Go Tell Aunt Rhody

TITLE: Go Tell Aunt Rhody
AUTHOR: unknown
CATEGORY: traditional, public domain
KEYWORDS: bird, death, mourning
EARLIEST DATE: 1918 (Cecil Sharp collection)

Go Tell Aunt RhodyGo Tell Aunt Rhody is a for the most part considered a children’s song. But the simple lyric and tune has an extremely complicated history.

“The tune is thought by some to have been derived from an air composed for a 1752 opera by the philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau. It was extracted as a song and printed in many settings, including shape note tunebooks that permeated areas of the U.S. where “Aunt Rhody” later appeared. It is believed that this is the source for the “Aunt Rhody” tune.

“The simple air was adapted for the “Aunt Rhody” text that circulated in singing tunebooks, which circulated mostly in rural areas where “Aunt Rhody” variants later appeared. . . .Accounts of the “meaning” of Aunt Rhody often point to the extraordinary value during frontier times of goose feathers for homemade beds.

“The sheer simplicity of the tune and the wide dispersal of “Aunt Rhody” variants is enough to suspect that traditional sources operated through or alongside Rousseau.” (from Alabama Folklife: History Behind the Songs)


  • Aunt Abbie
  • Aunt Mandy
  • Aunt Nancy
  • Aunt Rhodie
  • Aunt Rhody
  • Aunt Tabby
  • Go Tell Aunt Abbie
  • Go Tell Aunt Nancy
  • Go Tell Aunt Tabby
  • Go Tell Aunt Rhodie
  • The Old Gray Goose
  • The Old Gray Goose is Dead



BONUS YOUTUBE VIDEO: Private Lessons Matter

Aunt Rhody

Go tell Aunt Rhody,
Go tell Aunt Rhody,
Go tell Aunt Rhody,
That the old gray goose is dead.

The one she’s been saving
The one she’s been saving
The one she’s been saving
To make a feather bed.

Old gander’s weeping
Old gander’s weeping
Old gander’s weeping
Because his wife is dead.

And the goslings are mourning
And the goslings are mourning
And the goslings are mourning
Because their mother’s dead.

She died in the mill-pond
She died in the mill-pond
She died in the mill-pond
Standing on her head.


  • Folk Song Index: A Comprehensive Guide to the Florence E. Brunnings Collection, Florence E. Brunnings, Garland Publishing, Inc., New York and London 1981—Amazon Books
  • Country Music Sources: A Biblio-Discography of Commercially Recorded Traditional Music, Guthrie T. Meade, Jr. with Dick Spottswood and Douglas S. Meade, Southern Folklife Collection, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Libraries, NC 2002—Amazon Books
  • Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore (1952), Volume 3: Folk Ballads from North Carolina. Edited by Henry M Beldin and Arthur Palmer Hudson. Duke University Press. [This volume will be indexed on this site in the weeks to come.]
  • Folk Songs of North America (in the English Language), Alan Lomax, Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, New York 1960—Amazon Books

NOTICE: I’m not the best guitar player or vocalist, but no one loves these songs more than I do. The tune and lyrics are in the public domain unless otherwise noted. The recording © copyright 2013 by Stephen Griffith and may be used by permission of the copyright holder. The variation of the song I’m posting is the version I perform and is not exactly replicating the sources cited, but is always in the same song family. If anyone has more details about this song, or believes I’ve stated something in error, please let me know. I’m also open to suggestions to improve the site. Thanks. sgg

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