Sing Books with Emily, the Blog

Hush Little Baby (A Singable Book, Lyrics, Song History, etc!)

Posted on: December 9, 2009

Most people know the folk song and lullaby ”Hush Little Baby.”

There are many illustrations of “Hush, Little Baby.”  The first section gives a bit of extra information on a few of my favorites.  But all of them are lovely.

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Hush, Little Baby
Traditional Words and Tune
Illustrated by Brian Pinkney

5/8/2016
I just recently worked with Paul Raiman (of http://www.myrehearsalpianist.com/) to create an instrumental arrangement for singing this song to kids in their classrooms.  I absolutely LOVE it!  This is a song almost everyone knows, maybe even without even knowing they know it.  But Brian Pinkney has created an inventive and delightful set of pictures for the song and he has thrown in a few surprises, too.  Mr. Raiman did a fantastic job communicating those surprises in the accompaniment.  I’ll look forward to singing this one every time.

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Hush, Little Baby
Traditional Word and Tune
Illustrated by Marla Frazee

As you sing the song, you can enjoy the book’s story in pictures of a little girl who jealously wakes her sleeping baby sibling and incurs the wrath of the baby’s cries and the family’s attempts to quench the storm with gifts from the travelling junk man.

Marla Frazee’s illustration uses “Papa,” but you can sing “Hush Little Baby” with “Mama” or “Papa.”

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Another nice rendition of the song has lyric adaptations and illustrations by Sylvia Long.

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Hush Little Baby
Words adapted by Sylvia Long
Traditional tune
Illustrated by Sylvia Long

At a “Sing Books with Emily” gathering, one of the moms told me about this version of “Hush Little Baby.”  This is a special rendering of the song because everything Mama gives Baby are magical non-material moments between a mother and her child. For example, “Hush little baby, don’t say a word, Mama’s going to show you a hummingbird.”  I can think of many special moments like that with my parents, gifts that last longer than any toy.

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HUSH LITTLE BABY
Traditional Words and Tune

Hush little baby don’t say a word
Mama’s gonna buy you a mockingbird
And if that mockingbird won’t sing
Mama’s gonna buy you a diamond ring
And if that diamond ring turns brass
Mama’s gonna buy you a looking glass
And if that looking glass gets broke
Mama’s gonna buy you a billy goat
And if that billy goat won’t pull
Mama’s gonna buy you a cart and bull
And if that cart and bull turn over
Mama’s going to buy you a dog named Rover
And if that dog named Rover won’t bark
Mama’s going to buy you a horse and cart
And if that horse and cart fall down
You’ll still be the sweetest little baby in town

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The book “Jim along Josie” collected and compiled by Nancy and John Langstaff, has these lyrics for “The Mockingbird Song (Hush up, Baby)” and sites that “The Mocking Bird” is “From ‘English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians,'”

Hush up, baby, don’t say a word
Papa’s gonna buy you a mockingbird.
If it can’t whistle, and it can’t sing,
Papa’s gonna buy you a diamond ring.
If that diamond turns brass,
Papa’s gonna buy you a looking glass.
If that looking glass gets broke,
Papa’s gonna buy you a Billy goat.
If that Billy goat runs away,
Papa’s gonna buy you another day.

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The book “I Hear America Singing,”  collected and arranged by Kathleen Krull, calls the song “The Mockingbird Song or, Hush, Little Baby”  The citation is for “Appalachia/Alabama” and also says “Popular in the South in Pioneer days, this descends from an old English nursery rhyme.”

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Peter Yarrow, in his note about “Hush, Little Baby” in his book of SLEEPYTIME SONGS suggests that the appeal of this song is the deep sense of comfort in knowing that no matter what happens, no matter what goes wrong, the child will be loved and cared for.

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I read in a number of places online, that one indication that the song lyrics are American, is that Mockingbirds are native to the American Continent.  The author, composer, and origin of this song are unknown.

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Lyrics to traditional songs evolve vastly over time, as suits the people in the times that they sing them.  If you are not singing along with the book, it is perfectly valid to make up your own lyrics and rhymes to the tune and sing those to your children.  Your children will know them and sing those words to their children.  And on it goes…  It is a sweet and gentle way to send something of yourself into the future.

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“Hush Little Baby” is easily sung a capella.  But, if you would like to sing along with music, most music download sites have a number of good options.

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A nice instrumental track is found on “Lullaby Magic” by Joanie Bartles:
http://www.amazon.com/Hush-Little-Baby-Instrumental/dp/B001N0P146/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=dmusic&qid=1294771868&sr=8-1-spell
She has two tracks for each song, one with her singing and the other instrumental, including “Hush Little Baby.”  The melody line is played out on the instrumental track, making it easy for anybody to sing along.  I like the “Hush Little Baby” from this one because it is not too slow or sappy, although a tad “idealized.”  Sweetness is fine, but this song can be more fun if it is a little sassy.

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My favorite vocal versions are from the King’s Singer’s album NEW DAY and from the album HUSH by Bobby McFerrin and YoYo Ma


Preview Yo-Yo and Bobby McFerrin’s “Hush,” here:
http://www.amazon.com/Hush-Little-Baby-Vocal/dp/B0036YI270/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&s=dmusic&qid=1294770513&sr=1-8

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Preview the King’s Singers, “Hush,” here:
http://www.amazon.com/Hush-little-baby-dont-word/dp/B000TD98PG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=dmusic&qid=1294770552&sr=1-1

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Nina Simone’s version of “Hush Little Baby” (recorded at Carnegie Hall in May of 1963) from her album “Folksy Nina” is hauntingly beautiful.  She combines “Hush Little Baby” with “Mighty Lak a Rose.”  Although the medley makes singing with the book difficult, her interpretation is enlightening.


Click here to preview:
http://www.amazon.com/Hush-Little-Baby-LP-Version/dp/B0012449BE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=dmusic&qid=1294770409&sr=8-1

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The Scholastic Vidoe Collection’s video features a video of Aliki Brandenburg’s illustration of “Hush Little Baby,” with lovely female vocals.

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Swimmy…and more classic Leo Lionni stories,

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Singable Picture Book illustrations of the song include:

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Hush, Little Baby
Traditional Words and Tune
Illustrated by Aliki Brandenburg

An activity, educational worksheet to go with Aliki Brandenburg’s Scholastic/Weston Woods Video, here:
http://www.nhptv.org/kn/itv/guides/songMusic_hush_little_baby.pdf

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Hush, Little Baby

Traditional Words and Tune
Illustrated by Jeanette Winter

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Illustrated Singable Picture Book adaptations of the song include:

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Hush, Little Dragon
Traditional Words and Tune (Sing to the tune of “Hush Little Baby”)
Words Adapted by Boni Ashburn
Illustrated by Kelly Murphy

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Hush, Little Puppy
Traditional Words and Tune (Sing to the tune of “Hush Little Baby”)
Words Adapted by April Pulley Sayre
Illustrated by Susan Winter

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Hush, Little Horsie
Traditional Tune (Sing to the tune of, “Hush Little Baby“)
Words by Jane Yolen
Illustrated by Ruth Sanderson

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Hush Little Polar Bear
Traditional Words and Tune (Sing to the tune of “Hush Little Baby”)
Words Adapted by Jeff Mack
Illustrated by Jeff Mack

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Hush, Baby Ghostling
Traditional Words and Tune (Sing to the tune of “Hush Little Baby”)
Words Adapted by Andrea Beaty and Pascal Lemaitre
Illustrated by Pascal Lemaitre

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Hush, Little Alien
Traditional Words and Tune (Sing to the tune of “Hush Little Baby”)
Words Adapted by Daniel Kirk
Illustrate dby Daniel Kirk

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Hush Little Digger
Traditional Words and Tune (Sing to the tune of “Hush Little Baby”)
Words Adapted by Ellen Olson-Brown
Illustrated by Lee White

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Mockingbird
Traditional Words and Tune (Sing to the tune of “Hush Little Baby”)
Words Adapted by Allan Ahlberg
Illustrated by Paul Howard

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HUSH LITTLE BABY is featured in many collections of children’s poetry and lullaby, including:

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“Hush Little Baby” is illustrated by Maurice Sendak with musical arrangement and printed music by Alec Wilder in,
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Lullabies and Night Songs
Words by Various Artists
Music and Arrangements by Alec Wilder
Pictures by Maurice Sendak
Edited by William Engvick
LOC Catalog Card Number: 65-22880

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HUSH LITTLE BABY is featured in:

Sleepytime Songs

Compiled by Peter Yarrow
Illustrated by Terry Widener
Collection of lullabies, illustrated from the:
The Peter Yarrow Songbook Series

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talking like the rain, kennedy, dyer
Talking Like the Rain (a First Book of Poems)
Words and Tunes by Various Artists
Selected by X. J. Kennedy and Dorothy M. Kennedy
Illustrated by Jane Dyer

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hush little baby (from talking like the rain) - Copy
Hush, Little Baby
Illustrated by Jane Dyer
From Talking Like the Rain (a First Book of Poems)

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A YouTube video with beautiful vocal by Anne Murray from the movie “The Rescuers,”

www.youtube.com/watch?v=lG-PpAZV35A

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I have always loved James Taylor and Carly Simon.  Here they are together singing their own “Mockingbird” song:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=kGfvg4SH_4M

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Here are Yo-Yo and Bobby with an amazing rendition of “Hush Little Baby”

www.youtube.com/watch?v=GczSTQ2nv94

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For the REAL Mocking bird song, listen up:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNNX3f3_svo

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Related Posts

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PETER YARROW SONGBOOK SERIES

A list of the Singable Picture Books from the Peter Yarrow Songbook series:
https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2009/11/30/the-case-for-singing-with-children-from-peter-yarrow/

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SLEEPYTIME SONGS
A Singable Picture Book in the Peter Yarrow Songbook Series
https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2014/01/31/sleepytime-songs-the-peter-yarrow-songbook-a-singable-picture-book/

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ILLUSTRATED COLLECTIONS OF CHILDREN’S SONGS WITH MUSIC
https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2012/08/15/illustrated-collections-of-childrens-songs-with-music/

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HUSH LITTLE BABY IN SINGABLE PICTURE BOOKS
https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2009/12/09/hush-little-baby-a-singable-book-lyrics-song-history-etc/

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LULLABIES IN SINGLE SONG SINGABLE PICTURE BOOKS
https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2014/03/20/illustrated-lullabies-in-single-singable-picture-books/

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LULLABIES: ILLUSTRATED LULLABIES IN COMPILATIONS
https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2014/03/21/illustrated-lullabies-in-compilations/

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