8 Popular Children’s Songs with the Creepiest, Shadiest Backstories
Because the origins of your favorite board games weren’t enough…
1. “Ring Around the Rosie” — Despite its cheery disposition, the popular tune is closely associated with the London Plague of 1665 and the Black Death: “The first line, ‘Ring around the rosie,’ or some variation, describes the buboes that formed. A bubo is a swelling in the lymph node. This swelling is often circular making up the ‘ring.’ The center turns black and is surrounded by a red rash. The ‘rosie’ is the center of this reddish ring.”—Examiner
2. “Jack and Jill” — Though some have suggested that it’s got ‘naughty’ written all over it (i.e. “fetch a pail of water” = a euphemism for “sex”), the more likely possibility, according to Mental Floss, is that “it’s an account of King Charles I’s attempt to reform the tax on liquid measures. When Parliament rejected his suggestion, he instead made sure that the volume was reduced on half- and quarter-pints, known as jacks and gills, respectively.”
3. “London Bridge is Falling Down” — “One theory of origin is that the rhyme relates to supposed destruction of London Bridge by Olaf II of Norway in 1014 (or 1009),” reads List Verse. “Another postulates that the rhyme refers to the practice of burying children alive in the foundations of the bridge.” Oh. Okay. (WTF?!?!)
4. “Jimmy Crack Corn” — a.k.a. “Jim Crack Corn” a.k.a. “Blue-Tail Fly” “tells the story of an unhappy slave whose job is to follow around his horseback-riding master and shoo away the flies. However, a “blue-tail fly” bites the horse, causing it to buck and the master to be thrown and killed.”—Cracked
5. “Rock-A-Bye Baby” — It is said “that the pilgrim on the Mayflower pioneer wrote the lullaby whilst watching women of a native-American tribe gently string up their children in birch-bark cradles from tree branches, allowing the wind to rock the baby to sleep. The event in the poem of the bough breaking was apparently a real occurrence with the supporting branches high tendency to break and injure the infant.” *sad face*
6. “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain” — As peppy as it sounds, “the song is in reference to a spiritual song sung by enslaved Africans during the lat 1800s. The song was actually a reference to the second coming of Christ and the Rapture.” Click here for more.
7. “Here We Go ’round the Mulberry Bush” — Cracked is on the case, again: “Former warden R.S. Duncan makes the case that a prison in Wakefield, England, served as the original inspiration for the song. In the mid-1800s, the prison added women to its population, and the theory holds that female inmates would sing the song while they exercised with their children around a central mulberry bush in the prison yard.”
8. “Blow the Man Down” — When the song originated in the 18th century, the term “blow the man down” was said to be slang for a man being literally knocked down either from in-crew fighting or from ship officers inflicting discipline.