Sing Your Hipster Baby to Sleep
Music to sing your kids to sleep without boring yourself to sleep, but it’s not just for parents of young kids
featuring artists like
Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Willie Nelson, Jerry Garcia, David Grisman, Elizabeth Cotten, Talking Heads
Since my kids were born, my major musical activity has been singing them to sleep at night. It’s taken me a while to build up a collection of songs to sing that I actually like and won’t get sick of. You’ll see a number of songs here that might immediately seem too uptempo, too sad, or just plain too weird to be lullabies. I can assure you that if you sing them slowly and softly, they all work great.
This is music to sing your kids to sleep without boring yourself to sleep, but it’s not just for parents of young kids. Consider it a collection of songs from an eclectic array of genres and eras with one thing in common: you can sing them, to yourself or someone else, and they will make you feel better.
14 November 2017
I could have filled this whole playlist with Duke Ellington songs, or Billie Holiday recordings. Recordings of Billie Holiday singing Duke Ellington songs are almost too much musical pleasure to bear. This one falls into that large category of songs that are maybe too depressing for lullabies if you think about the lyrics too hard, but the melody is so perfect, so why ruin a good thing?..
31 October 2017
Anguished breakup songs are maybe not super appropriate for lullaby purposes, but our culture has a lot more songs aimed at lovers than babies, so we have to make do with what we’ve got…
24 October 2017
You might think this song belongs more on a playlist for dancing your baby to sleep. It does indeed work great for that, though my kids prefer “Beat It” for dance party purposes. But like a lot of the best uptempo songs, “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” also works well if you sing it slowly.
10 October 2017
“Free Fallin’” is my favorite Tom Petty song. I know that makes me sound basic, since it was his biggest hit, and the rest of his catalog is so wide and deep. But “Free Fallin'” really does it for me. In the wake of Petty’s death, I found the multitrack stems and listened to them closely. Later on, while singing the song to my daughter, I realized why I think it’s so cool: its ruthless, fearless minimalism.
3 October 2017
Making this playlist shows me just how wide the distance is between most of the music I enjoy listening to and the music I can sing. Hip-hop is a case in point. I love listening to it, but I sound too much like Niles Crane to really participate. Also, rap is not generally a very lullaby-friendly genre. Or so I thought, until I encountered the mellifluous sounds of Chancellor Johnathan Bennett, better known to the world as Chance The Rapper…
25 September 2017
I first heard this when I was walking through my college’s campus center. A student jazz group called the Hot Sextet (ha, ha) was playing in the lounge area, and the melody stopped me in my tracks. Ellington tunes often have this quality of intense nostalgia, even when you’re hearing them for the first time.
19 September 2017
Singing quietly in a darkened room is not the only way to get a baby to fall asleep. You can also dance with them to loud, beat-driven music in a room full of people. Babies like all kinds of grooves, from gangsta rap to eighties pop to death metal. My favorite thing to dance to is funk, so my kids are grooving to a lot of that.
12 September 2017
I’m a white guy, so I sing this song more like Art Garfunkel . Everyone loves that Simon and Garfunkel recording, and it was a hit for them back in the day, but have you listened to it lately?
5 September 2017
This recording doesn’t have the lyrics, but you can look those up. What it does have is so much soul. So, so much soul. Jimmy Smith’s organ playing is so buttery and smooth it practically clogs your arteries. Between 1956 and 1964, he did forty recording sessions for Blue Note, and all of them are killers.
29 August 2017
Tim Eriksen is the best folk singer you’ve never heard of. By “folk singer,” I don’t mean “affable white person with an acoustic guitar,” but rather ”an interpreter of old and ownerless music.” Tim focuses mostly on traditional songs from Appalachia and New England, but he also sprinkles in punk rock, Bosnian pop, and some South Indian classical as well…