...Baby One More Nursery Rhyme.
Hoo baby! Having trouble getting your kid to fall asleep? That’s what lullabies are for. People have been singing their babies to sleep for centuries, and some of those classics — “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and “Rock A Bye Baby” — are among the first songs any of us ever hears.
Beyond that, there are plenty of songs from pop singers, rockers, country bands and other artists that are suitable for your baby to snooze to. There’s The Beatles’ gentle song of resilience “Blackbird,” Andy Williams’ signature schmaltz on “Moon River” and Norah Jones’ jazzy “The Long Day Is Over” to help babies as they prepare for those adventures in slumber land. Not to mention soothing, gorgeous movements from classical music, such as Claude Debussy’s beautiful piano piece “Clair de Lune” and Johannes Brahms’ sweet “Lullaby” (also known as “Cradle Song”), some of which are so ubiquitous in pop culture that you know the music even if you’ve never heard of the composer before. Plus, plenty of folk songs and nursery rhymes have wafted their way to the cradle over the years (some dating back centuries ago), coming from England, France, America and beyond.
We’ve rounded up the 30 all-time greatest nursery rhymes. Among this baby songs list is everything from the childhood classics to soothing songs from Sarah McLachlan, the Chicks, Disney movies and more.
Check out the full list of lullabies for babies, but it’s BYOP – Bring Your Own Pacifier. And don’t be surprised if you doze off yourself.
A French song from the 19th century, “Frère Jacques” and its playful sing-song melody quickly traveled across borders. English-speaking listeners may also know it as “Are You Sleeping” or “Brother John.” Listen to a version of it here.
An English nursery rhyme dating back to the 19th century, “Little Bo-Peep” tells the story of a shepherd who loses her sheep but is told not to worry — they’ll come back on their own, “wagging their tails behind them.” Centuries earlier, to “play bo peep” was slang for a humiliating form of public punishment in a pillory. Listen to a version here.
James Taylor, "Mexico"
James Taylor’s ode to the United States’ southern neighbor, “Mexico” features one of the warmest, sweetest vocal performances from the folk-rock hitmaker. Listen here.
Julie Andrews, "My Favorite Things"
1965’s The Sound of Music was a smash hit at the box office and with Oscar voters, winning the best picture Academy Award. Its soundtrack was also a blockbuster, staying in the top 10 of the Billboard 200 album chart for 109 weeks. One of its most beloved songs is the Rodgers & Hammerstein number “My Favorite Things,” performed by the iconic Julie Andrews, which reminds us to think good thoughts when the going gets tough.
Billy Joel, "Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel)"
Just because a song has “lullaby” in the title doesn’t necessarily mean it’s baby appropriate (The Cure’s classic “Lullaby” might not quite put the little ones to sleep), but Billy Joel’s sweet piano ballad “Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel)” from 1993’s River of Dreams album has shades of the classical tunes that have entered the lullaby canon. Listen here.
Josh Groban, "Pure Imagination"
While Gene Wilder isn’t primarily known as a singer, the comedic legend originated one of the most covered movie songs of all time with “Pure Imagination” from 1971’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Josh Groban’s stately, cinematic version is certainly more soothing than screening the actual film for your child. Listen here.
Auli'i Cravalho, Matthew Ineleo, Olivia Foa'i, Opetaia Foa'i & Vai Mahina, "Know Who You Are"
With lyrics from Opetaia Foa’I and Lin-Manuel Miranda, this moody, breathy song from the hit animated Disney film Moana (2016) showcases Auli’i Cravalho’s vocal clarity and the cast’s gorgeous vocal harmonizing. Listen here.
Andy Williams, "Moon River"
Sung by Audrey Hepburn in the 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany’s, “Moon River” is a lush, sentimental tune from the era’s hitmakers Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer. Andy Williams recorded it in 1962, and that version became the definitive one. “Moon River” won an Academy Award for best original song and two Grammys, record of the year and song of the year.
"Little Boy Blue"
Not unlike “Little Bo-Peep,” “Little Boy Blue” is an English folk song about someone whose animals have run amuck. In this case, the boy who is supposed to be looking after the farm animals is asleep beneath the haystack, giving the sheep and cows time to wander off in this 18 century rhyme. Listen to a version here.
A folk rhyme of uncertain authorship, the words to “Rock-a-Bye Baby” date back to 18th century England while the accompanying music has been attributed to two separate Americans in the 19th century. Listen to Raffi’s version here.
Starting in 2006, the Rockabye Baby! series of albums provides baby-appropriate instrumental versions of songs from everyone from The Beatles to Metallica to Rihanna.
“Hush, Little Baby”
A lullaby originating in the American South that dates at least back to the early 20th century, “Hush, Little Baby” has been recorded by a bevy of A-listers: Joan Baez, Nina Simone, The Weavers and Regina Spektor. One of the most influential recordings comes from Appalachian musician Jean Ritchie, which you can listen to here.
Sarah McLachlan, "Angel"
Like many lullabies, this one has a somber history. A soothing, heartbreaking piano ballad, “Angel” is what Sarah McLachlan created while mourning the death of Jonathan Melvoin at age 34, who played with Prince and Smashing Pumpkins throughout his career.
"All the Pretty Little Horses"
A lullaby originating in the American South, believed to have come from an unknown African American composer. Also known as “Hush-a-Bye,” this gentle song promises a crying baby that if they go to sleep, they’ll wake up to have “all the pretty little horses.” Listen here.
"Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star"
Certainly one of the prettiest nursery rhymes around, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” stretches back to the early 19th century, when English poet Jane Taylor wrote a poem titled “The Star.” Eventually it was paired with the melody to a French nursery rhyme (“Ah! vous dirai-je, maman”) and a new star entered the children’s music firmament. Listen to a version here.
John Newton, "Amazing Grace"
A Christian hymn from the late 18th century, “Amazing Grace” was written by Englishman John Newton after his spiritual conversion. It’s been performed by everyone from Aretha Franklin to Carrie Underwood to President Obama to just about any and every bagpiper in existence. Listen to Pentatonix’s version here.
The Chicks, "Lullaby"
A sweet, strummy country ode to a newborn baby and a mother’s undying love (“How long do you want to be loved / Is forever enough?), “Lullaby” hails from The Chicks’ Taking the Long Way album, which won the Grammy for album of the year.
Glen Campbell, "Gentle On My Mind"
With beautiful finger picking on the banjo and a warm, knowing vocal delivery, Glen Campbell’s hit 1967 cover of “Gentle On My Mind” is one of the loveliest slice-of-life travelogue tunes in country history. Listen here.
Carpenters, "We've Only Just Begun"
This 1970 soft rock smash from the Carpenters hit No. 2 on the Hot 100 and demonstrates the warm, inviting quality of the late Karen Carpenter’s voice. Listen here.
Jasmine Thompson, "You Are My Sunshine"
There are a LOT of versions of this country song that dates back to 1939, including ones from Gene Autry, Ray Charles and even Marge Simpson. But this hushed acoustic version from a then-teenage Jasmine Thompson in 2016 is one of the loveliest. Listen here.
Norah Jones, "The Long Day Is Over"
A jazzy, twangy number that evokes kicking back and relaxing after an exhausting day, “The Long Day Is Over” hails from Norah Jones’ breakout album Come Away With Me, which won the Grammy for album of the year.
Cat Stevens, "Moonshadow"
Before he was Yusuf, he went by the name Cat Stevens and delivered some of the gentlest, loveliest hits of the early ’70s, including the lilting acoustic folk tune “Moonshadow” which hit the top 30 on the Billboard Hot 100. Listen here.
Wallace Willis, "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot"
A call-and-response hymn composed by Wallace Willis, a formerly enslaved African American who introduced several spiritual folk songs to popular culture after the Civil War. The religious hymn has also served as a lullaby and a protest anthem, particularly during the Civil Rights movement. Listen here.
Curtis Mayfield, "The Makings of You"
Putting the funk on hold for just a minute, Curtis Mayfield sang about “The Makings of You” on his solo debut Curtis in 1970. It’s a gentle, sweet and string-laden ode to womanhood delivered in his aching tenor. Listen here.
The Beatles, "Blackbird"
A gentle acoustic strummer from The Beatles’ 1968 White Album, Paul McCartney said “Blackbird” was inspired by the Civil Rights movement in the United States.
Paul Simon, "Slip Slidin' Away"
For his first solo hits compilation, Paul Simon dusted off “Slip Slidin’ Away” in 1977 and scored a top 5 Hot 100 hit. Easy-going, meandering and pleasant, this soft rock track is full of pithy wisdom that you might find in a children’s fairy tale: “The nearer your destination, the more you’re slip slidin’ away.” Listen here.
Bill Withers, "Lean On Me"
Bill Withers topped the Billboard Hot 100 with “Lean On Me,” creating one of the greatest family/friend anthems of all time, a warm sing-along ode to helping each other through tough times. Listen here.
Cliff Edwards, "When You Wish Upon a Star"
Cliff Edwards was already a renowned ukulele-slinging hitmaker when he signed up for Disney’s Pinocchio as Jiminy Cricket, and the 1940 animated classic gave him a new smash with “When You Wish Upon a Star,” which won the Academy Award for best original song. Listen here.
Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwo’ole, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow"
One of Hawaii’s greatest musicians of all time, Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole released a ukulele-assisted version of The Wizard of Oz classic “Over the Rainbow” in the ’90s, capturing the innocent yearning of the timeless composition decades after it first captured hearts in the 1939 fantasy film.
Claude Debussy, "Clair de Lune"
Inspired by French poet Paul Verlaine’s “Clair de Lune” (“Moonlight”) from 1869, French composer Claude Debussy wrote Suitbergamasque in 1890; it’s third movement includes the famous piano passage “Clair de Lune,” an achingly gorgeous, lovely evocation of moonlight on a quiet night. Listen to a version here.
Johannes Brahms, "Lullaby"
You know this one even if you think you don’t: It’s the going-to-sleep music in all the cartoons, from Tom and Jerry to Despicable Me. Written by German Romantic composer Johannes Brahms, “Lullaby” first appeared in 1868 and is also known as “Cradle Song” in English, while the original German title is “Wiegenlied.” Listen to Yo Yo Ma’s recording here.
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