Back to index of "words and books and such" pages by Donald Sauter.
My Mother Goose pages:
    Mother Goose favorites - a personal selection.
    Mother Goose differences - a look at how the same rhyme can vary.
    Mother Goose modernized - a look at some rhymes touched up for kids of today.
    Mother Goose rarities - appearing for the first time on the world-wide web!
    Mother Goose and the Beatles - not to mention Bob Dylan and miscellaneous popsters. (You are HERE.)
    Mother Goose in classic literature - Edgar Allan Poe, Washington Irving, Winnie the Pooh, et al.
    Mother Goose glossary - compare your vocabulary with a three-year-old's.
    Mother Goose first lines - a huge index.


Mother Goose and the Beatles -
plus Bob Dylan and various popsters

Knowing me, as I do, it came as no surprise that I got an itch to gather up Mother Goose rhymes which have a connection to Beatle songs. In some cases the connection was extremely tenuous. In others it may be wholly imaginary - caveat emptor!

Then, I figured why not do the same for Bob Dylan.

And then I starting adding miscellaneous Mother Goose references in other pop songs as I stumbled on them.

Taken all together, then, this page represents a snowflake on the tip of the iceberg of the influence Mother Goose has had on modern pop music culture.

But you're welcome to it!


Cry Baby Cry is a song on the Beatles' White Album. John Lennon sings, "Cry baby cry, make your mother sigh..." Mother Goose sings:

Cry, baby, cry,
Put your finger in your eye;
And tell your mother it wasn't I.

Further inspiration for Cry Baby Cry comes from the second verse of Sing a Song of Sixpence. In the Beatle song, "the king... was in the kitchen, cooking breakfast for the queen. The queen was in the parlour playing piano for the children of the king." According to Mother Goose:

Sing a song of sixpence, a pocket full of rye;
Four-and-twenty blackbirds baked in a pie.
When the pie was opened, the birds began to sing;
Was not that a dainty dish to set before the King?

The King was in the counting-house, counting out his money;
The Queen was in the parlor, eating bread and honey.
The maid was in the garden, hanging out the clothes;
When down came a little bird and snapped off her nose!


Two songs later on The Beatles White Album (or the next song, if you discount Revolution 9, which I am not suggesting) is Good Night. I make no claim it was Mother Goose inspired, but there's a rhyme in particular that brings it to my mind, at least. The song starts, "Now it's time to say good night..." and ends with, "Good night, everybody; everybody everywhere." This is the rhyme:

And now, good-night; our play is done;
Farewell to each and every one.


The Beatles' song Golden Slumbers is Paul McCartney's variation on the words and tune of an old English lullaby called, well, Golden Slumbers. The words are ascribed to Thomas Dekker, and they first appeared in the play Patient Grissell (1603). Somewhere along the line, they joined Mother Goosedom:

Golden slumbers kiss your eyes,
Smiles awake you when you rise.
Sleep, pretty babies; do not cry,
And I will sing a lullaby:
Rock them, rock them, lullaby.

Care is heavy, therefore sleep you;
You are care, and care must keep you.
Sleep, pretty babies; do not cry,
And I will sing a lullaby:
Rock them, rock them, lullaby.


The Beatles wrote a nursery rhyme-like song called All Together Now. It played at the end of the Yellow Submarine movie, and was meant to send fans out "singing!" - in defiance of "newer and bluer meanies" sighted within the vicinity of the theater. It has three verses, and for each verse you can find a counterpart in Mother Goose. Admittedly, the connections are not overly strong, and I certainly don't claim a direct inspiration in any case.

The first verse is "One, two, three, four, can I have a little more? Five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, I love you." The closest fitting Mother Goose would be:

One, two, three, four,
Mary at the kitchen door;
Five, six, seven, eight,
Eating cherries off a plate.
O-U-T spells out!

The second verse of the Beatle song is, "A, B, C, D, can I bring my friend to tea? E, F, G, H, I, J, I love you." That brings to mind the opening lines of Mother Goose's The Alphabet:

A, B, C, D,
Pray, playmates, agree.
E, F, and G,
Well, so it shall be.
J, K, and L,
In peace we will dwell. . . .

The last verse has the weakest Mother Goose link. The Beatles sing, "Black, white, green, red, can I take my friend to bed? Pink, brown, yellow, orange and blue, I love you." You'd think there would be a few Mother Goose rhymes listing colors to choose from, but the only one I found is this riddle:

Purple, yellow, red and green,
The King cannot reach it, nor the Queen;
Nor can old Sol whose power's so great;
Tell me this riddle while I count eight.
(A rainbow)


I don't know what to say about George Harrison's Piggies. I'm inclined to believe there'd have to be at least a tenuous mental connection between the "little piggies" in the song, and "This little piggy went to market." At least, that's the way I've always heard the nursery rhyme. The problem is, there are nine occurrences in of that rhyme in my collection - and every single one starts "This little pig", not piggy, which makes a difference. A Beatle trivia contest on a radio station once claimed George's song was really about toes, not social concerns. Did they get that from a George Harrison interview I'm not aware of? Whether or not he was joking, it would be a smoking gun.


On their 1965 fan club Christmas record, the Beatles sing their setting of the Mother Goose rhyme Christmas Comes But Once A Year:

Christmas comes but once a year,
And when it comes it brings good cheer.

John appends a sing-along third line, "Because, because we've got a hnh nh hnnnh uh au-aughhhhhh-ungh!" (Everybody, now!)


The Beatles' fan club Christmas record for 1967 is called Christmas Time (Is Here Again). After 12 bars worth of "Christmas time is here again... Ain't been 'round since you know when", Ringo sings, "O-U-T spells out!" This line pops up in two Mother Goose rhymes. Children use the rhymes to eliminate playfellows one by one until there's only one child left. You met O-U-T in One, Two, Three, Four above. Here's the other:

Eena, deena, dinah, do,
Catch a [fill in the blank] by his toe,
If he hollers, let him go,
Eena, deena, dinah, do,
O-U-T spells out!


Paul McCartney's very first song composition, I Lost My Little Girl, wasn't so far removed from nursery rhyme. It has a verse: "Her clothes were not expensive, her hair didn't always curl. I don't know why I loved her, but I loved my little girl." The little girl/curl theme appears in:

There was a little girl who had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead;
When she was good she was very, very good
But when she was bad she was horrid.


Paul and Linda McCartney's first child was Mary. When Mary was a couple of years old, she was excited to hear her name in a nursery rhyme. So Paul set the four main verses of Mary Had A Little Lamb to music, and Wings recorded it in 1972.


Paul McCartney's song We All Stand Together, which he wrote for the short animated feature Rupert And The Frog Song, features yauping frogs and is based on a Mother Goose rhyme called The Frogs' Chorus:

Yaup, yaup, yaup!"
Said the croaking voice of a Frog:
"A rainy day
In the month of May,
And plenty of room in the bog."

"Yaup, yaup, yaup!"
Said the Frog as he hopped away:
"The insects feed
On the floating weed,
And I'm hungry for dinner to-day."

"Yaup, yaup, yaup!"
Said the Frog as he splashed about:
"Good neighbors all,
When you hear me call,
It is odd that you do not come out."

"Yaup, yaup, yaup!"
Said the Frogs; "It is charming weather;
We'll come and sup,
When the moon is up,
And we'll all of us croak together."

Remember is a song on the John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album. Lennon ends the song shouting, "Remember... the fifth... of November!" and blows up the houses of Parliament - something Guy Fawkes failed to do. Here's the Mother Goose rhyme:

    Please to remember the fifth of November,
        The Gunpowder treason plot;
    I see no reason why Gunpowder treason,
        Should ever be forgot.
A stick and a stake for Victoria's sake,
Hollo, boys! hollo, boys! God save the Queen.


On his next album, Imagine, John Lennon included the song Give Me Some Truth (or, Gimme Some Truth) containing the line, "no short haired - yellow bellied son of tricky dicky is gonna mother hubbard soft soap me with just a pocketful of hope".


John Lennon wrote a poem called I Remember Arnold which appeared in his first book, In His Own Write. Find the Mother Goose reference in the last verse and signature lines:

And so we growt and bumply
Till the end of time,
Humpty dumpty bumply
Son of Harry Lime.

    Bumbleydy Hubledy Humbley
    Bumdley Tum. (Thank you)


The Fat Budgie is a poem in John Lennon's second book, A Spaniard In The Works. Here are two verses near the end:

He's on a diet now you know
From eating far too much
They say if he gets fatter
He'll have to wear a crutch.

It would be funny wouldn't it
A budgie on a stick
Imagine all the people
Laughing till they're sick.

That one came to mind when I read the following Mother Goose rhyme:

Cripple Dick upon a stick,
And Sandy on a sow,
Riding away to Galloway
To buy a pound o' woo.

I presume "stick" is not common British slang for "crutch".


There are about ten nursery rhymes in my collection that run through The Alphabet from A to Z. Eight of these are in the familiar form of providing a line of poetry for each letter, and these eight are almost completely unrelated to each other. However, a bit of outside searching indicates that the one called Tom Thumb's Alphabet was the most popular. Here are a few samples from my collection:

Tom Thumb's Alphabet

A was an archer, who shot at a frog;
B was a butcher, and had a great dog;
C was a captain, all covered with lace;
D was a drunkard, and had a red face;
    . . .


A for the Apple

A for the Apple that we ate at the fair;
B for the Barber who shaved off his hair;
    . . .
Y for the Youth who nearly was drowned;
Z for the Zebra with stripes all around.


Nursery Rhyme Alphabet

A was the Archer who shot at a frog;
B was Bo-peep, with her crook and her dog.
C was the Cow that jumped over the moon.
D was the Dish that ran off with the spoon.
    . . .
Y "Yankee Doodle," that went to the fair;
Z is the Zany who laughed at him there.

Since there is no nursery rhyme about an archer and a frog, the first line of this alphabet must be a nod towards the well-known Tom Thumb's Alphabet.


ABC of Names

A is Ann, with milk from the cow.
B is Benjamin, making a row.
    . . .
Y is Yvonne, a girl who's been fed.
Z is Zachariah, going to bed.


A is an ARCHWAY to fairyland gay
B for the BUTTERFLIES showing the way
C is the CASTLE the queen reigns over
D is the DEW that's brought from the clover
    . . .


A Apple pie.
B bit it.
C cut it.
D dealt it.
E eat it.
    . . .
X Y Z &
All wished for
A piece in hand.


A Curious Discourse About An Apple-pie

Says A, Give me A good large slice.
Says B, A little Bit, but nice.
Says C, Cut me a piece of Crust.
Says D, It is dry as Dust.
    . . .
V, Watched it Vanish.
W, Wished there had been a quince in.
    . . .


I find all of this quite interesting in itself, but I mention it because John Lennon wrote his own Alphabet rhyme. He scratched it more or less legibly directly onto a zinc plate and it formed part of his Bag One lithographs (1969). I doubt that Mother Goose will ever fully embrace it, but you never know:

A is for Parrot which we can plainly see
B is for glasses which we can plainly see
C is for plastic which we can plainly see
D is for Doris
    . . .
I is for monkey we see in the tree
J is for parrot which we can plainly see
K is for shoe, that we wear to the ball
    . . .
Y is a crooked letter and you can't straighten it
Z is for Apple which we can plainly see

Whew, our trusty, old, alphabetic apple almost missed the train!

Lennon's "which we can plainly see" brings another Mother Goose rhyme to my mind. Here's the first verse:

There was an old man who lived in a wood,
    As you may plainly see;
He said he could do as much work in a day,
    As his wife could in three.
"With all my heart," the old woman said,
    "If that you will allow,
Tomorrow you'll stay at home in my stead,
    And I'll go drive the plow. . . .

Suffice it to say, everything goes horribly wrong for the old man when he takes over his wife's "women's work" for a day.


Yoko Ono released a song called Dogtown in 1981. It makes use of the Peas Porridge rhyme a couple of times. For instance: "Peas porridge loved; peas porridge spoiled; peas porrridge in the pot nine years old." Here's the version from the oldest book of Mother Goose rhymes:

Pease-porridge hot,
    Pease-porridge cold,
Pease-porridge in the pot
    Nine days old.
Spell me that in four letters.
    I will, T, H, A, T.


The last Beatles/Mother Goose connection that comes to mind is a Golden Record in my collection called Dance and Sing Mother Goose with a Beatle Beat, featuring Wynken, Blinken, and Nod and The Golden Rock-A-Twisters. It has 12 Mother Goose rhymes which have been updated for the times and set to rockin' music which is not overly Beatle-ish. There is a familiar-sounding "Ooooo!" at 0:44 into One, Two, Help Me Find My Shoe - an update of One, Two, Buckle My Shoe, in which the poor lad is making himself late "for a very important date." Wouldn't It Be Funny, which wraps up the album, is faithful to Mother Goose and is dopey enough for inclusion in my Mother Goose favorites page. All in all, though, there's not much "Beatle" here, beyond the big Beatle Beat title - and the shocking(!) haircuts on all the Mother Goose characters on the cover.


Bob Dylan wrote a song called Belle Isle, and although it has nothing more in common with the nursery rhyme than the beautiful place name, maybe that was inspiration enough. (See Belleisle on my favorites page.) Never mind that the first time around Bob trips up and sings, "the bloomin' bright star of Bright Isle."


Are two small words evidence of a Mother Goose connection? I think maybe. Bob Dylan released an album called Under The Red Sky. We all know what that portends from this rhyme:

A red sky at night,
Is the shepherd's delight;
A red sky in the morning,
Is the shepherd's warning.

Furthermore, the title track combines the red sky with another rhyme. Bobby sings: "There was a little boy and there was a little girl, and they lived in an alley under the red sky." Mother Goose sings:

There was a little boy and a little girl lived in an alley;
Says the little boy to the little girl, "Shall I, oh! shall I?"
Says the little girl to the little boy, "What will you do?"
Says the little boy to the little girl, "I will kiss you!"

Maybe Bobby was going through a second childhood on this nice album. Handy Dandy tips a hat to another Mother Goose rhyme, Handy Pandy, Jack-a-dandy, not only for the name, but for the "sugar and candy."

Handy Pandy, Jack-a-dandy,
Loves plum cake and sugar candy,
He bought some at the grocer's shop
And out he came, hop, hop, hop!


There's no way the similarities between the following rhyme and A Hard Rain's A'Gonna Fall could be coincidental. I suppose the nursery rhyme was written to be humorous, but, whew, some of those lines are downright apocalyptic. [Note, July 2009: It was pointed out to me that by putting a period after the subject of each line and a comma at the end, the hidden sense emerges. Wild! I'm also willing to bet little Bobbie never noticed that.]


I saw a peacock with a fiery tail
I saw a blazing comet drop down hail
I saw a cloud with ivy curled around
I saw an oak creep upon the ground
I saw an ant swallow up a whale
I saw a sea brimful of ale
I saw a Venice glass fifteen feet deep
I saw a well full of men's tears that weep
I saw red eyes all of a flaming fire
I saw a house high as the moon and higher
I saw the sun at twelve o'clock at night
I saw the man who saw this wondrous sight.


Bob Dylan's song Who Killed Davey Moore? is modeled closely on Who Stole The Bird's-Nest? Each have short verses demanding to know who did it, followed by a longer verse of denial by a succession of different characters. Dylan fans will recognize the rhythm and some specific word choice. This is the opening; click on the title to hear a dramatic reading by anonymous:

Who Stole The Bird's-Nest?

To-whit! to-whit! to-whee!
Will you listen to me?
Who stole four eggs I laid,
And the nice nest I made?

Not I, said the cow, moo-oo!
Such a thing I'd never do.
I gave a wisp of hay,
But did not take your nest away;
Not I, said the cow, moo-oo!
Such a thing I'd never do.
    . . .


The Liverpool group the Searchers had a hit song called Needles and Pins in 1964. No doubt the song writer was inspired by Mother Goose:

Needles and pins, needles and pins,
When a man marries his trouble begins.

The Searchers also did a song called Ain't That Just Like Me which devoted a verse apiece to Mary Had A Little Lamb, Humpty Dumpty, and Hey Diddle Diddle.


Ray Steven's song Ahab, The Arab made use of "rings on her fingers and bells on her toes" from Banbury Cross, which made my favorites page. "And a bone in her nose, ho, ho," was his own genius, I guess.


Hogs In The Garden provided a kickin' line for Charlie Daniels' The Devil Went Down To Georgia:

Hogs in the garden, catch 'em Towser;
Cows in the corn-field, run, boys, run;
Cats in the cream-pot, run, girls, run;
Fire on the mountains, run, boys, run.


The second line in Paul Simon's Scarborough Fair/Canticle comes from the nursery rhyme beginning "Can you make me a cambric shirt." The one in my collection has has eight verses; here are the first and last. I'll let you imagine the humorous, intervening dialog.

Can you make me a cambric shirt,
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme,
Without any seam or needlework?
And you shall be a true lover of mine.

    . . .

When you have done and finished your work,
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme,
Then come to me for your cambric shirt,
And you shall be a true lover of mine.


Sally, Go 'Round The Roses was a hit for the Jaynetts in 1963. The origins of the song appear to be hazy, but I'll hazard a guess it grew out of this Mother Goose rhyme:

Sally go round the sun,
Sally go round the moon,
Sally go round the chimney-pots
On a Sunday afternoon.

By the way, I'm cool enough to have the version by the Great Society, with Grace Slick singing, in my collection, and too cool to know it was Donna Summer's first record.


Bells of Rhymney, with music by Pete Seeger, has lyrics by Idris Davies which obviously take off from the rhyme "Oranges and lemons", a.k.a. "Gay go up and gay go down", discussed in my "Mother Goose differences" page.

Jewel Akens, who had a hit with The Birds And The Bees, released a song called Georgie Porgie in 1965. Besides the title, the song had nothing to do with the Mother Goose rhyme.

Jimmy Nicol and the Shubdubs released Humpty Dumpty in 1964. Verse 1 is Humpty Dumpty, verse 2 is Old Mother Hubbard, and verse 3 is Little Miss Muffet - all done straight. Beatle fans will recognize Jimmy Nicol as the drummer who stood in for Ringo for the first part of the Beatles' 1964 world tour.

Other Mother Goose rhymes that I noted in pop songs are Rain, rain, go away" in If The Rain's Got To Fall from the musical Half A Sixpence; "It's raining, it's pouring," in Jose Feliciano's Rain (1969); "Jack be nimble" in Don Mclean's American Pie (1971); and "I'm the king of the castle," in the Dave Matthew's Band's Crash Into Me (1996). Again, this isn't a dissertation, and there's no pretense of completeness here. Mother Goose surely pops up in many other pop songs I'm not aware of.


Now, leaving the pop world . . .

Which came first, Rumsey Dumsey or Yankee Doodle?

Rumsey Dumsey's come to town
On a speckled pony;
He wears a hat without a crown,
And says he has no money.

Yankee Doodle, I guess, or else we'd have researchers citing Rumsey Dumsey in the elusive quest for the origins of Yankee Doodle.


I have an album of folk songs arranged by Ludwig van Beethoven. Among his arrangements is an English folk song called The Miller of Dee, which appears a few times in my Mother Goose collection. The rhyme corresponds to Beethoven's first verse:

There was a jolly miller once, lived on the river Dee;
He work'd and sang from morn to night, no lark more blythe than he.
And this the burden of his song forever used to be:
I care for nobody, no, not I, if nobody cares for me.

Beethoven and Mother Goose - who'da thunk?


Contact Donald Sauter: send an email; view guestbook; sign guestbook.
Back to Donald Sauter's main page.
Rather shop than think? Please visit My Little Shop of Rare and Precious Commodities.
Back to the top of this page.

Parents, if you're considering tutoring or supplemental education for your child, you may be interested in my observations on Kumon.