Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star

Album: Nursery Rhymes (1806)
  • songfacts ®
  • The traditional song "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" was based on a poem called "The Star," written in 1806 by the English poet and novelist Jane Taylor, one of the lesser-known poets of the Romantic era. This poem was first published in a book called Rhymes for the Nursery, which was written and complied by Jane and her sister Ann Taylor. The poem was first published with the music in The Singing Master: First Class Tune Book in 1838. Jane Taylor is very rarely credited with the poetry of this song, which many assume to be a traditional.

    Although fairly literal, the lyrics of "The Star" contain the simile "like a diamond in the sky." This was possibly intended by the author to facilitate a child's development of imaginative association. With the widespread educational use of this song in the present day western world, this may be one of the first descriptive analogies children come across in their formative years, freeing many children's imaginations in relation to language for the first time.

    It has also been argued that "Twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you are," when played backwards, sounds like "I wish there was no Allah," and in this way the poem has led to widespread atheism among children. That's right, Led Zeppelin weren't the only ones accused of masking the words of the Devil.
  • The music that usually accompanies this poem is a French children's folk melody called "Ah vous dirai-je, Maman" (roughly translated as "Oh I say to you, Mum"), which appeared in France in 1761 in a book of music called Les Amusements d'une Heure et Demy, by the Parisian Mr. Bouin. Mozart was exposed to this song when he lived in France during his mid-twenties and popularized it by composing a set of theme-and-variations for piano based on this melody in 1781/1782 called "Twelve variations on "Ah vous dirai-je, Maman."
  • "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" shares its tune with two other nursery rhymes, namely "The Alphabet Song," and a variation of it in "Baa, baa, black sheep," as well as a variety of Christmas songs from various places in Europe including Germany, Hungary, Spain and The Netherlands. But "Twinkle, Twinkle" has also seeped into popular music culture throughout the years. It makes an appearance in the music of Louis Armstrong's "What A Wonderful World," where a large portion of the melody is quoted in his vocal line, transformed by the use of swing rhythms rather than the conventional straight-eights. In another adaptation, "Little Star" by The Elegants reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1958. In more recent music culture, DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince sampled this song in their Hip-Hop album Code Red (released in 1993) in a song called "Twinkle, Twinkle (I'm Not a Star)." The most famous Country interpretation of the song is probably "Someone Else's Star," recorded by Bryan White in 1995. Similarly, the song was also sampled in the American rapper Nicki Minaj's 2012 album Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, in the song "Starship."
  • Most of us know just the first verse to this song ("Up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky"), but like many children's classics, there's a lot more. The full song contains five verses, speaking to the wonder that is the shining star and how it lights the way for travelers.
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