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Origin/Meaning: Crow on the Cradle (Sydney Carter)

26 Mar 13 - 03:40 PM (#3495184)
Subject: Crow on the Cradle
From: GUEST,sophie snell

Hi there - hope you dont mind me posting this here, a friend recommended it - I work as a traditional oral storyteller (www.sophiesnell.co.uk) and occasionally weave the odd folk song into my stories.

I have been looking into Sidney Carter's song "Crow on the Cradle" - a protest song from the 60's that has great echos of an older time. I am trying to research it's provenance, as a wiki reference aludes to the fact the song may be based on a much older folk song ? 16th / 17th century?

per Wiki entry for Carter: ""The Crow on the Cradle", adapted from an old folk song"

Does any one know any more about this and whether there is an original song I can track down? Any info on dates / sources / tune or lyrics or any known backstory (even better) would be fantastic.

Many thanks - kind regards, Sophie (robandsophie@hotmail.com)


26 Mar 13 - 04:27 PM (#3495198)
Subject: Lyr Add: The Crow on the Cradle (Sydney Carter)
From: Dave MacKenzie

THE CROW ON THE CRADLE
(Sydney Carter)

The sheep's in the meadow, the cow's in the corn,
Now is the time for a child to be born,
He'll cry for the moon and he'll laugh at the sun,
If he's a boy he'll carry a gun,
Sang the crow on the cradle.

If it should be that our baby's a girl,
Never you mind if her hair doesn't curl.
Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes!
And a bomber above her wherever she goes,
Sang the crow on the cradle.

Rockabye Baby, the dark and the light!
Somebody's baby is born for a fight.
Rockabye Baby, the white and the black!
Somebody's baby is not coming back,
Sang the crow on the cradle.

Your mammy and pappy, they'll scrape and they'll save!
Build you a coffin, and dig you a grave.
Hushabye, little one, why do you weep?
We've got a toy that will put you to sleep,
Sang the crow on the cradle.

Bring me a gun and I'll shoot that bird dead -
That's what your mammy and pappy once said.
Crow on the cradle, oh, what shall I do?
That is something that I leave up to you,
Sang the crow on the cradle.

I got these words from an old "Reprints from Sing Out", but it's also in "Songs of Sydney Carter In the present tense Book 3", Galliard Ltd (UK), Galaxy Music Corporation, 2121 Broadway, New York, NY 10023. (1969). It's been recorded by the Ian Campbell Group, Judith Silver, Pete Seeger, Judy Collins and Marthe Schlamme, and no doubt many others since then.


26 Mar 13 - 04:37 PM (#3495202)
Subject: RE: Crow on the Cradle
From: Dave MacKenzie

It's copyrighted 1962, and is in the Digital Tradition with music and links to various performances.


26 Mar 13 - 05:04 PM (#3495214)
Subject: RE: Crow on the Cradle
From: Suegorgeous

Yeh, but I think Sophie's looking for the original folk song Carter's one is based on. Which is different. :)


26 Mar 13 - 05:43 PM (#3495223)
Subject: RE: Crow on the Cradle
From: GUEST

Hi there - yes that is right - I am after the original source for the song (if there is one) - many thanks :) Sophie


26 Mar 13 - 06:33 PM (#3495241)
Subject: RE: Crow on the Cradle
From: Phil Edwards

I don't think there is a single folk song behind this song. The first three verses quote from nursery rhymes - "Little Boy Blue", "Ride a cock horse" and "Rockabye baby" respectively; perhaps that's what gave somebody the impression it was adapted from older sources.

If I may blow (up) my own horn, here's my take on Crow on the Cradle (also featured here). The tune is my own, based as far as I can remember on a tune I set the words to when I was at school.


26 Mar 13 - 06:33 PM (#3495242)
Subject: RE: Crow on the Cradle
From: Reinhard

The first line might be from Bonny at Morn (Roud 3064):

The sheep in the meadow and the cattle in the corn,
Thou's over long in thy bed, bonny at morn.


26 Mar 13 - 06:44 PM (#3495248)
Subject: RE: Crow on the Cradle
From: Reinhard

I have records by Judith Silver, Ian Campbell and Judy Dunlop with "The Crow and/on the Cradle" on it. The sleeve notes of these records all acknowledge Sydney Carter as the song's author but give no hint at a possible source for him.


19 Oct 16 - 12:10 PM (#3815526)
Subject: RE: Crow on the Cradle
From: GUEST

Show of Hands do a tag verse not on the lyrics here. I can't parse the first 2 lines. Anyone?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DoQvjKzfDSo


19 Oct 16 - 05:34 PM (#3815569)
Subject: RE: Crow on the Cradle
From: Steve Gardham

3rd line of v1 is from a version of 'Three Maids a Milking/The Bird in the Bush'


19 Oct 16 - 06:28 PM (#3815574)
Subject: RE: Crow on the Cradle
From: michaelr

The missing verse:

The crow on the cradle, the black and the white
Somebody's baby is born for a fight
The crow on the cradle, the white and the black
Somebody's baby is not coming back
Sang the crow on the cradle


20 Oct 16 - 02:24 AM (#3815617)
Subject: RE: Crow on the Cradle
From: GUEST

Show of Hands finish the song with Phil Beer Singing Find the Cost of Freedom by Crosby Stills & Nash


20 Oct 16 - 05:55 PM (#3815752)
Subject: RE: Crow on the Cradle
From: JohnH

You could add the idea of the medieval Caladrius, a bird that sat on the bed of the ailing. If it face you you would survive, and if away then you were doomed.


20 Oct 16 - 11:46 PM (#3815787)
Subject: RE: Crow on the Cradle
From: GUEST

Jackson Browne/Graham Nash did on the No Nukes lp


21 Oct 16 - 06:31 PM (#3815914)
Subject: RE: Crow on the Cradle
From: BDenz

(I was the "Guest" above asking for the extra verse). Thanks, Michaelr


22 Oct 16 - 03:11 AM (#3815940)
Subject: RE: Crow on the Cradle
From: Grandad9

And I was the Guest who posted the Crosby Stills & Nash reference used by Show of Hands at the end of the song.
Bm       A       F#m7   Bm
Find the cost of free - dom,
D      A/C#   Bm    (A) Bm
Buried in the ground.
Bm    A          F#m7    Bm
Mother Earth will swallow you,
D       A/C#    Bm (A) Bm
Lay your bo - dy down.


22 Oct 16 - 12:35 PM (#3815994)
Subject: RE: Crow on the Cradle
From: michaelr

You're welcome, BDenz.

On reflection, I rather think it is "the black on the white" and vice versa.


22 Oct 16 - 06:33 PM (#3816019)
Subject: RE: Crow on the Cradle
From: Leadfingers

Sid wrote it as posted 'the white AND ' 'the black AND ' and I've heard it twice in the last week .


22 Oct 16 - 08:00 PM (#3816029)
Subject: RE: Crow on the Cradle
From: michaelr

Must have been Jackson Browne who changed it.


22 Oct 16 - 10:01 PM (#3816041)
Subject: RE: Crow on the Cradle
From: BDenz

Grandad9 -- I did notice that. Just hadn't gotten back. Thanks (both to you and Guest (please come forward))

Michaelr: Show of Hands sing:
"Crow on the cradle - the black and the white
Somebody's baby is born for a fight.
Crow on the cradle - the white and the black
Somebody's baby is not coming back."

But I can see Black on the white would draw one to sing it that way.


08 May 17 - 02:27 AM (#3853824)
Subject: RE: Crow on the Cradle
From: GUEST,Dave Larson

Well since everyone has circumvented the meaning I will take a shot as a warning based on the view of the results of war. The crow represents not just war but its inevitable collateral damage to all exposed with no boundaries. If you're a combatant, black, white or a child victimized by ordnance falling albeit in the wrong place in time. The Crow remains indiscriminate. The human response is to grab a gun and resist and to protect, to fight and to realize the advancement in technology has it's grip forever on mankind.


08 May 17 - 10:17 PM (#3854005)
Subject: RE: Origin/Meaning: Crow on the Cradle (Sydney Carter)
From: leeneia

I don't think the crow represents war. The crow is merely a brutally frank observer who observes human behavior and knows nothing of tact or circumlocution. It shows no mercy in predicting that the child in the cradle will suffer the effects of war.

As the crow says in the last verse, it's up to us humans to change war.


09 May 17 - 02:45 AM (#3854018)
Subject: RE: Origin/Meaning: Crow on the Cradle (Sydney Carter)
From: Senoufou

Crows (and ravens) have usually represented Death in old ballads and poetry. 'Twa Corbies' for example, a gruesome poem about two crows looking at a dead knight and contemplating the delicious feast he will make. It could be because they eat carrion, and are associated with corpses and mortality.

I don't think there is an old song about a crow on a cradle particularly. The first line, 'The sheep's in the meadow, the cow's in the corn' is from the nursery rhyme 'Little Boy Blue' (come blow up your horn)


05 Feb 19 - 06:06 AM (#3974919)
Subject: RE: Origin/Meaning: Crow on the Cradle (Sydney Carter)
From: GUEST,RoseMac2019

I recently heard a Children's Entertainer singing this song to a group of small children, and I'd just like to say that it's simply NOT a song for children.


05 Feb 19 - 08:06 AM (#3974930)
Subject: RE: Origin/Meaning: Crow on the Cradle (Sydney Carter)
From: Mrrzy

The version I had in the 60s said She shall have lovers wherever she goes. Do not recall who sang it, we had a record.

I think the crow is war.


05 Feb 19 - 08:27 AM (#3974934)
Subject: RE: Origin/Meaning: Crow on the Cradle (Sydney Carter)
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)

I did wonder if the crow was inspired by the Morrigan of Irish legend, who sometimes appears as a crow. The Morrigan often foretold death in battle (in the Cuchulainn legends a crow lands on him at the moment of his death).

Mick


05 Feb 19 - 09:16 AM (#3974937)
Subject: RE: Origin/Meaning: Crow on the Cradle (Sydney Carter)
From: Mrrzy

I thought that, too. Crow, raven, all follow battle.


05 Feb 19 - 09:26 AM (#3974938)
Subject: RE: Origin/Meaning: Crow on the Cradle (Sydney Carter)
From: David Carter (UK)

Well it was written at the height of the Cold War and the nuclear arms race, but I absolutely do think that children today should hear it.


08 Nov 19 - 09:53 PM (#4018052)
Subject: RE: Origin/Meaning: Crow on the Cradle (Sydney Carter)
From: GUEST

Perhaps satanic...golden child or scapegoated fool...the parents powerless in this evil world...I've never liked crows.


09 Nov 19 - 05:13 AM (#4018085)
Subject: RE: Origin/Meaning: Crow on the Cradle (Sydney Carter)
From: John MacKenzie

Crow/cradle = death/birth. Pure symbolism. As was said, this was written at the height of the Cold War, in the days of the 4 Minute warning, and Bikini Atoll When Protect and Survive were watchwords, and people were scared of nuclear disaster. Hiroshima was a recent event then.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protect_and_Survive


10 Nov 19 - 10:43 AM (#4018326)
Subject: RE: Origin/Meaning: Crow on the Cradle (Sydney Carter)
From: GUEST,HiLo

I have occasionally heard people use the expression "crow on the cradle" in the same way they use : the fly in the ointment"..to mean that something is not quite what it seems. Has anyone else heard this usage ?


30 Oct 20 - 02:19 PM (#4077484)
Subject: RE: Origin/Meaning: Crow on the Cradle (Sydney Carter)
From: GUEST,John Sprackland

Beautiful version of The Crow on the Cradle on the newly released 'Joni Mitchell Archives Vol 1 1963-67', a recording from 1964. But she mistakenly credits it to Ewan MacColl!


30 Oct 20 - 03:15 PM (#4077489)
Subject: RE: Origin/Meaning: Crow on the Cradle (Sydney Carter)
From: GUEST

Christy Moore sang it with the "Early Grave Band" in the late 1970's during his anti-nuke period .."Carnsore Point" Anti-nuke festivals in Ireland 1978-81.


30 Oct 20 - 03:32 PM (#4077491)
Subject: RE: Origin/Meaning: Crow on the Cradle (Sydney Carter)
From: GUEST,Harry

Five or six years ago, one of classes at Folkworks Tuesday, at the Sage, Gateshead, performed this at the end of term show.

I think it might have been the 'Folk Band' class.

It still haunts me and I wish I had a recording of it.

A genuine "goosebumps" moment, truly beautiful.

Harry


01 Nov 20 - 03:58 AM (#4077697)
Subject: RE: Origin/Meaning: Crow on the Cradle (Sydney Carter)
From: rich-joy

Just a slight thread-creep coz I'm rather fond of Aussie Crows!

This Sept 2020 article has just been pointed out to me, titled "Crows are self-aware and 'know what they know', just like humans ... Almost no other species has that kind of higher intelligence."

https://www.nexusnewsfeed.com/article/climate-ecology/crows-are-self-aware-and-know-what-they-know-just-like-humans/

R-J


25 Jan 21 - 04:37 AM (#4089799)
Subject: RE: Origin/Meaning: Crow on the Cradle (Sydney Carter)
From: GUEST,garry

bonny at morn.... "The sheep's in the meadow,
The kye's in the corn,
[Thou's ower lang in thy bed],
Bonny at morn.
The sheep's in the meadow,
The kye's in the corn,
[Thou's ower lang in thy bed],
Bonny at morn.
        
Chorus
Canny at night,
Bonny at morn,
[Thou's ower lang in thy bed],
Bonny at morn.
        
The bird's in the nest,
The trout's in the burn,
Thou hinders thy mother,
In many a turn.
(Repeat)
Canny at night etc.
        
We're all laid idle,
Wi' keeping the bairn,
The lad winnot work,
The lass winnot lairn,
(Repeat)


05 Mar 21 - 08:59 AM (#4096145)
Subject: RE: Origin/Meaning: Crow on the Cradle (Sydney Carter)
From: Mo the caller

The last verse also has echoes of other songs. Folkies will know that if you try to shoot a bird of ill omen you might end up killing your own livestock (or worse in the case of Mad Michael and the raven).