Lullaby Songs

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According to dictionary.com, a lullaby is “a song used to lull a child to sleep.” I am especially interested in lullabies, now that I have become a brand new grandfather – a new generation has begun in my family, thanks to my wonderful daughter and son-in-law, and their beautiful son, born just last week!

This occasion has caused me to reflect on the lullaby as a music form.

Lullabies have been around for centuries. The famous Rock-a-bye Baby was first printed in the book Mother Goose’s Melody – the exact date is unknown, but is believed to be around 1765. As a lullaby, the lyrics are pretty harsh – “…when the bough breaks, the cradle will fall, and down will come baby, cradle and all.” There actually are 3 verses to the song – the other 2 are not nearly as scary:

“Baby is drowsing, cosy and fair, Mother sits near in her rocking chair, Forward and back, the cradle she swings, Though baby sleeps, he hears what she sings.
Rock-a-bye baby, do not you fear, Never mind, baby, mother is near, Wee little fingers, eyes are shut tight, Now sound asleep – until morning light.”

Many classical music composers wrote lullabies. The most famous is Brahms’ Good Evening, Good Night. Trust me – you know this one. The lyrics to the first verse are from a collection of German folk poems, and the second stanza was written by Georg Scherer in 1849. It has been sung by Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Jewel, Hayley Westernra – and most every mother in the world.

I can think of several lullabies in modern popular music. The Beatles’ song Good Night from 1968’s The Beatles (aka The White Album) is a classic, written by John Lennon as a lullaby to his 5 year old son Julian. Billy Joel’s Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel), released in 1993 on the album River of Dreams, was released as a single, making it to #77 on the Billboard Hot 100 and to #18 on the Adult Contemporary chart. It was written for Alexa Ray Joel, his daughter with Christie Brinkley.

The highest charting song in the U.S. with the title Lullabye was the Shawn Mullins song released in 1998. It’s his most successful song to date, reaching #7 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the Adult Top 40 chart. But…if you want to put your baby to sleep, I’m not sure it is soothing enough.

I’ll give you a couple of YouTube videos. First, here is Brahms’ Good Evening, Good Night, as performed by pianist Kathryn Scott and celloist Yo-Yo Ma.

And second, here is Billy Joel’s Lullabye (Goodnight My Angel). A beautiful song!

 

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