Unexpected Lullabies: 20 Songs That You Won’t Mind Singing Every Night

Lullaby time is, without question, my favorite part of the day. It doesn’t matter how much my kid and I have been on each other’s nerves during the day, this is the place where we connect in the most nurturing way. In adult relationships, they tell you never to go to bed angry. Never go to bed without a lullaby is my parenting version of this.

My baby is now four years old, and it’s occurred to me how important picking a great lullaby is. By now, I must have sung our song nearly as many times as Bon Jovi has sung “Livin’ on a Prayer.”

I think a few things that make a lullaby great for your family are:

1. Is it easy for you to sing (no notes that are a stretch)?
2. Are the lyrics calming?
3. Is there a soothing repetition to it?
4. Does it convey love?
5. Can you find beauty in it for years to come?

Some of these are quite personal, and based on your own taste. So, in that vein, I asked some Artsplorer families to tell me what unexpected songs they’ve used as lullabies in their families. There are some real and unexpected gems in here, so if you have a new baby or are looking to change things up at bedtime, I hope you’ll find some inspiration!

  1. Goodnight Moon by Will Kimbrough: Nothing to do with the classic book, “Goodnight Moon” is a song that I found on a music compilation years ago, and I’ve always loved for its imagery (“Goodnight moon, goodnight stars, goodnight old broke down cars”) and simplicity. This one is our special song.

    2. Your Song by Elton John: This has always been my “backup” song, and I think I’m going with this as Future Mini Artsplorer #2’s lullaby, if I can keep from crying when I sing “yours are the sweetest eyes I’ve ever seen.”

    3. Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash: Bianka shares that, improbably, “Ring of Fire” is the only song that settles her 15 month old! But, take away the Mexican horns, and this country classic written by June Carter Cash sounds like this – the original recording by Johnny’s sister-in-law, Anita Carter. It’s actually no surprise that this makes a beautiful lullaby.

     

    4. Dreamland by Mary Chapin Carpenter: For a very traditional lullaby sound, that’s not nearly as well trodden as “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” Brid suggests “Dreamland.” It sounds just like something our great-grandmothers might have sung.

    5. You’ll Never Walk Alone by Jerry and the Pacemakers: Shannon from Oh Creative Day shares that her husband sings “You’ll Never Walk Alone” because he wants to make sure that their kids are lifelong Liverpool FC fans. Honestly, wherever your loyalties lie, it’s not a bad song choice!

    6. Everything’s Alright from Jesus Christ Superstar: Show tunes made up a fair few suggestions amongst those I asked. Tracy sings her kids “Everything’s Alright,” which is particularly reassuring and melodic. She says she leaves out a few of the verses, though!

    7. Maybe from Annie: “Maybe” got a nod from Ashley. The lyrics are like something out of a dream, and written from a child’s perspective. It’s such a lovely song.

    8. A Bushel and a Peck from Guys and Dolls: Katie says that her mother used to sing “A Bushel and Peck” to her, and she was “VERY confused the first time I saw the show and the Hot Box Girls were singing my lullaby!”

    9. Inanay: “Inanay” is an Indigenous Australian lullaby from the Yorta Yorta language, and Catherine says that she sang it to her kids when they were young. This one was new to me, and I think it’s a beauty.

    10. I Will Follow You Into the Dark by Death Cab for Cutie: How pretty is this tune? Dana says this is one of her favorites. Adults may find the theme dark but I think that for kids, the lyrics are a reminder that mum and dad will always be with them. “If there’s no one beside you when your soul embarks, then I’ll follow you into the dark.”

    11. Black Hole Sun by Soundgarden: Right, so Soundgarden might not be the first place your mind goes when someone mentions lullabies, but when Natalie said that her husband said sings “Black Hole Sun,” I thought, “yep, I can totally see that!” Take the soaring 90s guitar out, and you’ve got a really soothing melody there.

    12. Sweet Child of Mine by Guns N Roses: Like Soundgarden, you might not just immediately say “sleepy time song” when I say Axl and Slash, but strip away the drugs and guitar solos, and you have a brilliant bedtime song that pretty much any parent who grew up in the 80s can sing on request.

    13. Lullaby (Goodnight My Angel) by Billy Joel: You can’t go past this modern classic, and Jul says this is a bedtime favorite in her home. Just try not to cry when you sing it because, man, those lyrics can really get a parent right in the feelings!

    14. Didn’t Leave Nobody But the Baby as sung by Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss, and Gillian Welch: Brid suggested this one, and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it myself, as the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack is a huge favorite here. I especially love it because so many of these traditional songs are so singable by anyone. OK, you might not sound exactly like these three songbirds when you sing this one, but it’s sure to sound like perfection to your baby.

    15. Wrecking Ball by Emmylou Harris: And while we’re on the topic of the divine Emmylou Harris, Catherine suggested her “Wrecking Ball.” Really, this whole album is full of songs you might turn into lullabies.

    16. Let it Be by The Beatles: Lots of votes for The Beatles from the families I heard from, and it’s no wonder. Aside from the ones mentioned, I can think of at least half a dozen more that would make great lullabies. But, I have to admit that “Let it Be” would probably would be my choice, as suggested by Megan.

    17. I Want to Hold Your Hand by the Beatles: Lauren suggested “I Want to Hold Your Hand” as a favorite in her house, and I don’t think it would have occurred to me to turn this one into a lullaby, but slow it down just a touch, and you’ve got a beautiful ode to the parent child bond in the early years. What’s more special than that feeling of safety and closeness with a kid who still lets you hold their hand?

    18. Blackbird by the Beatles: Another bit of Beatles perfection, as suggested by Ashley. Sweet, simply poetry.

    19. The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face by Robert Flack: No parent will ever forget the first time they saw their child’s face, and you can’t help call that moment to mind when you hear this delicious song, made famous by Roberta Flack.

    20. You Were Born by Cloud Cult: I was tipped off to this one by Tory from Minted Rogue. She says, “I feel the lyrics to this song pretty much sum up the parental experience. It’s all about love and change and its just super pretty.” It really is!
    Tory has her own list of favorite lullabies “that won’t drive you mental” over on her blog, so if you want even more inspiration, hop over there!.

    Do you love lullaby time as much as I do? What do you sing to your little ones at night? 

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