Sh-h-h-h! It’s time for lullabies and other sleep-time serenades

I was talking recently with a friend who is exceptionally excited about being a first-time grandmother — and, for that matter, was on her way later that night to baby-sit her 10-month-old granddaughter, Zoe.

Our conversation got me thinking — again — about what songs modern-day moms and dads — and baby-boomer grandparents — sing at settling time. (So, help me out here and share your favorite lullabies past and present in the Comment section below.)

And that, of course, stirred memories of the songs I used to sing in the early ’80s, when my two daughters were babies.

It turns out new Gramma Kathy and I shared one favorite “lullaby” song — “Moon River,” the Mancini theme song from the 1961 Audrey Hepburn-George Peppard romance “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” In her case, the song reminded her of watching the classic movie with her mom. For me, a big Mancini fan, it was a double natural since that was the song on the music box in our nursery.

As a certified softie, I also found myself often half-humming/half-singing the standard “Turn Around, the where-are-you going-my-little-one-little-one song.

Those are at least fairly mainstream choices, but then, as regular readers might suspect, my “eclectic” lullaby tastes veer a bit off-course.

My unusual choices
I feel confident in reporting that I was probably the only dad in America to combine these two offbeat favorites — in this case, two “cha-lypso” songs, Billy and Lillie’s “La Dee Dah” and “Lucky Ladybug” — into a bedtime medley. (As far as I can tell, my choices seem to have caused no long-term damage to either daughter.)

And I always thought the opening lines of “La Dee Dah” made a fitting sentiment, no matter the age or gender:

I’m glad, so glad, so glad
Glad you are you (oh-oh-oooh)
… La dee dah, oh boy
Let’s go
Cha, cha, cha.

I’m also partial to “Tender Shepherd,” the beautiful lullaby from Mary Martin’s 1955 “Peter Pan” — one of two special TV nights each year for baby boomers in the late ’50s and early ’60s. (I don’t know about your family, but the annual showings of “Peter Pan” and “The Wizard of Oz” were big deals at our house back then — in an era before the advent of today’s on-demand videos and saturation showings of the Judy Garland classic.)

Lullabies, I’m glad to report from my sporadic spot-checking, are still going strong.

Just this week, for example, Kent Kotal, on his popular Forgotten Hits website, was talking about the touching use of a well-known Kenny Loggins song in a beautiful lullaby scene this TV season: “Did anybody out there see the cute scene [be patient with the loading of this partial clip!] at the end of the new Fox Comedy “Raising Hope” when Grandma and Grandpa sang their new granddaughter to sleep with ‘Danny’s Song’? GREAT scene!”

He’s right. 

Even more lullabies
Here’s a quick look at a bunch of other sleep-time serenades (some for adults, too) from bygone days and more recent times:

• Carly Simon, for one, bridges the generations.

In recent years, when she wasn’t singing about vain guysboy toys or the spy who loved her, Simon was producing a modern classic like “Coming Around Again/Itsy Bitsy Spider,” the theme from Nora Ephron’s 1986 autobiographical film “Heartburn.”

Years earlier, though, performing with sibling Lucy as the Simon Sisters, she gave us another bedtime gem, their take on the Mother Goose rhyme “Winkin’, Blinkin’ and Nod.”

• The opening verse of the oft-recorded “Goodnight My Love” (Jesse Belvin, Paul Anka and the Fleetwoods, among others) works well at settling time, too.

• And then there’s Patsy Cline’s “Sweet Dreams (Of You)”  — one of my mom’s favorite songs.  

• The Harden Trio’s “Tippy Toeing,” although a bit too upbeat for a lullaby, offers a nice recap of the nightly process that many a parent or grandparent can relate to.

• And Bing Crosby goes all sentimental at settling time (in this case, for adults) with “Count Your Blessings,” from the 1954 seasonal movie favorite “White Christmas.” 

• And do you remember Johnny Preston’s “Cradle of Love,” a rockabilly version of “Rock-a-bye Baby”?

And two ‘adult’ lullabies
So, we’ll wrap up with two great American Songbook classics that make my list, too:

• The always-wonderful Ella Fitzgerald’s romantic “Lullaby of Birdland”

• And “Lullaby of Broadway,” one of the many hits from the Broadway musical “42nd Street.” Here, the legendary, multi-talented Jerry Orbach leads the cast through the classic production number at the Tony Awards for the 1980 season.

Music to bond by
So, I would argue — without getting too schmaltzy, I hope — that no matter the musical choices, personal tastes or changing times, lullabies are one of our enduring common bonds that still pass from generation to generation. I’m pretty sure Gramma Kathy feels that way, too.

Sweet dreams, Zoe.

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Comments (9)

  1. Submitted by Pat Borzi on 12/03/2010 - 01:12 pm.

    Don: Mary Martin’s Peter Pan was a staple in our house, too. Wish somebody still showed it. I never could get my parents to explain why a magical little boy was played by a grown woman, though that’s a tradition that endured in later stage productions.

  2. Submitted by Corey Anderson on 12/03/2010 - 01:18 pm.

    Now, it’s time to say “Good Night” by the Beatles.

  3. Submitted by Karl Pearson-Cater on 12/03/2010 - 02:14 pm.

    The lullaby I (‘attempted’ to) sing to my kids when they were l’il was “Go To Sleep Little Baby” (O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack)

    I say ‘attempt’ to ‘sing’ because many people who hear me sing think I am trying to ‘make fun’ of the song I am singing. Anyway, my kids would go to sleep when I sang this song, even though it has pretty tragic lyrics. Yet, no more tragic than “Rock-a-bye Baby”, right?

  4. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 12/03/2010 - 04:25 pm.

    I sang my son to sleep in the ’70s to pop music rather than traditional lullabies, most often singing various tracks from The Eagles’ “Desperado” album, self-accompanied in rudimentary fashion on a 12-string guitar. “Saturday Night” was a particular favorite.

    He’s 40 now, listens to techno, and can’t stand The Eagles, or at least makes that claim.

  5. Submitted by Candace Kragthorpe on 12/03/2010 - 04:49 pm.

    I second Corey Anderson’s Beatles nomination and my second choice is Laurel & Hardy’s Go to Sleep My Baby:

  6. Submitted by Mimi Jennings on 12/03/2010 - 05:03 pm.

    Anybody know/remember “Baby’s Boat(‘s a silver moon, sailing in the sky…)?” Then there’s “Winken and Blinken and Nod” and those French classics “Au Clair de la Lune (mon ami Pierrot…)” and “Fais Dodo, Colas mon Petit Frere).” But really any song I was currently into would do. I so often got carried away with my own virtuosity that the means and the ends were confused.

  7. Submitted by Glenn Mesaros on 12/05/2010 - 07:40 am.

    Diners at a shopping mall food court in Ontario, Canada, were surprised when those sitting around them burst into song – Georg Friedrich Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” from the oratorio,”The Messiah” – but now a video of the event is attracting roughly 500,000 views every day.

    Not bad for a tune not quite 300 years old.

    The performance at the Seaway Mall near Niagara Falls had been set up by a company whose founder wanted to thank customers and spread cheer at this Christmas holiday season.

  8. Submitted by Deborah Irestone on 12/06/2010 - 12:18 pm.

    hi Don!
    you mentioned Carly Simon, how about her former husband James Taylor? “You’ve Got A Friend” with backup singing by Carol King and Joni Mitchell?
    or JT singing “Shower the People”.
    both would make beautiful lullabyes!
    i will have to use them!

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