Select Page

Here’s a fun song for family life.   It’s a great one to get little ones moving. If you’re on your way somewhere, when you start to sing it, your toddler will pick up the pace. If you’re just hanging out, chances are, s/he will start to dance!

We use it in my home when a little levity or joy is needed, and also whenever I get out the sewing machine. It’s called Bob a Needle.

I first heard about this song from Bessie Jones in her book, Step it Down: Games, Plays, Songs, and Stories from the Afro-American Heritage. Jones learned this song, and many others like it, while growing up in the Georgia Sea Islands.

Pete Seeger also recorded the song, and I learned the verses from him.

As Bessie Jones explains, this song was originally a game played by children.  One child would hide their eyes while other children passed around a ring, (or bobbin).  When the song stopped, the children had to guess who had the ring.


For those who follow my blog, this is another great example of music coming from every day life, as opposed to being intended for formal performance.

It might be a little hard to make out the words, since we shot this video outside.  So here they are:

Hey Bob a needle
Bob a needle
Bob a needle bob a  etc…

Mary mack
All dressed in black
With silver buttons
Up and down her back

Went to the river
Tried to get across
Spent five dollars
On an old grey horse

Hey Bob a needle…

Horse wouldn’t pull
So I swapped it for a bull
Bull wouldn’t holler
Swapped it for a dollar

Dollar wouldn’t spend
So I threw it in the grass
The grass wouldn’t grow
So I chopped it with a hoe

Hey Bob a needle…

Hoe wouldn’t chop
So I took it to the shop
The shop made money
Like the bees made honey

Way down yonder
In the jay bird town
Where the women all work
While the sun goes down

Hey Bob a needle…

This song is a little taste of what’s coming in our Meadowlark Music Class summer session, which starts June 14th at Natural Resources, and June 30th, outdoors at the SF Botanical Garden.


If you enjoyed this post, here are a few ways to go deeper:

Wherever you live, you can download our latest album.  It’s free / pay what you want!

If you’re looking for community, join the conversation via our FB Group, Deep River Families.

And..  If you’re in the SF Bay Area, you can join us in person!

Meadowlark Music Class, my weekly music class for children and caregivers, meets W, TH, and F mornings at indoor and outdoor locations around San Francisco.