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The Portrayal of Death in Lullabies

Lullabies and Death

Lullabies constitute a significant part of such cultural phenomenon as nursery rhymes. Therefore, people rarely consider them to have any serious and substitutional sense or any sense at all. However, it should be stated that nursery rhymes, and lullabies as well, can have very disturbing underlying meanings. For example, it is appropriate to mention the article by Archbold (2011), where he tells the story of how he accidentally found out about the historical contexts of many nursery rhymes, which he considered to be harmless. Mentioning the lullabies, it should be observed that they often have centered around death, even though it is not stated straightly. It is argued that the reason is that, in Medieval ages, mothers often lost their children when they were little, and thus the lullabies were so preoccupied with the imagery of death. Reading about the history of lullabies left me anxious and disturbed at first, but having analyzed the songs, I have changed my mind and started perceiving them as a work of art in some way.

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Different Kinds of Death

The songs that were chosen for this assignment treat the topic of death very differently. Some of them see it as a personal tragedy, some of them are preoccupied with the impact of death on the life of other people, and one of them puts three immensely influential historical figures in the context of their deaths (Mattea, 2007; martinamcbrideVEVO, 2009; kennylavish, 2010; OneUnconditionalLove, 2013). The songs differ in their tone and perspective on the topic; however, each of them possesses a certain poignancy, which is inevitable when approaching the theme under discussion. Also, it should be observed that the number of songs about death is immense, even though America is considered a death-denying society. In my opinion, the reason is that people deny the conversations about passing away because it is difficult to accept that fact, but the artists express people’s hidden fears through songs.

The Context Behind the Songs

Further, it is essential to dwell upon the inspiration and context behind the songs. It is argued that Candle in the Wind and Abraham, Martin, and John are items to be primarily explained. Candle in the Wind was written by Elton John about Marilyn Monroe, and later it was additionally recomposed to be performed at the funeral of Princess Diana (Anness, 2014). Both of these women passed away early, being very prominent public figures, and they both had issues with public attention. Abraham, Martin, and John very obviously reference three personalities in American history that immensely contributed to the struggle against racism (OneUnconditionalLove, 2013). Each of them was killed for their beliefs and actions, which makes them exceptional heroes of the United States. Other songs are more or less fictional, yet still moving compositions.

Comparison with Other Songs

Finally, it is important to compare and contrast lullabies and songs that were chosen for this assignment. First of all, it is evident that lullabies are written for children, and thus they rarely state the topic of death explicitly. On the contrary, the songs under discussion explore the theme very openly. Secondly, it should be stated that lullabies, being a relatively simple genre derived from folklore, do not elaborate much on various aspects of death. However, the songs under consideration often explore the topic in more detail and with greater artistic proficiency. Nevertheless, both lullabies and the songwriters’ composition have a similar poignant feeling, which is expressed through music. In my opinion, it is the most important aspect which should be considered.


Anness, P. (2014). Elton John – Candle in the wind/goodbye England’s rose (Live at Princess Diana’s funeral – 1997) [Video file]. 

Archbold, M. (2011). The horrible meanings behind nursery rhymes. National Catholic Register

kennylavish. (2010). Pete Rock & CL Smooth – They reminisce over you (T.R.O.Y.) [Video file]. 

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martinamcbrideVEVO. (2009). Martina McBride- Concrete angel [Video file]. 

Mattea, K. (2007). Where’ve you been [Video file]. 

OneUnconditionalLove. (2013). Abraham * Martin and John *** Dion [Video file]. 

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