Mary Had a Little Lamb
|"Mary Had a Little Lamb"|
Illustration by William Wallace Denslow
|Published||May 24, 1830|
|Songwriter(s)||Sarah Josepha Hale, John Roulstone|
There are competing theories on the origin and inspiration of this poem. One holds that John Roulstone wrote the first four lines and that the final twelve lines, less childlike than the first, were composed by Sarah Josepha Hale; others claim that Hale was responsible for the entire poem.
As a young girl, Mary Sawyer (later Mary Tyler) kept a pet lamb that she took to school one day at the suggestion of her brother. A commotion naturally ensued. Mary recalled: "Visiting school that morning was a young man by the name of John Roulstone, a nephew of the Reverend Lemuel Capen, who was then settled in Sterling. It was the custom then for students to prepare for college with ministers, and for this purpose Roulstone was studying with his uncle. The young man was very much pleased with the incident of the lamb; and the next day he rode across the fields on horseback to the little old schoolhouse and handed me a slip of paper which had written upon it the three original stanzas of the poem..."
Mary Sawyer's house, located in Sterling, Massachusetts, was destroyed by arson on August 12, 2007. A statue representing Mary's Little Lamb stands in the town center. The Redstone School, which was built in 1798, was purchased by Henry Ford and relocated to a churchyard on the property of Longfellow's Wayside Inn in Sudbury, Massachusetts.
In the 1830s, Lowell Mason set the nursery rhyme to a melody adding repetition in the verses, starting with "Mary had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb, Mary had a little lamb whose fleece was white as snow.
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The rhyme was the first audio recorded by Thomas Edison on his newly invented phonograph in 1877. It was the first instance of recorded verse. In 1927, Edison reenacted the recording, which still survives. The earliest recording (1878) was retrieved by 3D imaging equipment in 2012.
Blues musicians Buddy Guy and Stevie Ray Vaughan both recorded the song: Guy composing his own bluesy version of the song for his album A Man and the Blues in 1968 and Vaughan covering Guy's version in his 1983 debut album, Texas Flood, with both also infusing the first four lines of the nursery rhyme, "A-Tisket, A-Tasket", into the song. In 1972, Paul McCartney released a version of the song. Just as he had done with the 16th-century poem Golden Slumbers which was released on The Beatles' Abbey Road LP in 1969, he added his own melody to the lyrics. The single was a top 20 hit in Britain although both the choice for and the saccharine arrangement of "Mary Had a Little Lamb" did much to erode his standing with leading rock journalists. McCartney played the song during Wings' 1972 summer tour and it was included in the Spring 1973 James Paul McCartney television special. It is commercially available on the 1993 CD issue of the Wings Wild Life LP.
Note: This melody is the British version, which is slightly different from the American version.[how?]
Male singing the first verses of "Mary Had a Little Lamb".
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Uses of the music
- The first Korean musical road, created using grooves cut into the ground and intended to help motorists stay alert and awake plays "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and took four days to construct. It can be found close to Anyang, Gyeonggi, South Korea.
In popular culture
This song is used in:
- Wee Sing Nursery Rhymes and Lullabies, Wee Sing: King Cole's Party (Jack and Jill), Wee Singdom: The Land of Music and Fun (Warbly) and Wee Sing Nursery Rhymes
- Kidsongs: A Day at Old Macdonald's Farm (Andre Tayir as the Scarerow)
- Barney episodes and videos
- Richard Scarry's Best Sing-Along Mother Goose Video Ever
- Blue's Clues episode, "Tickety's Favorite Nursery Rhyme"
- Teletubbies episode, "Mary Had a Little Lamb"
- Rock 'N Learn: Nursery Rhymes
- The Wiggles video, Pop Go the Wiggles!
- Full text of Poems for our children: including Mary had a little lamb : designed for families, Sabbath schools, and infant schools : written to inculcate moral truths and virtuous sentiments
- Mary Had A Little Lamb. Song Facts
- Roulstone, John; Mary (Sawyer) and her friends (1928). The Story of Mary's Little Lamb. Dearborn: Mr. & Mrs. Henry Ford. p. 8.
- "Sterling fire called arson". Worcester Telegram & Gazette News. August 14, 2007. Retrieved 2014-06-14.
- Bronze of lamb. The 2-foot-tall statue and historical marker are on the town common in Sterling, Massachusetts.
- "LOWELL MASON, "Mary Lamb" [music] in Juvenile Lyre, Or, Hymns and Songs, Religious, Moral, and Cheerful, Set to Appropriate Music, For the Use of Primary and Common Schools, Boston: Richardson, Lord & Holbrook; Hartford, H. & F. J. Huntington, – Richards". Forgotten Chapters of Boston's Literary History. Retrieved 2014-06-14.
- Matthew Rubery, ed. (2011). "Introduction". Audiobooks, Literature, and Sound Studies. Routledge. pp. 1–21. ISBN 978-0-415-88352-8.
- Thomas Edison (30 November 1926). "Mary had a little lamb" – via Internet Archive.
- Grondahl, Paul (2012-10-26). "Hear the earliest known recording of voice, music". Timesunion.com. Retrieved 2014-06-14.
- "Mary Had a Little Lamb".
- Choo, Joohee; Lee, Rebecca (29 November 2007). "Singing Streets and Melody Roads". ABC News. Retrieved 8 May 2012.