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.


  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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