The Riddle Song

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"The Cherry Song," also known as "I Gave My Love a Cherry" is an English folk song,[1] apparently a lullaby, which was carried by settlers to the American Appalachians.[2]


It descends from a 15th-century English song in which a maiden says she is advised to unite with her lover.[3] It is related to Child Ballad no. 1, or "Riddles Wisely Expounded"[4] and Child Ballad no. 46, "Captain Wedderburn's Courtship" [5][6] It is no. 330 in the Roud Folk Song Index. Burl Ives recorded it on 11 February 1941[7] for his debut album, Okeh Presents the Wayfaring Stranger. Since then, it has been recorded by many artists, including Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Doc Watson, Sam Cooke, Shelby Flint, The Meters, Skid Roper, and Carly Simon.[8]

Popular culture[edit]

The song was featured in the famous toga party scene in the movie National Lampoon's Animal House, where John Belushi's character Bluto comes across a folk singer (portrayed by singer-songwriter Stephen Bishop, who is credited as "Charming Guy With Guitar") performing the song for a group of college girls. Bluto abruptly takes the singer's acoustic guitar out of his hands and smashes it, then hands a splintered piece of it back, saying "Sorry." Bishop told Songfacts that he and the film's musical director Kenny Vance came up with the idea for his folk singer character to perform "Cherry." "It seemed like the right song to do in the scene," he said. The song was also featured in the children's CD, the Song of the Unicorn. It only used two of the verses, and they were changed around a little bit.

The song was also featured in the "Marge vs. the Monorail" episode of The Simpsons, where Homer briefly serenaded Marge with a line: "I gave my love a chicken, it had no bones. Mmm… chicken."[9]

It is the basis of the popular song "The Twelfth of Never".

The Wiggles adapted this song as "The Four Presents" on their Big Red Car album.


  1. ^ The Riddle song, on Traditional Songs from England site
  2. ^ Digital Tradition Folk Music Database: Appalachian version
  3. ^ Digital Tradition Folk Music Database: Medieval version
  4. ^ Niles, John Jacob (1960). The Ballad Book of John Jacob Niles. New York: Dover Publications, Inc. ISBN 0-486-22716-2. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ Thread at Mudcat discussions
  7. ^ Naxos: Link
  8. ^ iTunes: Music Store
  9. ^ Canning, Robert (9 June 2009). "The Simpsons Flashback: "Marge vs. the Monorail" Review". IGN. Retrieved 14 November 2015.