“Go Tell Aunt Rhody”


"Go tell Aunt (Rhody) (x3) The old gray goose is dead. The one she'd been saving (x3) to make a feather bed." The cause of death varies; "a pain in the head"; "somebody... knocked it on the head"; "from standing on its head"


Randolph quotes Chase to the effect that this tune was used in an opera by Jean Jacques Rousseau in 1750. The situation is rather more complex than this would imply. The most recent, and most significant, work on this subject is Murl Sickbert, Jr.'s "Go Tell Aunt Rhody She's Rousseau's Dream" (published 2000). Norm Cohen reports the following:

"In 1752, Rousseau composed 'Le Devin du village,' a pastoral opera bouffe.... [The Aunt Rhody tune appears] as a gavotte in the pantomime no. 8 (divertissement or ballet). It is danced by 'la villageoise,' a shepherdess or country girl, to music without words."

Sickbert observes that the Rousseau composition is more elaborate than the folk tune, with "two addditional parts or reprises, not one as Lomax gives it."

The tune came to be called "Rousseau's Dream," apparently by confusion: Another Rousseau score allegedly came to him while he was suffering from delirium. The title, according to Percy A. Scholes in _The Oxford Companion to Music_, was given by J. B. Cramer. - RBW

Same tune

  • Go Tell Young Henry [Ford] (Greenway-AFP, p. 229)

Cross references

  • cf. "Come Ye Sinners Poor and Needy" (tune)


  • Perry Bechtel's Colonels, "Go Tell Aunt Tabby" (Brunswick 498, c. 1930)
  • Pickard Family, "The Old Gray Goose is Dead" (Conqueror 7517, 1930; Melotone M-12129, 1931; on CrowTold01)
  • Edna & Jean Ritchie, "Go Tell Aunt Rhodie" (on Ritchie03)
  • Pete Seeger, "Go Tell Aunt Rhody" (on GrowOn2) (on PeteSeeger47); "Aunt Rhody" (on PeteSeeger18)


  1. Randolph 270, "Go Tell Aunt Rhody" (2 texts plus 2 excerpts, 1 tune)
  2. Randolph/Cohen, pp. 230-231, "Go Tell Aunt Rhody" (1 text, 1 tune -- Randolph's 270A)
  3. BrownIII 128, "Go Tell Aunt Patsy" (1 text)
  4. Scarborough-NegroFS, p. 8, (no title, but the goose's owner is Aunt Patsy) (1 text); pp. 195-196, "Go Tell Aunt Tabby" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. SharpAp 236, "The Old Grey Goose" (1 text, 1 tune)
  6. Gardner/Chickering 193, "Aunt Tabbie" (1 text plus an excerpt)
  7. Creighton/Senior, pp. 257, "The Old Grey Goose" (1 text, 1 tune)
  8. Linscott, p. 207, "Go Tell Aunt Rhody" (1 text, 1 tune)
  9. Lomax-FSUSA 3, "Go Tell Aunt Nancy" (1 text, 1 tune)
  10. Lomax-ABFS, pp. 305-306, "The Old Gray Goose" (1 text, 1 tune)
  11. Arnett, p. 39, "Go Tell Aunt Rhody" (1 text, 1 tune)
  12. Chase, pp. 176-177, "The Old Gray Goose is Dead" (1 text, 2 tunes)
  13. PSeeger-AFB, p. 45, "Go Tell Aunt Rhody" (1 text, 1 tune)
  14. Pankake-PHCFSB, p. 275, "Go Tell Aunt Rhody" (1 text)
  15. Silber-FSWB, p. 404, "Aunt Rhody" (1 text)
  17. Roud #3346
  18. BI, R270


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1918 (Cecil Sharp collection); +1913 (JAFL26)
Keywords: bird death mourning
Found in: US(MW,NE,SE,So)