The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

What You Gonna Call Your Pretty Little Baby?

African-American Spiritual

Alternate Titles:
Mary, What You Gonna Name that Pretty Little Baby?
Mary, Mary (What You Gonna Name That Baby?
Glory To That Newborn King

1. Mary, Mary, had a little baby,
Oo pretty little baby,
Oo pretty little baby
Glory be to the newborn king.

2. Star a shinin', shinin' on the manger,
Oo, shinin' on the manger
Oo, welcoming a stranger
Glory be to the newborn king.

3. Mary, Mary, who was here who knew him,
Oo, did anybody know him,
The ox and the donkey they bowed right down before him,
Glory be to the newborn king.

4. Mary, what you gonna name your baby?
Oo, pretty little baby,
Mm, pretty little baby
Glory be to the newborn king.

5. Some call him Manuel, think I'll call him Jesus,
Mm, yes think I'll call him Jesus
Mm, my pretty little Jesus
Glory be to the newborn king.

Harry Belafonte recorded this song in 1957 under the title "Mary, Mary" (available on his CD "To Wish You A Merry Christmas"). It was also recorded by Joan Baez, "Folksingers 'Round Harvard Square," 1960.

Elizabeth Poston, in The Second Penguin Book of Christmas Carols, gives this version (with music):

What You Gonna Call Yo' Pretty Little Baby?
    MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF

1. What you gonna call yo' pretty little baby,
What you gonna call yo' pretty little baby,
What you gonna call yo' pretty little baby?
Born, born in Bethlehem.
Some say one thing, I'll say Immanuel,
Born, born in Bethlehem.

2. What you gonna call yo' pretty little baby,
What you gonna call yo' pretty little baby,
What you gonna call yo' pretty little baby,
Born, born in Bethlehem.
Some call him one thing, I'll call him Jesus.
Born, born in Bethlehem.

3. What you gonna call yo' pretty little baby,
What you gonna call yo' pretty little baby,
What you gonna call yo' pretty little baby,
Born, born in Bethlehem.
Sweet little baby, born in a manger.
Born, born in Bethlehem.

She noted: "Traditional Negro Christmas spiritual (general), of characteristic simplicity in question-and-answer form and strong rhythm. An earlier version is 'Mary, what yer gwin er name dat Purty Leetle Baby' in Southern Thoughts for Northern Thinkers by Jeannette Robinson Murphy (Bandanna Publishing Co., New York, 1904)."

Another version, recorded by J. J. Niles and Peggy Seeger:

Pretty Little Baby

The Virgin Mary had-a one son
Mmmm, pretty little baby
Mmmm, glory Hallelujah
Glory be to the new born King

Mary, what you gonna name that pretty little baby?
Mmmm, pretty little baby
Mmmm, glory Hallelujah
Glory be to the new born King

Some call him one thing, think I'll name him Jesus
Mmmm, pretty little baby
Mmmm, glory Hallelujah
Glory be to the new born King

Some call him one thing, think I'll name him Emmanuel
Mmmm, pretty little baby
Mmmm, glory Hallelujah
Glory be to the new born King

I assume that the "J. J. Niles" is John Jacob Niles, who collected spirituals in Appalachia in the early years of the 20th century.

Another version that I found is called

What You Gonna Name That Pretty Little Baby?

O Mary what you
gonna name that
pretty little baby?
Some call him one thing,
think I'll call Him Jesus.
Glory! Glory!
Glory to that new-born King!
Some call him one thing,
I think I'll say Emmanuel.
Glory! Glory!
Glory to that new-born King!

A similar version under the title

Glory To That Newborn King
Melody: MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF
SATB: MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF

1. O Mary, what you goin' to name that pretty little baby?
Glory! glory! Glory to that newborn King!

2. Some call him one thing, I think I'll call him Jesus,
Glory! glory! Glory to that newborn King!

3. Some call him one thing, I think I'll say Emmanuel,
Glory! glory! Glory to that newborn King!


The sheet music for several of these versions is available on-line, for example: http://www.musicnotes.com and www.sheetmusicplus.com.

It can also be found as a part of a medley "Mary's Baby Boy" (with a similar song, "Mary Had A Baby", which is found both in Poston, and Keyte & Parrott, The New Oxford Book of Carols (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992).

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