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Album: Rockabye BabyReleased: 1872
Originally titled "Hush-a-bye Baby," this nursery rhyme was said to be the first poem written on American soil (according to 1904's Book Lover). There's no official record, however, that proves when the song was written. Some sources claim it was as early as the 1500s. It first appeared in print in Mother Goose's Melody in 1765 and contained a stern morality lesson in the footnote: "This may serve as a Warning to the Proud and Ambitious, who climb so high that they generally fall at last."
Several rumors exist about "Rock-a-bye Baby's" origin, none of which has been proven:
It was written by a pilgrim who sailed to America on the Mayflower. During this trip, the young passenger observed the way Native American women rocked their babies in birch-bark cradles suspended from the high branches of a tree, allowing the wind to rock the baby to sleep.
Effie Crockett, a relative of Davy Crockett, wrote the lyrics in 1872 while babysitting a restless child. (Indeed, Crockett - known as Effie I. Canning - has an IMDB filmography containing over 175 credits for the extensive use of "Rock-a-bye Baby" in film and television.)
It was inspired by an English family, the Kenyons, who lived in a vast tree house fashioned out of an ancient yew tree.
Author Gerald Massey ties the rhyme into Egyptian mythology in his book Ancient Egypt, claiming the baby is the god Horus.
Another legend finds the rhyme's origins steeped in the political climate prior to the Glorious Revolution of 1688. The baby refers to the heir born to England's King James II. Supposedly written in an English pub, the original lyrics served as a death wish upon the newborn prince in hopes the empire would be overthrown.
Even though this song is supposed to be a lullaby with a tender melody, many claim it's violent and abusive. It starts out sweet and innocent with the gentle "Rock-a-bye Baby," but quickly turns to disaster with when the bough breaks and down comes baby, cradle and all.
The title "Rock-a-bye Baby" was used for a 1958 comedy starring Jerry Lewis as a TV repairman who agrees to care for his movie star sweetheart's triplets.
If you're looking for a version of this song where the baby doesn't meet its doom, Candice Night recorded a more comforting rendition for her 2015 album Starlight Starbright
with her husband Ritchie Blackmore on guitar. Her lyric becomes:When that wind blows, there's nothing to fear
'Cause mommy and daddy will always be here
In our interview with Night
, she said, "If you are a parent or caregiver you have absolutely every right - more than that, it should be your duty really - to do whatever you can do to comfort your child and let them know everything is all right. Even if it isn't... We all shoulder burdens and hide truths from our children so that they can retain their innocence. And the most vulnerable time for a child is right before bedtime. Why would anyone want to scare them at that moment?"
The silent movie actress Clara Bow told a story in her autobiography of a young boy at school who burned to death after he got too close to a fire. While his mother went for help, the 10-year-old Bow held him in her arms, where he died. Years later, when she became a film star, Bow could make herself cry at will on a movie set by listening to the lullaby "Rockabye Baby." She claimed it reminded her of her small friend.