To Put Anna to Sleep on Tuneful Tuesday

This thoughtful post and sweet lullaby come to us from member Tom Smith’s blog.

I rarely sing this song in public. I wrote it four years ago when my granddaughter Anna was two years old, and I still sing it from time to time when I put the grandkids to bed. The first time I was in sole charge of Anna’s bed time she seemed rather agitated and would not go to sleep. While rocking her, I found myself humming this melody, which seemed to work quite well. It felt so good holding Anna to my chest that I didn’t want to place her into her crib even after she was completely asleep. I continued humming and singing “nonsense words”, which evolved into the first verse. Eventually, I put her down and then went downstairs to write the rest of this song.

Was it Woody Guthrie or Pete Seeger who described lullabies as work songs and propaganda songs? I agree on both counts. I have also sung what Rosalie Sorrels calls hostile baby rocking songs – songs sung in desperation at 5:30 am when the baby has not stopped crying for hours. “This is the day we give babies away with a half a pound of tea”. Every culture has them. How about “Rock-a-bye Baby?” Happily, this month’s song is not one of those.

So why sing a simple lullaby this month? I have been thinking recently about the role that music has played in my life – as a child, a young man, an adult and now as a senior. Indulge me as I ramble a bit.

I am so fortunate to have spent August away from the busy-ness of civilization and my everyday work. Today marks the “official” end of four wonderful weeks in a rustic cabin in the woods of Jaffrey, NH. Margo and I spent two of those weeks by ourselves – reading books, waking up without an alarm clock, and renewing our relationship. It was wonderful. In the first three days I wrote two songs! Then relaxation kicked in as we dropped all agendas. The most important decision of the day was whether to grill hot dogs or salmon for dinner – and yes, the ever present guitar and banjo invited themselves onto my lap every day.

Then we had two wonderful weeks with our grandchildren (Anna 6 years, and Andrew 2 years old). To say that Margo and I were busy during this time is an understatement. I usually woke up with Andrew at 5:30 am, and the busy day continued without break until we put Anna to bed at 8:00 pm. After a glass of wine or cup of tea, Margo and I were in bed by 9:00 pm.

We sang for and with the kids frequently – sometimes simple one line made-up rhymes – sometimes entire songs. It was as natural as breathing. As some of you know, I am a student of songwriting and performance. I often think about why I write and perform music – why some songs speak so strongly to me and why others don’t. I study the formulas used by commercial songwriters. Yes, I would love to write a song that becomes a hit and brings in a big bag of money (are you reading this Kenny Chesny?). But for me, the most important music is the simple self-made music shared with my family and community of friends. This month’s song will never be a commercial “hit”, but it has become part of my life and part of the lives of two little children. I am certain they will share it (or songs like it of their own) with the next generation of children and friends.

2 comments

  1. So beautiful! Thanks for the beautiful song, Tom.

  2. Beautiful song. And effective in its mission. Cripes, if it weren’t 10:30 am, it would have lulled me into slumberland.

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