Lady Lullaby Links

Lady Lullaby Blog

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

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,