lullaby, I was immediately interested. And when I discovered that Sophie Barker (who has sung for Zero 7, one of my favourite bands and whose song ‘In The Waiting Line’ I listened to constantly when pregnant with TNC) was behind the campaign and has released a new CD with producer KK (who has worked with Brian Eno and Bjork), I went from interested to excited.

I listened to a couple clips from their new CD, entitled ‘Lullaby’, and was mesmerized, as were my children. TNC curled up in my lap and sat in silence for a good ten minutes, which is unheard of. The CD* has been in my player all morning, on repeat, and I’ve not grown tired of it at all. It also comes with a beautifully illustrated hardcover booklet with lyrics to all the songs so you can sing along.

You can also see Sophie and KK on BBC News talking about the project and playing another piece live.

“The album, ‘Lullaby’, makes a stand for our forgotten bedtime tunes,” says Sophie, “ it reminds parents of the magic and soothing quality of our traditional lullabies – we’ve even included a sing-a-long lyric book for those who are more likely to know the Friends theme tune than Frere Jacques.”

The full song list includes:

1. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

2. Somewhere Over The Rainbow

3. Ride a Cock Horse

4. Lavender’s Blue

5. Frere Jacques

6. There was a Crooked Man

7. Sing a Song of Sixpence

8. Little Bo Peep

9. Baa Baa Black Sheep

10. Little Miss Muffet

11. Brahms Lullaby

12. Oranges And Lemons

13. Hush Little Baby

14. Rock a Bye Baby

15. Dream a Little Dream

16. The Owl and the Pussycat

17. Row Your Boat

18. Silent Night

If any of you are interested and depending on the response shown here, there may be an opportunity for me to interview Sophie (squeeee!) so if you have any questions you’d like me to ask her about the CD, put them in comments or you can email them to me at noblesavage @ noblesavage(dot)me(dot)uk.

‘Lullaby’ can be bought from Sophie’s site or the usual suspects like Amazon and Play.

*Full disclosure — it was sent to me by the album’s PR company, though I fell in love with it immediately so would have bought it regardless!

Photo credit

19 Responses to “Hush little baby, don’t you cry”

  1. Heather says:

    huh, i didn’t know there were more verses to those songs, loved those clips, what a great voice!

    NS Reply:

    @Heather How weird…I didn’t get an email notification about any of these comments. I thought no one had commented until I looked at my site and saw them. Strange. Anyway, yes, she has a great voice doesn’t she? I love it.

  2. That’s a great album – I’ve always sung to my girls, I borrowed an idea from a friend’s Mum who had got personalised songs for her children and have done the same for mine plus the usual suspects

    Off to have a look at these now !

    NS Reply:

    @Muddling Along Mummy, Do you mean she recorded songs personalised for her children or someone else did? Either way, good idea!

    Muddling Along Mummy Reply:

    @NS, No recording, she just sang personalised songs to her babies

    I’ve added in verses to common lullabies for my two… which I hope they like (although sing less to Babygirl than I should – must improve on that)

  3. Capital Mom says:

    I love lullabies, probably because they are some of the few songs whose words I can remember.
    I know a lot of the British lullabies. I don’t think I know any Canadian ones. Hmm, maybe I will have to invest some. Unless Joni counts.
    Here’s a question – what song is most requested by kids to sing when they are performing.

    NS Reply:

    @Capital Mom, Joni totally counts! ;) Hmm, not sure what song most requested by kids. What is it?

    Capital Mom Reply:

    Sorry! That is a question for yor interview.:-)

  4. monkey girl says:

    NS – you sold it to me. My copy is arriving tomorrow. Are you on commission?!

    NS Reply:

    @monkey girl, Ha! I wish! I just get joy in sharing some good music.

  5. [...] When I had my first baby I bought Lullaby by Sophie Barker and listening to the opening bars of the record still takes me back to the first months of Motherhood. I was reminded of it when reading about the campaign to Save the Lullaby on Noble Savage. [...]

  6. I recently bought a toddler CD from a bookstore and discovered that Mary Had a Little Lamb has several verses as well!

    NS Reply:

    @Jessica – This is Worthwhile, I think I know three verses of Mary Had a Little Lamb but I’ll have to see if there’s more I didn’t know!

  7. andrea says:

    so does this mean i should stop making up my own verses to songs i sing to your kids? (ex. “old mcthirsty had a drink, gulp gulp gulp gulp gulp. and in that drink there was some vodka…” ) probably, eh?

    what a nice find!

    NS Reply:

    @andrea, Old McThirsty is a classic. You should really record that and sell it. ;)

  8. Iota says:

    I agree. I’m sad that some of these lullabies are dying out. I know my sons’ playgroup in Scotland complained that when they had song-time, they had to teach a lot of the children even the old favourites, which they thought every child would know.

    They do contain so much history in them, as you say. It’s also fun to see how they vary between countries, eg ring a-ring a-roses, becomes ring around the rosy.

  9. mothership says:

    I think this cd (or certainly bit of it) has been around for a bit – I was given a few children’s songs by her from when Five was a baby. There are actually plenty of traditional lullaby CD’s knocking around, particularly in the UK (less so in the US) but parents do seem to sing less to their children, preferring to play recorded popular music to them. And having them watch dvd’s of classic fairy tales (please allow me to vomit, Walt Disney) instead of reading them.
    Buy a book of Mother Goose, throw that damn DVD of Winne-the-Walt-Pooh out and remember that nothing is as precious for a child than its mother’s voice singing it to sleep. And you don’t need technology for that.

  10. A Free Man says:

    I’m of two minds. I sing modern songs – or made up ones – to the boys, because those are the ones I can bear to hear over and over for thousands of nights. But there’s something to be said for the cultural value of traditional lullabies. Good post, NS.

  11. Luschka says:

    I wonder if that’s why councils have such a drive to promote ‘music groups’ and ‘nursery rhyme time’ in libaries and 1 o’clock clubs now? I love singing nursery rhymes to my daughter. I think it makes her calmer too!