Friday Five: Lullabies

Ken Morton, Jr. | April 1st, 2011

Lullabies have been sung in many languages and music genres going all the way back to 1072, when they were first mentioned by a Turkish writer. And while most people immediately think of a loving and mellow tune sung to bring comfort and sleep to countless babies, country artists haven’t always been so light-hearted in their lullabies. Sure, country music has its share of warm and fuzzy bedside hymns, but it has an equal share of therapy inducing songs as well.

Perhaps they took a cue from the root of the word. Historians speculate that the term lullaby probably came from an old Hebrew term “Lilith-bye” or “Lilith-Abi.” In the Jewish religion, Lilith was a demon who was believed to steal children’s souls in the night. To guard against Lilith, people would hang things on the walls of their babies’ nursery with the inscription “Lilith – abi”- which is translated as “Lilith begone.” Getting warm and fuzzy yet? In comparison, our number one lullaby seems downright appropriate for toddlers of any age.

There were so many good country music bedtime songs that it seemed appropriate to double up this Friday Five to ten great lullabies.

  • Songbird: Rare Tracks & Forgotten Gems [Digital Version]10. “Hobo’s Lullaby” – Emmylou Harris

    This one was also performed by Woody Guthrie, his son Arlo Guthrie, Pete Seeger, the Kingston Trio, and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, but any excuse to listen to Emmylou Harris sing is a good one. Suffice it to say, I may not be singing my kids to sleep with this ode to a homeless boxcar hopper.

  • 9. “My Little Buckaroo” – Roy Rogers & Dale Evans

    This is a great little dedication from daddy Roy to his (then) five-month-old son Dusty. The percussive horse clip-clops fit the song perfectly.

  • Lullaby8. “Brahm’s Lullaby” – Jewel

    In 2009, Jewel delivered an album of lullabies and appropriately called it Lullaby. “Brahm’s Lullaby” was the last track–perhaps the best known of any lullaby ever written. It’s nearly 150 years old and sung a thousand times over each and every night.

  • 7. “The Prairie Sings a Lullaby” – Sons of the Pioneers

    This is great clip from the 1940 movie The Durango Kid–the first of dozens of films starring the handsome action star Charles Starrett. Each movie starred a different western music group; this one is headed by one of the most famous of all time.

  • Taking The Long Way6. “Lullaby” – Dixie Chicks

    While the Chicks’ Taking the Long Way album is mostly known for their musical answer to the George W. Bush brouhaha, it included this beautiful and innocent little melody.

  • The Best of Country Sing the Best of Disney5. “Baby Mine” – Alison Krauss

    Way back in 1941, Walt Disney released an animated classic called Dumbo and included this iconic lullaby. Alison Krauss first recorded it for a Disney collaboration in 1996 and it was later featured on her greatest hits album in 2007. Her ethereal voice could be the finest for a children’s lullaby on the planet.

  • Electric4. “Goodnight Moon” – Jack Ingram

    Anyone who has ever seen Ingram play a live show knows that he often ends his performance with this little ode to the end of the day.

  • 3. “Swiss Lover’s Lullaby” – Yodeling Slim Clark

    Slim won the World Yodeling Championship in 1947, is a member of the Western Music Association’s Hall of Fame, and a member of the Cowboy Hall of Fame. Since we’re talking about kids’ lullabies and yodeling, it seems appropriate that I share a favorite with the young ones in my house:

    Knock, Knock.
    Who’s there?
    I didn’t know you could yodel.

  • Cowboy Essentials2. “Rocky Mountain Lullaby” – Rex Allen

    Singing cowboy and motion picture star Rex Allen sings this little ditty backed by a mini orchestra. The string section doesn’t always fit into the room with a crib, unfortunately.

  • Mud On The Tires1. “Whiskey Lullaby” – Brad Paisley & Alison Krauss

    In what goes down as one of the saddest songs in the annals of country music, Paisley and Krauss tell of two heartbroken souls that drink themselves to death and are laid down to rest next to one another for eternity. So the boy gets the girl after all. Happy ending! Sort of.

  1. Dave D.
    April 1, 2011 at 9:46 am

    Merle Haggard’s “(Think About A) Lullaby” is a good one.

  2. Jon
    April 1, 2011 at 10:31 am

    You know, if you’re going to call a song one of the saddest in the annals of country music, you really ought to give a shout-out to the people who wrote it – in this case, Bill Anderson and Jon Randall. Especially when the recording you’re pointing to is pretty much a cover in the old sense of the word. Melonie Cannon was the first to record “Whiskey Lullabye,” and while I am a big fan of Paisley’s, and an even bigger fan of Alison Krauss’s, Mel’s version is the bomb. You can sample – and then buy – it here:

    or you can just go ahead and buy it and thank me later.

  3. Ken Morton
    April 1, 2011 at 10:39 am

    Jon, thanks for adding some additional background info to this track. I own that Melonie Cannon recording and you are correct- it’s the bomb. For fans of the song, it is worth a couple extra bucks to have both versions.

  4. Leeann Ward
    April 1, 2011 at 10:43 am

    It’s okay.

  5. Rick
    April 1, 2011 at 11:19 am

    One of my favorite songs that references a lullaby is Madona’s “La Isla Bonita” where she refers to a “Spanish lullaby”. No, there’s nothing coutry about it but its still a great song with one of the best musical bridges I’ve ever heard. Pardon me, its time for my siesta…

  6. dustin
    April 1, 2011 at 11:34 am

    Pat Green “Dixie Lullaby” is good too

  7. JL
    April 1, 2011 at 11:43 am

    A few more good ones:
    – Mary Chapin Carpenter, “Dreamland”
    – Faith Hill, “Wish for You”
    – Dixie Chicks, “Godspeed (Sweet Dreams)”
    – Alison Krauss, Gillian Welch, and Emmylou Harris, “Didn’t Leave Nobody but the Baby”

  8. Michael A.
    April 1, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    A few months ago I made a Lullabies playlist for my niece. It included Dixie Chicks’ “Godspeed (Sweet Dreams)” and “Lullaby” and Krauss’ “Baby Mine”, all of which have been mentioned in the post and subsequent comments. It also included Dixie Chicks’ cover of “Rainbow Connection” and James Taylor’s “Sweet Baby James”.

  9. Barry Mazor
    April 1, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    I go into this in my Jimmie Rodgers book, but Rodgers’ records “Lullabye Yodel” and “Prairie Lullaby” are virtually the daddy of the whole genre in commercial country and cowboy and both were picked up on right away and ever after for theme and sounds..

  10. Ollie
    April 1, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    Patty Griffin singing Whole Heap of Little Horses:

  11. Mike K
    April 1, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    Katie Belle Blue – Townes Van Zandt

    My favorite lullaby. A great story to go along with it can be found on the Together at the Bluebird album with TVZ, Guy Clark, and Steve Earle.

  12. MayorJoBob
    April 1, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    David Kersh – “Goodnight Sweetheart”

  13. luckyoldsun
    April 1, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    How about the complete works of Jim Reeves, Eddie Arnold and Ray Price, post -1960

  14. M.C.
    April 1, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    LOS–Don’t know that Ray Price’s amazing version of “Night Life,” recorded in 1963 with Buddy Emmons on steel, would be considered a lullaby by anyone. Unless you prefer the kid to sleep days. *smile*

    Steve Earle’s “Good Night Little Rock ‘n’ Roller” would qualify, though.

  15. Paul W Dennis
    April 1, 2011 at 7:16 pm

    I’m not sure I agree, Jon, that Ms Cannon’s version of “Whiskey Lullaby” is better than the hit version, but it certainly is its equal. Bill Anderson isn’t the most compelling singer, but I liked the version that he and Kenzie recorded.

  16. Leeann Ward
    April 1, 2011 at 7:35 pm

    I like Jon Randall’s version too, but it’s almost jarringly slower than Paisley and Krauss’.

  17. Rick
    April 1, 2011 at 8:21 pm

    And don’t forget the hottest lullaby in geekdom right now “Warm Kitty, Soft Kitty”, a fan favorite on “Big Bang Theory”! Here’s the best version sung in a round by Penny and Sheldon:

    Now how can anyone beat that?! (lol)

  18. solongsowrong
    April 1, 2011 at 9:15 pm


    Just for trivia purposes…I know that Jerry Douglas and Dan Tyminski were involved with the studio/album version of the Paisley/Krauss conver. Do you know if either one of them was also involved with the Melonie Cannon version?

  19. Jon
    April 2, 2011 at 9:41 am

    Without looking…Jerry didn’t appear on Mel’s album; i’m about 90% sure that Dan did, but I don’t remember him being on that cut. I’ll look when I have the chance…

  20. PaulaW
    April 4, 2011 at 9:25 am

    One of my favorites …. ‘Rock n Roll Lullabye’ BJ Thomas.

    I also like ‘Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral’ on Collin Raye’s ‘Counting Sheep’ cd.

  21. Josh
    April 8, 2011 at 9:45 am

    That God speeds (sweet dreams) song y’all labeling from Dixie Chicks…don’t you mean the Radney Foster’s version?? Did the Dixie Chicks put out cover of RF? I could be wrong…His take on missing out on his son’s life is very much heart-warming (and -aching). Kind of puts it just below Lennon’s “Beautiful Boy”.

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