Old MacDonald Had a Farm

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"Old MacDonald Had a Farm"
Roud #745
Written byTraditional
Published1917
WrittenU.S.
LanguageEnglish
FormNursery rhyme
 
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For the science fiction story by Mike Resnick, see Old MacDonald Had a Farm (short story). For the 1946 Noveltoons cartoon, see Old Macdonald Had A Farm (cartoon).
"Old MacDonald Had a Farm"
Roud #745
Written byTraditional
Published1917
WrittenU.S.
LanguageEnglish
FormNursery rhyme
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The song as recorded in 1927

"Old MacDonald Had a Farm" is a children's song and nursery rhyme about a farmer named MacDonald (or McDonald, Macdonald) and the various animals he keeps on his farm. Each verse of the song changes the name of the animal and its respective noise. In many versions, the song is cumulative, with the noises from all the earlier verses added to each subsequent verse.[1] It has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 745.

Lyrics[edit]

Old MacDonald Had a Farm.

In the version commonly sung today, the lyrics allow for a substitutable animal and its respective sound.

Old MacDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O,
And on that farm he had a [animal name], E-I-E-I-O,
With a [animal noise twice] here and a [animal noise twice] there
Here a [animal noise], there a [animal noise], everywhere a [animal noise twice]
Old MacDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O.

For example, a verse using a cow as an animal and “moo” as the cow's sound:

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Tune for Old McDonald Had a Farm

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Old MacDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O.
And on that farm he had a cow, E-I-E-I-O.
With a moo moo here and a moo moo there
Here a moo, there a moo, everywhere a moo moo
Old MacDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O.

Sometimes the ‘with a’ before the animal sound is dropped, which changes the third line to this:

Moo moo here, moo moo there

Early versions[edit]

In the 1917 book Tommy's Tunes, a collection of World War I era songs by F. T. Nettleingham, the song "Ohio (Old Macdougal Had a Farm)" has quite similar lyrics—though with a slightly different farmer's name and refrain:

Old Macdougal had a farm in Ohio-i-o,
And on that farm he had some dogs in Ohio-i-o,
With a bow-wow here, and a bow-wow there,
Here a bow, there a wow, everywhere a bow-wow.

The Traditional Ballad Index consider the "Tommy's Tunes" version to be the earliest known version of "Old Macdonald Had a Farm", though it cites numerous variants, some of them much older.[2]

Two of these variants were published in Vance Randolph's Ozark Folksongs in 1980. One was "Old Missouri", sung by a Mr. H. F. Walker of Missouri in 1922, a version that names different parts of the mule rather than different animals:

Old Missouri had a mule, he-hi-he-hi-ho,
And on this mule there were two ears, he-hi-he-hi-ho.
With a flip-flop here and a flip-flop there,
And here a flop and there a flop and everywhere a flip-flop
Old Missouri had a mule, he-hi-he-hi-ho.

A British version of the song, called "The Farmyard, or The Merry Green Fields," was collected in 1908 from a 74-year-old Mrs. Goodey at Marylebone Workhouse, London, and published in Cecil Sharp's Collection of English Folk Songs.

Up was I on my fa-ther's farm
On a May day morn-ing ear-ly;
Feed-ing of my fa-ther's cows
On a May day morn-ing ear-ly,
With a moo moo here and a moo moo there,
Here a moo, there a moo, Here a pret-ty moo.
Six pret-ty maids come and gang a-long o' me
To the mer-ry green fields of the farm-yard.

Perhaps the earliest recorded member of this family of songs is a number from an opera called The Kingdom of the Birds, published in 1719-1720 in Thomas D'Urfey's Wit and Mirth, or Pills to Purge Melancholy:

In the Fields in Frost and Snows,
Watching late and early;
There I keep my Father's Cows,
There I Milk 'em Yearly:
Booing here, Booing there,
Here a Boo, there a Boo, every where a Boo,
We defy all Care and Strife,
In a Charming Country-Life.

Translations[edit]

The lyrics have been translated into other languages and modified slightly to fit rhythmic and cultural requirements. It is still sung as a children's song to the same tune.

Recordings[edit]

The oldest version listed in The Traditional Ballad Index is the Sam Patterson Trio's "Old MacDonald Had a Farm," released on the Edison label in 1925. This was followed by a version by Gid Tanner & His Skillet Lickers, "Old McDonald Had a Farm" (Columbia Records, 1927) and "McDonald's Farm" by Warren Caplinger's Cumberland Mountain Entertainers (Brunswick Records, 1928). In 1954, the composition was arranged for accordion sextet and recorded for RCA Thesaurus transcriptions by John Serry, Sr. in the United States. Sophie Ellis-Bextor has performed a short excerpt of the song live. Other popular versions are by Frank Sinatra (Capitol, 1960), Harry Connick Jr., Elvis Presley (in his movie Double Trouble), Nat King Cole, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Ella Fitzgerald (on her 1967 Verve album Whisper Not)., Flatt & Scruggs, The Three Stooges, Sesame Street cast, Gene Autry, The Kelly Family[3] and Nikki Yanofsky.[4] The multi-platinum selling Kidsongs version recorded "A Day At Old MacDonald's Farm" for video and CD release in 1985.[5] The Australian children's television show Play School recorded a version of this song on the album, There's A Bear In There. A rock'n'roll version was recorded by the Isley Brothers in the 50s and in 1961 it became an instrumental by the Piltdown Men as McDonald's Cave.

See also[edit]

References[edit]