Rockabye Baby

Album: Rockabye Baby (1872)

Songfacts®:

  • 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. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Patrick - Tallapoosa, GA
  • 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. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Annabelle - Eugene, OR
  • 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.

Comments: 8

  • Angie from TexasI always thought it was speaking, roughly of course, of childbirth and the baby being born.
  • Alvira from UsaListen to "Rockabye Baby" in defferent versions: http://lullabies-for-babies.com/lullabies/collections-of-lullabies/rock-a-bye-baby
  • Blake from TexasHey! Could you tell me who the publisher is please?
  • Emily from Around Chicago, IlI love this song...When the baby falls though, I like think it means into it's mother's arms. And even though it's probably not, I'm not ruining such a sweet melody with such vulgar lyrics. Too many songs have that now...
  • Richard from Newman Lake,, WaMoher would sit by the old pot bellied stove and rock us and softly sing through the hours of the night when one was sick. One song she sang was "Rockabye Baby" which had two verses and more to the chorus. I recorded her singing some 30 years ago and have copied the words as best I can hear them (bad recording). I don't know where she got the rest of the song but someone somewhere wrote a beautiful song.
  • Mgjghh from Hghfghfg, MtSure I may have loved this song when I was just
    a little boy, but when I grew old enough to actually unterstand the lyrics, they terrified me and made me wonder how any person could write such a song.
  • Annabelle from Eugene, OrI could never stand the lyrics to this song! Especially when sung by my Grandma Dorcas! Blaaaaaaand! She couldn't carry a tune! However, I love the melody and have written a few songs that are set to this tune. Very sweet and tender.
  • John from Millersville, MdI love this song. The dichotomy presented by the melody and lyrics presents a depth that many modern artists cannot achieve, yet this tune is perpetually contemporary. Furthermore, the influence hereof can clearly be seen in the work of such cultural phenomena as the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, Elvis, Bob Dylan, and transitively almost every group out there. The lone exception, of course, is the Mafia Waffle Rebellion, who are in no way linked to this song.
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