If music, somehow, wasn’t meant to be soothing, music therapy couldn’t really exist – but it does! The habit of singing lullabies has always been a great solution when it’s time to put babies to sleep, because the presence of an adult (and, even, more that of the baby’s mother) does actually help. However, according to a survey by the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, children that were hospitalised experienced a drop in heart rates, less anxiety and a reduction of perceived pain after they had lullabies sung to them.
Following the miraculous effect lullabies can have on kids, let’s see a list of the best options to sing to your child when it’s bedtime.
1. Hush, Little Baby
Is your little girl quiet? Is your little boy upset, while it’s pretty late at night? “Hush, Little Baby” is the perfect lullaby for you and your babies! This traditional melody from the American South promises all kinds of rewards to your children if they are quiet and you can count on it. Sing it with love and you can offer them and yourself a peaceful night sleep.
Fun fact: all the verses end up with the words “Mama’s gonna…”, except for the last one, which in some versions ends up with the words “Daddy loves you and so do I”.
2. Rock-a-bye Baby
This is probably one of the most famous lullabies, but it’s certainly the most significant nursery rhyme throughout the last centuries. “Rock-a-bye Baby” was first recorded in 1805 by Benjamin Tabart in London and it was published for the first time during the 18th century. Its melody is a variant of the English satirical march-ballad “Lilliburlero”.
Fun Fact: the word “Hush-a-bye” was replaced by “Rock-a-bye”, which made the song even more popular.
Even though “Kumbaya” is a spiritual/political/Civil Rights Movement song, it has been popular in the past as a folk song by Joan Baez (during the early 60’s), as well as a Christmas classic. It means “Come by here” and it has become through the years a famous campfire melody among children and scouts. Thus, it is one of the most beloved lullabies for your little ones.
Fun fact: you can listen to covers of the song in the animated films “Zootopia” and “Minions”.
4. Brahms’ Lullaby (Cradle Song)
Johannes Brahms composed this extremely popular lullaby in 1868 and it has been since the most recognizable melody among parents worldwide. Its original title is “Wiegenlied: Guten Abend, gute Nacht”, which means “Good evening, good night”. It was actually a gift from him to Bertha Faber, a composer’s lover, on the occasion of the birth of her second son.
Fun fact: the first person who performed the song was Clara Schumann (Vienna, 1869), Robert Schumann’s wife and a legendary pianist.
5. Frère Jacques
Yes, this is one of the most popular children’s songs in the world. But it is one of the most widely known French songs in the world, too. “Frère Jacques” (Brother Jacob) was probably a monk during the 17th century. What happened to him? Well, he overslept, he didn’t sound the bells for the service and, so, the lyrics ask him to wake up. It is traditionally sung as a round by three people, but you should sing it alone, so that your baby can sleep!
Fun fact: many people in China believe that this is a traditional Chinese song, because it is extremely assimilated into Chinese culture through the years.
6. Twinkle, twinkle, Little Star
A French melody (“Ah! vous dirai-je, Maman”) and some English words (from Jane’s Taylor poem “The Star”) created the famous lullaby “Twinkle, twinkle, Little Star” in 1806, which is still one of the most well-known melodies worldwide among children. The song is also known with different lyrics as “Baa, Baa Black Sheep” and as “Alphabet song”, so you don’t have to stick to the original one!
Fun fact: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart rearranged the music of the song, which is usually performed in the key of C Major.
7. Mozart’s Lullaby (Sleep, Little One)
“Sleep, Little One” is the most famous German lullaby (Wiegenlied) of all time. It was composed in the 18th century by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart… or maybe not! According to recent research, the composer of the melody is considered to be either Bernhard Flies or Johann Friedrich Anton Fleischmann, while the words are (definitely) written by Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter.
Fun fact: this is the second lullaby of the countdown (along with “Twinkle, twinkle, Little Star”) that is known as a Mozart song, even though both of them are composed by other musicians.
8. Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral (That’s an Irish Lullaby)
James Royce Shannon wrote “Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral (That’s an Irish Lullaby)” in 1913 and he also recorded the song the same year, using the voice of singer/actor Chauncey Olcott. It topped the music charts, but it wasn’t until 1945 that the lullaby became extremely popular, when Bing Crosby covered it in the film “Going My way”. The song sold more than a million copies and it is considered a classic nowadays.
Fun fact: Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Van Morrison and Rosemary Clooney have all recorded the song in the past or they have at least sampled its chorus.
9. All the Pretty Little Horses (Hush-a-bye)
This American lullaby is actually a special one, because it is written from the perspective of a caretaker singing a baby to sleep. Many authors believe that it was originally sung by an African American slave, who didn’t have time to take care of her children, because she was busy taking care of her master’s babies. The song inspired the title of the book “All the Pretty Horses” (Cormac McCarthy) and consequently that of the 2000 film of the same name by Billy Bob Thornton, starring Matt Damon and Penélope Cruz.
Fun fact: Olivia Newton-John, Nick Cave, Calexico and Joan Baez have recorded adaptations of the lullaby, thus contributing to the song’s popularity.
10. Golden Slumbers
Many people know the Beatles’ song “Golden Slumbers”, but just a few actually know the English lullaby of the same name. “Golden Slumbers” (the lullaby) is a wonderful song by English Elizabethan dramatist Thomas Dekker, which was written in 1603 and it is based on his poem “Cradle Song”. It is considered to be one of the most popular British cradle songs of all time.
Fun fact: Paul McCartney claimed he composed the Beatles’ song “Golden Slumbers”, without ever having listened to the lullaby.