3 Beloved Children’s Songs That Are Actually Quite Disturbing

by ParentCo. June 21, 2017

drawing of three cats standing at the baby craddle

You know them. You love them. But have you ever really paid close attention to the words in those classic children’s songs you sing to your little ones? If you simply read the lyrics aloud without the hypnotizing melodies, you may be surprised by how disturbing many of these songs are. Here are just three of the many examples:

1 | Rock-a-bye Baby

This quintessential lullaby is arguably also the most terrifying. Here we have a baby resting comfortably in a cradle that, for some reason, is on top of a damn tree. As if that isn’t bad enough, the cradle is also placed on an unsturdy branch during a wind storm. Eventually, the wind gets the cradle rocking, the rocking of the cradle places too much stress on the flimsy little branch, and we all know what happens next: the bough breaks, the cradle falls and, of course, down comes that little baby, “cradle and all.” Regardless of whether the lyrics are a metaphor for a mother rocking her child to sleep and lowering her baby gently into his crib, the image of a helpless baby falling from a treetop and hurtling toward the ground at a deadly velocity is quite upsetting. Why do generation after generation keep singing this song? Because the melody is absolutely enchanting. It doesn’t matter what words you use. The song’s core melody transforms any rhyme into a beautiful, timeless lullaby. Don’t believe me? Next time you sing it, try substituting the regular lyrics with the most deranged words you can think of. Here’s a version to get you started: Punch an old lady, right in the teeth When the punch lands, old lady will scream When oldie screams her teeth will fall out Down will go granny, dentures and all Most disturbing line: “Rock-a-bye baby, do not you fear.”

2 | You Are My Sunshine

This beloved tune, which happens to be one of the state songs of Louisiana, has been covered by everyone from Johnny Cash to Nicki Minaj. It also happens to be about a toxic co-dependent relationship. If one single person truly is your “only sunshine,” chances are you lead an unhealthy life and should seek help immediately. It’s not fair to put so much pressure on one person to bring you happiness, especially that person is your own child. The “you-are-my-sunshine-my-only-sunshine” line of the most well-known verse isn’t even close to the worst, though. That distinction belongs to “please don’t take my sunshine away.” The line is creepy enough if you’re just singing it to a love interest. I mean, who the hell said anything about taking your sunshine away? If you’re in a healthy relationship, you shouldn’t be so damn paranoid about losing her, dude. If you’re singing the tune to a child, that line is even more disturbing. Why are you worried about losing your child? Is it because you’re an unfit parent? What have you done that would cause someone (i.e., the state) to take away your “sunshine”? It takes a lot for a parent to lose custody of a child, so you’d have to have done something pretty bad – something like, say, putting your kid in a cradle on top of a tree. Most disturbing line: “But if you leave me and love another/You’ll regret it all some day.” (from the Johnny Cash version)

3 | Hush, Little Baby

There are plenty of ways to soothe a crying baby. You can change her, you can feed her, you can follow the very specific “5 S’s” created by that creepy doctor from “The Happiest Baby on the Block”. Or you could simply purchase a litany of ridiculous, unnecessary items that can’t seem to do the one thing they’re supposed to do. The latter, of course, is the calming strategy suggested in the classic “Hush, Little Baby.” What gets me is that the songwriter didn’t even attempt to create any type of logic or order with the list of desired items; he or she simply grouped together a bunch of weird shit that rhymes. I can just picture the person who wrote this thing sitting down in some 1800s outhouse (toilets are timeless sources of inspiration), going “What rhymes with ‘looking glass is broke....’ Of course! Billy goat!” While this may seem like just another absurd children’s song to some, new research suggests the subliminal message in this lullaby has directly led to the deep-pockets parenting epidemic, in which parents attempt to buy their children’s love and affection. And it is at least indirectly responsible for the horrifying Bro-Romper trend. Most disturbing line: “And if that cart and bull turn over, Mama’s gonna buy you a dog named Rover.”



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