Lady Lullaby Links

Lady Lullaby Blog

Lullabies for babies, grown-ups and everyone in between!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Passing on Traditions to The Next Generation

Last week was the end of the Jewish High Holidays. I took part in them as cantorial soloist for our small community here in Iowa. As I was looking up songs for the various holidays I realized that, along with wanting to learn new songs, the ones I loved best were the ones I’d learned as a child. They reminded me of my parents, of my grandparents, of tradition.

“Bim Bom, Biri Biri Bom.” Who can resist words like that? My three year old granddaughter already knew that song when I sang it to her, and we were both delighted to sing it together. It doesn’t have any religious connotation but pure joy and thanks for the gift of life---and the gift of music to express that thanks. She’ll always know this song and know it’s a special part of her tradition.

Any minute now Christmas music will be coming at us from all corners. As annoying as it is sometimes, there is something about it that really does bring comfort and joy, and a rhythm to the year. In certain settings it is a beautiful and holy experience; in the mall it’s a part of the season that is special and different from the rest of the year.

When my South African friend, who has lived in the United States for many years, hears traditional African music, she melts. I tried to sing her an African lullaby and she patiently and proudly corrected my pronunciation---this is HER music, her country, and she knows it like she knows herself.

The author of a website called “Latest Christian News” wrote, “When a mother’s soft lullaby can make a kid fall into a quiet slumber, a superbly sung chorus can make the inner self of the kid open up in direction of spirituality.” Music opens something up inside all of us on the level of the heart and soul, and the music of our ancestors is already inside us, a part of that process.

Whatever your religious tradition and cultural background is, there is a wealth of music from that tradition that is more important to you than you probably realize. Pass it on—sing it, play it, share it with your children so that in time they can pass it on to theirs.

Sweet dreams,

Listen to "Biri Biri Bam":
Friday, October 7, 2011

Music In The Air

Music is in the air, if we stop to hear it. And in the street, and the cornfield. Listen to it, and then point it out to your children. I was just in downtown Chicago for a few days, downtown by the river, and the sounds of that great city are the symphony of modern civilization.

Sirens, of course---a fire truck, police car, and an ambulance each has its own musical pitch and rhythm. Honking, as annoying as it can be, is music. Notice the rhythm of trains on the tracks, and how they sound different far away and up close. Buses have a different rumbling sound than cars... If you can find the music in construction it becomes more tolerable—drilling, hammering, hollering.

Now back at home in Iowa, there are different pieces being played: birds, crickets, geese overhead, the wind, and being a small town, the whistle of the train night and day. In the suburbs there will be different sounds—lawnmowers, cars and motor cycles, kids playing outside. Then there’s the song of the ocean---waves, gulls, wind--like in the picture above of Cape Cod.

There is a wonderful book called “The Listening Book” by W. A. Mathieu. He describes the day when he discovered that there was more in the air than he’d ever heard before. “I remember the amazement in realizing--the more you listen, the more you hear . . . the delight in registering sounds that have always been present but that I’d never heard. The ecstasy of knowing this is a life-long experience, infinitely expandable, basically musical.”

Here is someone’s take on the musical sounds of New York City:

Enjoy the music of life that is all around, and teach your children to hear it too.

Sweet dreams,
Friday, September 16, 2011

Nora and the Minor Third

There is a really cute three year old sitting in the row in back of me on the plane. She is singing enthusiastically. Surprisingly (since I was up way too late) I’m not minding at all, in fact I’m enjoying it, and I can’t help but notice that a lot of her spontaneous song uses a very special set of notes: the minor third.

The interval of a minor third is made up of two notes that are three half-steps apart (if you’re looking at a piano). We all know and have sung those notes---they are notes of the universal “Na, na, na, na, na” taunt. And “Starlight, Starbright,” “Brahm’s Lullaby,” and millions of songs in every culture. It’s even the opening of “Hey Jude.”

Zoltan Kodaly was a composer and important music educator, and he started teaching music to young children with the notes of the minor third.

Why do we love these particular notes? Researchers have found that babies can hear sound from inside the mother’s womb, and that they actually prefer certain intervals, including the minor third. I just sang this interval to my 14 week-old grandson and I swear he sang it back to me. OK, now I’m curious.

But after searching in vain for a real scientific explanation—even Wikipedia let me down—for now, I have come to my own unscientific conclusion that these notes somehow resonate with our own human frequency. Physics tells us that everything is made of vibration and frequency, and these set of notes must be “tuned” to our own nervous systems and have a good soothing effect.

I’ll keep trying to find a better answer for why we love these notes so much, but whatever the reason, if the minor third is good enough for unborn babies, for children’s songs from all over the world, for the Beatles, and for Nora, it’s good enough for me.

Listen to these opening notes, and see what other songs you can think of that start like this:

Sweet dreams,
Friday, September 9, 2011

Review of "Midnight Lullaby" and interview from Grandbabies 101

Here is a nice new review of "Midnight Lullaby" and interview from Grandbabies 101:

"A lullaby is a soothing song, usually sung to young children before they go to sleep, with the intention of speeding that process," so states Wikipedia! The Oxford Dictionary also says, "a quiet, gentle song sung to send a child to sleep."

"Origin: mid 16th century from: LULL + bye-bye"

After listening to Jane Roman Pitt perform eleven masterpieces from her Midnight Lullaby album, I am now ready with pen in hand to add my very own "lullaby" dictionary entry, "see Jane."

Excited to have been asked to review this album for all of you, I tried it out on my two-year old grandson. It was all I could do to keep from drifting off before Jude. Fortunately, Jane has a way with words and song and LULLing one to sleep, and it worked, shall I say, "like a dream!" With Grammy Award winner Mac Gayden and many of Nashville's finest musicians, Ms. Pitt produced and performed two of her original songs and nine others written by such greats as Bob Dylan, Sade, Dixie Chicks, Lennon-McCartney, Josh Ritter, Wilco, Hugh Prestwood and Donovan. Needing more time spent with this CD, I borrowed it back at night for myself, and I'm loving it! (Guess I'll be buying another... and yet another for my newest granddaughter, Katie!) Jude and I are especially hooked on Ms. Pitt's original song, Welcome Home To Love. Click on video link below to enjoy it, too!

In addition to receiving a free CD for review, I was kindly sent an album to give away to one of you. So, please post a comment (and contact info) in the box at the bottom of this page to enter the "Midnight Lullaby" GIVEAWAY CONTEST! That's all it takes! You know me...Just trying to keep life simple! (Complete set of Giveaway rules can be found at the bottom of the page.)
Contest ends October 5th, 2011/11:59 p.m. (PST)

Sleep tight,
Bubbie and Jude

A Special Interview with Jane Roman Pitt:

1. As a grandmother of two, what tips can you share with us to make the most out of time spent with our grandchildren?
The first tip that comes to mind is to get rid of the parents! Although it’s wonderful for the family to be all together, the real fun of being a grandparent is getting them all to yourself. It also gives your kids a welcome break!

2. Can you explain how music benefits a baby's development?
Music is good for babies in pretty much every way: from just providing a feeling of comfort to growing the pathways in the brain. Studies have shown that socially, psychologically, and physically music is an important part of normal development. Lullabies have been a part of our human culture since we could speak, or even longer, so there must be great value to them. I have more details about specific studies that show the importance of music for children in some of my blogs at

3. Do you have any other albums in the works? Goals for future projects?
I’m having fun gathering lists of songs for future albums—lullabies from other countries, more contemporary lullabies, and even a jazz lullaby album!

4. Who or what inspired you to become a singer/songwriter/producer?
It goes back to earliest childhood, and the music that was always being sung or played around my house. Singing along seemed like the natural thing to do, and with my parents’ encouragement I just kept singing. Songwriting and producing grew to be constructive ways of expressing my urge to control things—“Hey, I could say that just as well,” and “Hmm, I hear this instrument right here . . .”

5. Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
The thrill of hearing a choir sing my songs back to me in a concert. One college concert stands out, when a student came up and thanked me for writing the piece. Wow.

6. Give us one piece of advice you would share with an aspiring singer/songwriter/producer?
Listen to everything you can, all kinds of music, then write and write without editing too much. That leads to finding your own voice---and finding your own voice is a life-long process because we’re always growing!

7. When not working on a project, what do you most enjoy doing?
Being with my kids and grandchildren, meditating, riding my bike at dawn.

8. What is your favorite quote?
I’d have to go with a couple lines from Bob Dylan---does that count as a quote?—“ May you always know the truth and see the light surrounding you.”

9. Do you have anything specific you’d like to share with your audience?
Music is a part of us, we’re literally made of musical vibrations, and when someone says “I can’t sing” it makes me feel sad. We’re all born to sing and dance and express our thoughts, emotions, joys and sorrows through the arts—it’s the way we’re wired as human beings. No right or wrong, no good or bad. If our babies know that singing is natural and important, they’ll grow up to be singers! It’s that simple.

10. Any recent or upcoming appearances that you would like to tell us about?
Now that summer is over, I’ll be doing some “Lady Lullaby Pajama Party” concerts in libraries and bookstores in the coming months. I’ll let you know when the schedule is set!

11. Did you come across anything interesting while working on this project?
This project made me aware of just how important lullabies are. Throughout every culture from ancient history to the current songwriting parents, people want to comfort and express love to their babies.

12.Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I guess the most important facts of my life are that I was married for forty years to a wonderful man, have two great children and two adorable grandchildren. I love music, and being outside, and learning almost anything.

I now live in a small town in Iowa, where I teach music at a university. We moved here a couple of years ago after my husband was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer, because our daughter was living here and I have many long-time friends here. I knew it would be a good safe place to start this new chapter of my life.

13.Do you have a favorite song on your album? If so, what and why?
Choosing a favorite song would be like choosing a favorite child! I love them all for different reasons---those that were given to me by the writer to record, like the ones by Donovan and Hugh Prestwood; those that I wrote for my kids and grandkids; and the ones that musically were just plain fun to do!

14.How did you come up with your album's title?
I wanted to have the word “lullaby” in the title so it would be clear what the album was about, and Tom Wait’s song “Midnight Lullaby” is just so cool that I thought it was a good representation of what I hoped the album would convey.

15.Was there anything particularly challenging when working on your album?
I was awed by the talent of the Nashville musicians, and had the fulfillment of my late husband being with me every day in the studio. It was our last adventure together, and that makes the album even more important to me.

16. Did you write "Welcome Home To Love" and "Whisper Warm" especially for this Midnight Lullaby?
I first wrote “Whisper Warm” way back in 1973, when the son of a good friend was born. I rewrote it when my own son was born, so now I think of it as his song.
“Welcome Home to Love” was written for my granddaughter Annalise, and was the inspiration for this whole album. I wrote it by remembering the feelings of seeing my daughter for the first time and feeling like I had known her forever.
Friday, September 2, 2011

The Best Possible Music Teacher

There’s a lot of research showing that when an older sibling teaches a younger sibling something, the learning is more effective than when taught by someone else. The older child also gains from teaching and learns more than he would have without doing this.

This makes perfect sense. First, we always learn more ourselves by teaching — breaking it down into steps, going slowly and thinking deeply about the subject, finding a way to explain it so that someone else with less experience will understand it.

And from the younger child’s side, another child is the best possible teacher (for better and sometimes worse — think of peer pressure in high school) because children are of the same species. Grown-ups are necessary but are just so... big.

This is true even for a new baby. Older siblings often get the first smiles from a baby brother or sister who must be thinking, “Ah, here is someone who’s more like me, but she can walk and talk so she must be really special.” And if the older sibling can cool it on the deliberately too-hard hugs, the life-long adoration to the point of idol-worship is assured.

Encourage your older child to show off his/her musical talents to baby brother or sister. Have them share their latest preschool songs often and with enthusiasm. Get the rhythm instruments out (or the pots and wooden spoons) and have a command performance in front of the front row bouncy seat. Put on music and have a toddler dance session to show that bouncy seat occupant what the potential is for expressing love of life.

This alone can be a huge boost in developing the younger child’s love of music and movement — anything that this all-powerful older sibling does is inevitably imitated, so why not have it be music?

Sweet dreams,

This is a great example of Sibling Singing: improvising the words (the best message possible: "I love her!") and tune, communicating perfectly with the baby. Notice how the baby is trying so hard to sing along!

Friday, August 19, 2011

A House of Music

Last week I met a young woman who grew up in a house that has a drum kit in the living room. It also has a keyboard in the living room. And a piano. And three guitars and a banjo.

Guess what she plays? All of them, constantly and enthusiastically. She and her musical sister have started an all-volunteer run music venue — The Beauty Shop — in our hometown, a place where any young musician can come and play, collaborate, take lessons, hang out, and enjoy easy access to the creative process.

This is a picture of my new living room. Your job is to imagine the grand piano in it, which, when I find the right one, will take up the whole thing.

Though my friends raise their eyebrows at this plan, it feels right to me because, as a child, I thought that having a piano in the dining room instead of a dining room table was perfectly normal. After all, we can (and do) eat anywhere but you can’t stick a grand piano just anywhere.

What does this have to do with you and your babies?

Access. Priorities. Access. Encouragement. Access.

Even if you don’t play an instrument yourself, I encourage you to have instruments around — real instruments or toy instruments — for your child to hear, touch, play, enjoy. Have something right there, in the way, that can create magical sounds when touched, struck, or plucked.

The brain loves to hear music, and grows stronger from it, but it loves making music even more. When engaged in the process of creating music, our brains comes the closest to what scientists call “whole brain functioning” — many parts of the brain talking to each other in the same language. And this is a very good thing.

It doesn’t have to be a Steinway. It just has to provide access to making sounds, and eventually those sounds will — I promise — turn into music.

Sweet Dreams,
Friday, August 5, 2011

The Real Story of The Pretty Horses

Lullabies are for loving and for kvetching in small and big ways. To continue on the theme of last week, today we look at the story behind the song—in this case one of the most popular of our American lullabies.

“All The Pretty Little Horses” is from the African-American tradition. I loved singing this song when my kids were babies, but never thought about where it came from or what it meant. I couldn’t quite figure out how the horses and the butterflies fit together, but it was pretty and it worked to put the kids to sleep.

Like all traditional lullabies, there are many different versions. But most of them that are sung today have been softened from the hard truth of the original story: that African women slaves had to leave their babies alone to take care of the master’s baby instead. In the original version the woman is singing to that baby:

Hush-a-bye, don’t you cry, go to sleepy little baby
When you wake you will have all the pretty little horses
Dapples and greys, pintos and bays
All the pretty little horses

Way down yonder, down in the meadow
Sweet little baby crying “mama”
The birds and the butterflies peckin’ at his eyes
Sweet little baby crying “mama.”

All right, that explains the horses—that rich baby would grow up to own all those pintos and bays. In the sanitized version I learned, the last two lines are more charming:

The birds and the butterflies flutter all around his eyes,
Sweet little baby crying “mama.”

Although it’s a sad story, keep singing this song. Lullabies relay history that we shouldn’t ignore or forget. But sing it in a sweet and loving way, because no matter what the words say or what the real story is, at lullaby time the main message you want to convey to your baby is love.

Sweet Dreams,

Here is the legendary folksinger Odetta singing the real story:

Listen to "All The Pretty Little Horses":
Friday, July 29, 2011

Singin’ The Blues To Your Baby

The beauty of lullabies is that they comfort in two ways—we know that singing comforts a baby, but it also can comfort a parent by providing a totally safe way to let feelings out. It’s easy to be open and honest with a baby who will never, ever tell anyone what you’ve said.

Life has its ups and downs, and throughout history lullabies have reflected that. Many lullabies are filled with love and wonder at this precious new life, but many lullabies are about the less than joyous facts of life that just need to be expressed.

From small worries to big problems, parents sing about them in lullabies. There are songs from every culture expressing loneliness, fears, dreams, and hopes. In this and future posts we’ll take a look at lullabies from different times and places that have private stories meant to be shared with children.

James Taylor sang to his children about the pain of being separated from them after his divorce. He wrote down those thoughts in “You Can Close Your Eyes,” as a bedtime message to his kids. Because he’s James Taylor, the whole world knew exactly what he was talking about, and that song has probably helped many other people by giving expression to their feelings about that same situation in their own lives.

Well, it won’t be long before another day and we’re gonna have a good time
No one’s gonna take that time away, you can stay as long as you like
So close your eyes, you can close your eyes, it’s all right...

The song “Summertime” is so well known that we forget that it’s actually a lullaby. The message is one of hope, of wishful thinking, of the dream of what a perfect world would look like:

Summertime and the livin’ is easy, fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high
Your daddy’s rich, and your ma is good-looking, so hush little baby, don’t you cry.

Whatever your story is, whatever the day has been like, whatever your dreams for the future, tell it to your baby. Go ahead and sing them the blues. Sing whatever you’re thinking and you’ll both feel better from it.

Sweet Dreams,

Although some may think that this isn’t a lullaby to put your baby to sleep, it’s a classic that needs to be heard by all generations! Janis Joplin sang the blues for all babies of all times:

Listen to "Summertime":
Friday, July 22, 2011

Ding Dang Dong

Frere Jacques, Frere Jacques, dormez-vous? Dormez-vous?
Sonnez les matines, sonnez les matines! Ding dang dong, ding dang dong!
Are you sleeping, are you sleeping, Brother John, Brother John?
Morning bells are ringing, morning bells are ringing! Ding dong ding ding dong ding!

One of my questions about this song is why the French “Ding Dang Dong” turned into “Ding Dong Ding” in English. Who made that decision? Or why the Dutch sing it “Bim Bam Bom”? Or the Finns sing “Pium paum poum”?

And who was Brother John, anyway?

Like most folk songs, there are different theories. I think the most plausible one is that this was a song to taunt the Dominican monks, known in France as the Jacobians, because they had a laid-back lifestyle. OK, some sources say lazy and even slothful but I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt.

The Cherokee Indians agreed with this in their version of the song:
Are you sleeping? Are you sleeping? Joseph, Joseph
We have to start hunting, so get up!

In any case, Frere Jacques gets my vote as one of the world’s great children’s songs. It’s an easy but interesting tune to sing; it’s repetitious enough that it can be learned quickly; and it’s a perfect round—often the first round children learn, and learning rounds is one of the best tools possible for learning musical skills.

The other great benefit of teaching this song to your English-speaking baby is that it is French. Babies may not understand the words, but just hearing another language with its different sound frequencies is invaluable to development, according to the late audio and development expert Dr. Alfred Tomatis. In the first few months of life, the brain organizes itself to recognize the sounds it hears, and during early childhood it is very flexible because it’s growing so fast. By hearing other languages early, future learning is easier.

This doesn’t mean you have to start your baby on a Berlitz language course—just play Frere Jacques and other lullabies from all over the world, and the music plus the new sounds will automatically create the experience.

Here is a two-year-old who has this song nailed:

And for a more sophisticated version, check out this Star Trek clip:

Sweet dreams,
Friday, July 15, 2011

The Song Remembers When

My very favorite songwriter, Hugh Prestwood, had a Grammy-winning hit with “The Song Remembers When.” The song describes something that we all experience and can help our children to enjoy “... and even if the whole world has forgotten, the song remembers when.”

Think of the songs you know that bring back a place, a person, or an emotion the minute they start to play—that’s the power of music.

A few weeks ago, while preparing for A Very Important Performance at my granddaughter’s pre-school, I heard a recording of Burl Ives singing “The Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly.” Whoosh—I was instantly back to being three years old (a million years ago), sitting on the floor listening to the shiny black LP on the little red turntable my parents had just bought me. The time, the place, and even the feelings—excitement, curiosity, horror that this poor lady was swallowing all these animals and was about to die (I changed the words for the pre-school to “oh me, oh my”) came flooding back. The music had created an experience at that time and the feelings had lived on inside me.

When my daughter was in middle school, she and my husband were on a “Phantom of the Opera” kick, and every morning when he drove her to school it blasted through the car into her brain and heart, creating a life-long experience that stops her dead in her tracks every time she hears something from that musical.

Music is not just something that we hear with our ears. It is something we experience with our bodies, minds, and hearts. Why?

Researchers say that the environment plays a big part in the structure of our brains. Scientist Daniel Goldman said, “Seventy percent of what is given to us genetically is brought to fruition by our environmental experiences.” Early Childhood expert Dr. Pam Schiller adds that the richer the environment (like one filled with music) the better off a child will be. “The primary task of the brain during early childhood is to connect brain cells (neurons)... Experience forges the connections and repetition strengthens them.”

And we’re not just talking math skills here, although those improve with early experience with music. We’re talking about emotional richness, stability, and comfort. The music—music of all kinds—that you play for your baby and toddler now will be with him or her for life, helping to build strong neuron pathways. But you’ll also be building the ability to appreciate all of life’s experiences more fully.

Here is Trisha Yearwood singing about this experience in “The Song Remembers When.”

Listen to "The Song Remembers When":
Friday, July 8, 2011

A Somewhat Objective Plug for The Parents’ Choice Foundation

Aside from the fact that they want the apostrophe at the end of the word “Parents” and I keep doing it wrong, the Parents’ Choice Foundation is a wonderful organization and resource for finding good quality children’s media and toys.

In l978 author and educator Diana Huss Green gathered together a group of parents who wanted to set some standards for children’s educational and artistic materials. They decided to create a non-commercial clearinghouse of media products for children, and Parents’ Choice Foundation was born.

The stated purpose: “Parents’ Choice strives to provide parents with reliable unbiased information about tools to help their children learn, to explore new challenges, to discuss ideas and to pursue dreams.”

So, inspired by the “pursuing dreams” idea, I submitted “Midnight Lullaby” to the Foundation, knowing that they only accept 15% of all submissions. To my delight, the CD was accepted, and is now happily residing on this prestigious list of recommended music for children.

I encourage you to use the resources that the Parents’ Choice Foundation offers for parents and children of all ages. There are lists of recommended books, music, and toys, as well as useful guides for parents like the one called “Tips and Tools for Navigating the Children’s Media Landscape.” It covers topics like:
Shopping For Children With Special Needs
What Makes a Good Toy?
What Makes a Good DVD?
And many more . . .

It’s a big and confusing world of stuff out there, and this is a way to help you sort through it all so you can know that you’re introducing your child to worthwhile products. Here is the website:

And here is a classic song by Peter, Paul, and Mary about the kind of “Marvelous Toy” worth looking for!

Listen to "The Marvelous Toy":

Sweet dreams,
Friday, July 1, 2011

May Your Hands Always Be Busy

I apologize for not writing for a couple of weeks. With a new baby in the picture, I was experiencing a fraction of the lives that new live parents and remembered---it’s survival time. I admire and applaud you all.

Luxuries like writing or phone calls or washing your hair take second place to sleeping, eating, napping, doing enough laundry to have fresh onesies and burp cloths, sleeping, eating, and napping.

Even for a grandmother! After the first few days—reaping the good karma of having done the whole thing myself already years ago---I went back to my own place and the sleep part got back in order. That made it easier to do what is the natural order of the generations---helping with laundry, washing dishes, cooking (to be honest, this is not my strong suit but I’m really good at sushi takeout).

And with a second child there is the blessing of relaxed parents who are now grateful to let me do the good stuff—singing lullabies for an hour at a time (my best audience ever!), cuddling and giving a freshly pumped bottle so mom can take a that nap, changing diapers and gazing at this amazing creature, all the while hoping for the miracle of a smile right in my direction.

Grandparents now also get to pick up the big brother or sister from pre-school, because it’s a whole different thing to take a sometimes-sleeping-sometimes-crying baby along for that ride. So I did get the smile that I was looking for, two-year-old size!

To maximize that smile, a few days ago I took my guitar along and sang for the kids. They were surprisingly attentive, and after figuring out how to play guitar AND do the hand-motions for "Wheels on the Bus", I realized that anything in life is possible. The best part was that Annalise proudly sat right next to me and sang louder than anyone else, whether she knew the words or not.

So thank you to all new parents who have made us into grandparents, and as comedian Rita Rudner said, "Have children while your parents are still young enough to take care of them!"

To give the big picture, here is one of the best Bob Dylan songs, and maybe the best song ever, written for all generations:

Listen to "Forever Young":

Sweet dreams,
Friday, June 10, 2011

And When It's Not Bedtime...

It's time to talk again about the times in-between lullaby time. Let’s talk about after naps, or the first thing in the morning, or anytime when you don’t want your baby or toddler (or you) to relax too much. Here's another source for wonderful non-lullaby music for babies and toddlers.

Confession time: When I said that the arrival of my granddaughter had inspired my love of lullabies it wasn’t exactly the truth. Please don’t tell my kids. The fact is that, although I was definitely inspired by Annalise’s arrival to record “Midnight Lullaby,” my interest in lullabies was sparked a few years before that.

It was Gari Ann Stein who did it.

For years my friend Gari had been teaching music in her basement in Ann Arbor to very young children but I didn’t really understand or appreciate what she was doing. I would see instruments, costumes, and all sorts of fun stuff, but only when she asked me to sing some lullabies at the end of her CD series, “Sing With Me,” did I listen to what she was teaching, and recognize how important music classes can be for very young children.

From her years of teaching, Gari says, “I have seen the joy that music brings to young children, how it enhances their sense of self, positively affects their behavior and strengthens their comfort in a social setting.”

Her award-winning new book “The More We Get Together” brings her program into the home in a simple and fun way that encourages interaction between parents and children, and nurtures relationships in the way that only singing and playing together can do. It’s a wonderful resource for any parent that can be used every day.

Check out Gari’s work at:

So I thank Gari for her work, and for the gift she gave me when she handed me a cassette tape (yes, I guess it was more than a few years ago!) of lullabies to learn. They were familiar, comforting, easy and natural, and I fell in love with the genre forever.
Friday, June 3, 2011

Welcome Home to Love

There are many parents who see their babies for the first time and feel like they already know them.

It might be because you’ve been planning, dreaming, and worrying about this new life for at least nine months, and maybe long before that. Collecting clothes and toys and creating a space in the house for another person. Going to the doctor to get a sneak preview and making sacrifices large and small, like giving up wine and sushi.

Or maybe there is something more to it—maybe it’s the genes that are familiar, or the DNA, or if you believe in reincarnation maybe you really did know each other before! If you have stories of feeling like you already knew your baby when he/she was born, please share them with us by making a comment below.

In any case, the baby arrives and it seems like a miracle. And grandparents can feel the same way, possibly with an even deeper understanding of the miracle. It’s the continuation of the family, the clan, the species. It’s a chance to take part in the renewal part of the cycle of life, a cycle that with passing years we have come to experience in its joys and sorrows.

Micah Barry Pitt was born to my son and daughter-in-law on May 29 (I did make it in time!) and I’m in love. He is the spitting (pun intended) image of my son when he was born, so on some level a feeling of familiarity is inevitable. I am very grateful that he is healthy, calm, and obviously brilliant, shown by his choice of families.

I helped out in the hospital so my daughter-in-law could get a little sleep. His heartbeat melted into mine as I held him in the rocking chair in the middle of the night, and in my mind I kept hearing the line from Ewan McCall’s timeless love song The First Time Ever “ the trembling heart of a captive bird.” So vulnerable, so precious, so necessary.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Grandmother Effect

Here I am in the Detroit airport, delayed. Apparently the crew forgot to show up. What are these people thinking? Don’t they know that I have a grandson being born any minute now?? He’s already nine pounds and, the doctor said, and he has big shoulders like his father and grandfather, so I figure he’s ready to come but is just waiting for his grandmothers to get there to greet him.

Baby Pitt and his mother Aviva

Grandmothering is the subject of some flashy new studies that show that it’s good for all generations to have grandmothers around. Did we need a study to know that? Other cultures know this, and fully respect grandparents, realizing that there is a specific purpose for the generations being together: the elders get to share their life experience and wisdom with the little ones, parents get some much-needed help with childcare, and the babies learn that the world is full of big people who know for a fact how miraculous they are.

I used to listen to my friends talking—no, glowing—about becoming grandparents. I have to admit I didn’t get it. I loved seeing babies and could smile silly smiles and coo with the best of them, but I didn’t really understand what they were talking about.

I had to experience for myself the feelings that came up when I witnessed my own DNA in the form of a small, blanketed bundle. And while changing a really messy diaper and eye contact was first made (okay, sign me up for diaper duty). And the first time there was a genuine smile meant just for me.

Something happens in the heart—literally. When I’m with my granddaughter I feel my heart glow and grow in some subtle way that I hadn’t felt since holding my own new babies. I don’t know if there are studies for that, but I know it’s real. New parents, ask your own parents if that isn’t their experience too—I bet it is if they stop to feel it.

And so, Delta Airlines, I really have to be there when he comes. I’ll let you all know if I make it in time!
Friday, May 20, 2011

Sing with Love and Caution

Rock-a-bye baby, in the treetop
When the wind blows the cradle will rock
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall
And down will come baby, cradle and all

Do you find yourself mumbling the words to “Rock-a-Bye Baby” when you sing it to your child? I did, afraid that somehow that image would scar my children for life. Maybe they wouldn’t climb trees. Maybe they would be scared of the wind. Maybe they wouldn’t feel that the world wasn’t a safe place, if Mom would hang them from a branch that was likely to break off.

What kind of parent would make up a song like that anyway?

There are several stories about the origin of the lullaby. One says that it was the first poem written by English on American soil, who observed the American Indian tradition of suspending a birch bark cradle in the branches of a tree. While the mother was working, the wind would rock the cradle and the baby would go to sleep. This practical solution for a working mother makes sense to me even if the story isn’t really true.

Another story is more colorful—there was a family in England in the 1700’s who actually lived in a tree, and so they had the right to hang whatever they wanted from it. The tree in this story is a huge, ancient Yew tree, and the family who lived there were charcoal burners named Kate and Luke Kenyon. They had eight children and hollowed out a large tree branch to use as a cradle. OK, maybe. Eight children forces you to be resourceful.

A third theory is the most dramatic of all: that the 17th century tyrant King James, in desperate need of an heir, had a baby boy smuggled into the birthing room. When the story got out it led to his downfall. The “wind” could be the political force “blowing” in from the Netherlands in the form of William of Orange, who kicked James out. The “cradle” is the royal House of Stuart. The earliest recorded version of the words in print come with a footnote: “This may serve as a warning to the Proud and Ambitious, who climb so high that they generally fall at last.”

In any case, I would advise you to either hug your baby very tight when singing this song, or change the words, as my daughter-in-law did:

“And Mommy will catch you, cradle and all!”

Sweet dreams,

The Marx Brothers had a great version of this song:

Friday, May 6, 2011

Thanks, Amy!

This week I just want to give sincere thanks from Lady Lullaby to the Lullaby Lady. Confused? Don’t be---there is room in this world for all kinds of lullaby fanatics.

Amy Robbins-Wilson has a wonderful website ( that focuses on lullabies also. She shares my belief that “musical interaction between family and their babies is important to a child’s development" and she points to the fact that "all cultures sing to their infants...” Amy has graduate degrees in Ritual Song and Chant Performance, and also in Expressive Arts Therapy, so she really knows her stuff.

I was very grateful that Amy gave my CD “Midnight Lullaby” a glowing review, and am so moved by her generosity in recommending my music on her blog that I want to share her comments with you and suggest that you check out what she has to offer in the way of beautiful bedtime songs and all sorts of useful advice.

Sweet dreams,
Friday, April 29, 2011

When Words Fail

If you want to sing a lullaby to your baby but forget the words---keep singing anyway!

Words tell a story, convey emotions, and make the meaning of a musical expression clear. The combination of words and music is a powerful human medium because it transmits the story of our lives to the next generations.

But we also know that we could sing the same words to various kinds of music and it can have an entirely different feel---play “Twinkle Twinkle” with a hip-hop beat and your baby will be wiggling instead of dozing.

With lullabies the most important aspect is the feeling that you’re trying to convey. That is the same feeling that parents two million years ago were conveying when they hummed to their babies, even before speech was developed. It’s the feeling of love. It’s the feeling of devotion and nurturing, of giving comfort and protection.

That feeling can be conveyed just as strongly through a melody with no words, and sometimes even more strongly, because the emotion comes through without the intellect being involved. Musician and research scientist Daniel Levitin says, “Neurobiology show that music--but not speech--activates areas of the human brain that are very ancient, structures that we have in common with all mammals . . .”

Nonsense words are rampant in lullabies—that’s where the word “lullaby” comes from! “La la la” and “loo loo loo,” “tula tula” and similar meaningless sounds are used in lullabies all over the world.

My friend Donovan Leitch suggested that I use his lullaby “La Moora” for my “Midnight Lullaby” album. When I asked him what the words “La la moora” mean, he laughed at me. “They don’t mean anything,” he said, “It’s what lullabies are made of.”

I was inspired to write about this when I recently heard a beautiful lullaby without words that expresses this feeling perfectly. It’s recorded by Al Pettaway, one of the best fingerstyle guitarists in the world, and Amy White, who has a truly celestial voice ( Here is their “Lullaby.”

So hum, croon, sing “lullaby” over and over, or anything that comes into your mind. Know that your baby will understand everything.

Sweet dreams,
Friday, April 22, 2011

One And One Are Two

Although I love lullabies and relaxing music, I admit that there are actually times when you don’t want your baby (or you) to go to sleep, and at those times soothing music may not be the best choice.

What music is good for waking times, music that entertains, enlivens, and will keep those brain cells connecting and growing?

There are lots of great programs for babies and young children that you could explore and enjoy together. Today, and in future posts, I’ll tell you about some that I know are excellent. And let us know what you have found: please make a comment to tell everyone about your favorite lively childrens’ music.

Last month I took my two-year-old granddaughter Annalise to a Kindermusik class for toddlers. We went back the next week, and the next week, and I delayed my flight home so I could take her one more time. It was that good.

Miss Yvette led the class through some simple songs and movements, all perfectly planned and timed for toddlers. I asked her to meet me for tea so I could learn more about how she thinks music affects very young children.

I knew that music is important for brain development, but she made the point that music actually creates the pathways in the brain that allow a child to understand mathematics in later years. For example, they learn to measure intervals, the distance between notes, just by singing them over and over, and so automatically learn how to measure.

So if, at a very young age, the basic elements of measurements have been learned through musical concepts---if a child’s neuropathways have already been created and strengthened---then those neuropathways become super highways, and the child finds that learning anything is easier.

Visit Yvette’s website for more info on this and other musical topics. Also check out Kindermusik for classes in your area—babies as young as six months through preschool years (and their parents!) can benefit from these wonderful musical activities.

So let’s get to counting: Inchworm was one of my favorite songs as a child (Danny Kaye’s version) and Anne Murray sang this beautiful song to my kids at bedtime.

Listen to "Inchworm":
Friday, April 15, 2011

How's By You?

While most of my blogs will be fact-based stories and advice about lullabies and music for babies, once in a while---like today---I’m going to share life stories with you, and will try to make a connection to the lullaby theme. This one is easy.

This week I would have celebrated my 40th wedding anniversary with my husband Barry. We were married on April 18, 1971, in a full-blown hippie wedding, with hand-made dress and matching embroidered shirt, cowboy boots and hundreds of daisies. We worked and traveled the world for five years, and then settled down to raise a family.

He knew only one lullaby to sing to our children, but did it with great patience and enthusiasm, and I highly recommend this one to all of you—an original and extremely free-form version of “Frere Jacque” that listed all the names of everyone the child knew:

“Jesse Pitt, Jesse Pitt, how’s by you? How’s by you?
How’s your mother Janie? How’s your father Barry? How’s by you? How’s by you?
Joanna Pitt, Joanna Pitt, how’s by you? How’s by you?
How’s your cousin Jeffrey? How’s your Auntie Ruthie? How’s by you? How’s by you?”

And on and on and on, sometimes for ten minutes, depending on how many people they could collectively think of, or how long it took any one of them to fall asleep.

Barry lost his battle with pancreatic cancer last May, and while I miss pretty much everything about our life together, probably the toughest part is realizing how much the grandchildren will miss out. And that silly song is part of it. I may try to make it through it sometime soon, because it’s such a perfect lullaby.

So on this particular day, if you have a person that you share your parenting or grand-parenting responsibilities and joys with, please give him/her a hug and say thanks. Teach him/her the “How’s By You?” song and cuddle up together with your baby and take your family history into the future.

Because I don’t have a recording of “How’s By You?” (I don’t know that the true spirit of it could be captured in a recording) I’ll share a beautiful song-made-into-lullaby by Linda Ronstadt—from her lullaby CD called “Dedicated To The One I Love” that is also appropriate right now.

Thank you for sharing this special day with me.

Listen to "Dedicated To The One I Love":
Friday, April 8, 2011

The Rhythm of Life

We tap our toes, we sway, and if we can let go of being self-conscious, we all do really want to dance when music comes on. Think of going to hear your favorite band---could you sit still in your seat even if you tried?

Watch a toddler when the music goes on---no one has to teach him to move in time, it’s completely natural. Watch your newborn baby carefully and you’ll actually see her responding to a beat.

It’s been found that a newborn is most easily quieted when rocked up and down at the same rate that the mother walks, the rhythm learned while still in the womb. When you were pregnant did you ever feel like your baby seemed to be kicking in time to the music that you were listening to? (Did it ever get too lively for you and you turned off the music?)

One researcher recently found that babies seem to be born with a predisposition to move rhythmically in response to music. And the babies definitely knew that something good was happening: “We also found that the better the children were able to synchronize their movements with the music, the more they smiled,” said Dr. Marcel Zentner from the University of York.

We were born to move, to sway, to dance. Besides singing or playing lullabies, pick your baby up and dance together. Try all different kinds of music---fast, slow, loud, soft. One of the most natural dance rhythms is a waltz: Grab your favorite partner and listen to my song “Dance Like The Wind.” Go ahead and sway together in the breeze and watch for the smiles!

Listen to "Dance Like The Wind":
Monday, April 4, 2011

It’s everything that lullabies should be...

I was really happy to find out that Melissa, a very popular mom-blogger (, has this to say about Midnight Lullaby: "I was given this CD, Midnight Lullaby, and I have listened to it in its entirety. Several times. And it's everything that lullabies should be: lovely, sweet, soothing, and effective. Ms. Roman Pitt's voice is warm and clear, and the top-notch production company that she worked with blended her vocals so well with just the right amount of instrumentation. The CD is also a pleasant combination of lullabies I knew, a few I'd never heard before, including some Ms. Roman Pitt originals... I've been listening to this dreamy music on my iPod nightly. And for someone like me, who so desperately needs her sleep? What a gift!" Melissa is giving away a free copy of Midnight Lullaby... enter by March 31 to win!
Friday, April 1, 2011

Part Two of the Twinkle Story

So now we know that the words to "Twinkle" were a poem written in 1806 by Jane Taylor. Yes, the words are beautiful, but where did this most famous of melodies---this favorite of lullabies for babies everywhere and the headache of any parent who has taken their child for Suzuki violin lessons---where did it come from?

Many people think that Mozart composed the music to "Twinkle Twinkle" because, when he was 17 he wrote a series of variations on the melody that became very popular. And yes, those variations are played by those same violin students.

But the melody is actually a popular French folksong from the 18th century called, "Ah! Vous dirai-je, Maman," which has nothing at all to do with stars twinkling. It's about a child asking Mother for candy even though Father said no---a topic that kids of any generation could relate to:

Ah! Let me tell you, Mother,
What's the cause of my torment?
Papa wants me to reason like a grown-up.
Me, I say that candy has
Greater value than reason.

Of course thinking that candy (OK, maybe hazelnut truffles) has greater value than reason---that's something that not only kids can relate to! Quick, let’s turn on some Mozart to organize and calm those brainwaves . . .

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Twinkle Story

So you think you know the lullaby “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”?

Chances are you know the first verse, but there are actually three more verses that didn’t make it onto the charts. The poem was written in 1806, by a young Englishwoman named Jane Taylor, and published with the title, “The Star.”

Here’s the whole poem:

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are.
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!

When the blazing sun is gone,
When he nothing shines upon,
Then you show your little light,
Twinkle, twinkle, all the night.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!

Then the traveler in the dark
Thanks you for your tiny spark;
He could not see which way to go,
If you did not twinkle so.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!

In the dark blue sky you keep,
While you thro' my window peep,
And you never shut your eye,
Till the sun is in the sky,
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!

Of course then came other versions, like this one from Alice in Wonderland, written by Lewis Carroll in 1865:

Twinkle, twinkle little bat
How I wonder what you’re at
Up above the world you fly
Like a teatray in the sky
Twinkle twinkle little bat
How I wonder what you’re at

And from Sesame Street:

Whistle whistle little bird
Isn’t eating crumbs absurd?
Try a ham and cheese on rye
And a piece of cherry pie
If those crumbs are all you want
Don’t come in my restaurant!

So try these silly versions out on your baby, or better yet, make up your own and share it with us! You could have a hit just waiting to be created.

And next time I’ll tell you the story of the equally famous melody. In the meantime here is a beautiful version of the song with a different melody, by the Hawaiian legend Israel Kamakawiwo’ole:

Listen to "Twinkle" by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole:
Monday, March 21, 2011

SoMommy blog reviews Midnight Lullaby

"Jane's vocals, along with the musicians, definitely creates a soothing atmosphere for going to sleep!" says Heather of the SoMommy blog. Read the full review...
Friday, March 18, 2011

Rockabye Baby (Baby) Bieber

I know that this may seem like an odd topic for a lullaby blog but I promise it will connect:

The lady behind the ticket booth gave me a puzzled look, and I knew she really wanted to say, “Are you serious??” It was a Wednesday afternoon and I had asked for a ticket to the Justin Bieber movie “Never Say Never”. I could understand her confusion: clearly I was not twelve. I too was confused when she charged me three dollars more for a pair of 3-D glasses--- 3-D for Avatar I could understand, but Justin Bieber?

Now it’s time to admit that until last month I didn’t know who he was. “You’re kidding,” said my friend (also not twelve) who had mentioned his name and was greeted by a blank expression, “He’s as popular as the Beatles. As a musician, you should see this movie.”

So I went. The ONLY person in a 500-seat theater, I laughed out loud, and soon realized that the movie was about much more than a young pop star’s big concert---it was actually the story of the importance of lullabies! OK, not only lullabies (Does his “Baby” qualify as a lullaby?) but the importance of music for all of us. It’s how we communicate, how we express love and longing and happiness and sadness.

And this movie addresses the vital need to encourage musical interest in young children. This boy obviously had huge talent from a very young age, and luckily his mother recognized that talent and his passion to make music, and helped him to achieve his goals. She found him instruments, lessons, and cheered him on. If he had been in a less supportive environment, now there might not be such a good outlet for the emotions of almost every 12 year old girl in the world.

Sharing music with your children at a very young age, beginning with singing and playing lullabies for babies, is a key to helping them develop a life-long appreciation for all learning.

“It was good,” I told the ticket taker as I turned in my 3-D glasses. She gave me a weak smile and turned to the growing line of teenage girls sneaking in after school.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011 Midnight Lullaby Review and Giveaway

Another great review from Marcie of Marcie says, "I was highly impressed by the songs on the album! I found Jane's voice very soothing, calming, and relaxing. To be honest, I could picture myself listening to this CD alone during a hot bath or with my kids, cuddling for a bit before bed." Oh, and Marcie is giving away a free copy of Midnight Lullaby... enter by March 31 to win. Thanks, Marcie!
Monday, March 14, 2011

Thrifty Nifty Mommy blog: Midnight Lullaby Review and giveaway!

Thanks to Janessa of the Thrifty Nifty Mommy blog for reviewing Midnight Lullaby. "We popped in Midnight Lullaby one night, and have been listening to it every since!" Thrifty Nifty Mommy is giving away a free copy of Midnight Lullaby. Enter by March 17th to win!
Friday, March 11, 2011

The Lullaby Instinct

Do you find yourself humming, singing, or speaking in a sing-song voice to your baby, even if you’ve never really sung before?

Singing to a baby is an ancient human instinct. The act of communicating with a baby through musical sounds is something that humans have done for almost two million years, even before speech was developed, says Dr. Ellen Dissanayake of the University of Washington.

“The Lullaby Instinct” is vital to the survival of the species!

This instinct is certainly found in parents as they protect and comfort a new life, but it seems that babies have the lullaby instinct too. Another researcher found that musical bonding is an important part of a baby’s development. Even newborn babies try to sing, and try to match the tones and pitches of the person singing a lullaby to them. This means that the baby wants to form a bond with the caregiver, and instinctively knows that music is a way to do that.

So please follow your instincts to hum, croon, sing to your baby, or just hold your baby and hum along to whatever gentle music (like “Midnight Lullaby”!) you can play. The bond that you create with your child will be priceless, and may have impact far beyond the nursery walls!

Sweet Dreams,

Listen to "May There Always":
Thursday, March 10, 2011

My Springfield Mommy Midnight Lullaby Review

Many thanks to Margie of My Springfield Mommy for her review of Midnight Lullaby. “I found this album to be very calming, comforting and enjoyable. I love that it is more modern and I am a big believer that music exposure as an infant or young child leads to a better future for them,” Margie says.
Monday, March 7, 2011

Midnight Lullaby chosen as a Featured Gift was created to make it easy to find great baby gifts. They really do their research on products and I am very pleased that they chose my CD!
Friday, March 4, 2011

Lady Lullaby’s Story

When I was very young I learned to love songs of all kinds. I heard my grandmother singing Russian folk songs, and my mother singing arias from operas. Even when I didn’t understand the words, I could tell what story the song was telling—that’s the power of songs. As a teenager I grew my hair to my waist, learned to play guitar, and started singing songs at coffeehouses, college concerts, on TV folk shows, and when necessary, pizza parlors. After my first teenage heartbreak, I wrote a song. It helped, so I kept on writing songs about all of life’s adventures.

Like many musicians today, I love to explore all genres of music. I’ve been fortunate to work with some of Detroit’s greatest jazz musicians on my CD “Peace of The River,” I studied classical composition and have had the thrill of hearing great performances of my choral works, and most recently I spent time in Nashville recording “Midnight Lullaby ” with Grammy-winning songwriter and producer Mac Gayden and Nashville’s amazing players.

To get ready for the arrival of my granddaughter, Annalise, I started collecting lullabies. Since the beginning of human communication, singing lullabies has been a way to give comfort. The cultures, languages, and musical styles may vary, but the message is the same: “I love you very much, I’m here, and please go to sleep now because I’m really tired!” From the hundreds of wonderful lullabies that I found from all around the world, I created "Midnight Lullaby" by choosing a collection of beautiful new bedtime songs by contemporary songwriters. I hope you enjoy it.

Sweet dreams,

Listen to "Dreaming Sweet Dreams":
Monday, February 28, 2011

Midnight Lullaby Reviewed on Lollygag Blog

I'm delighted that Keely of the Lollygag Blog chose to review Midnight Lullaby - and gave it a great review. She said she loved the CD, and it worked... she and Nora (her baby) both fell fast asleep. Check out the full review and all the other interesting posts on Keely's blog. Thanks, Keely!"
Friday, February 25, 2011

Just One More Bedtime Song . . .

OK, parents, it’s your turn to travel back in time and become two years old again. You’re in your pajamas, trying every trick in the book to keep your mom in your room.

“Sing me a bedtime song,” you said.

“I just sang you one,” said your mom.

“Sing it again!”

And so she does . . .

What song did she sing? In your memory what was the song you remember the best from your early childhood? “Twinkle, Twinkle”? “Rock-A-Bye-Baby”? Something from Sesame Street? Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”?

My early song memory was called “My Curly Headed Baby,” a popular song based on an African-American lullaby. The part I liked best was: “Do you want the stars to play with, and the moon to run away with?” I liked the impractical but very appealing thought of running away with the moon.

Think about what bedtime songs you remember from your childhood and see if you still can sing the words---scientists say that we never really forget those early musical memories. Donald A Hodges, director of the Music Research Institute at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro states, “Nothing activates as many areas of the brain as music.”

So try to pull those musical brain-building lullabies for babies out, and please write and let me know what songs you remember. And don’t forget to share them with your own babies too. They’ll never forget them either.

Listen to "Starlight Starbright":
Friday, February 18, 2011

Welcome to the Lady Lullaby Blog!

Beautiful bedtime music goes straight to the heart. And the brain, and the body! We learn our first songs even before we’re born, and we hear, sing, and share them all throughout our lifetimes.

This Lady Lullaby blog will be a place to share songs and thoughts about the music that puts the world to sleep. Please join in the conversation about the lullabies and bedtime songs that you know and love.

We’ll be talking about things like: why lullabies are good for the health of both babies and parents; lullabies that you remember from your childhood; what you can sing or play for your baby now; the background stories of our favorite lullabies, and lots more.

It doesn’t really matter what songs you sing or hum or listen to with your baby---the important thing is that music becomes a part of your baby’s world---stay tuned for the reasons why!

Sweet dreams,

Listen to "Golden Slumbers":