The song was first copyrighted in 1835 by the Boston-based music publisher Charles Bradlee, and given the title "The A.B.C., a German air with variations for the flute with an easy accompaniment for the piano forte". The musical arrangement was attributed to Louis Le Maire (sometimes Lemaire), an 18th-century composer. This was "Entered according to act of Congress, in the year 1835, by C. Bradlee, in the clerk's office of the District Court of Massachusetts", according to the Newberry Library, which also says, "The theme is that used by Mozart for his piano variations, Ah, vous dirai-je, maman." This tune is the same as the tune for "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" and similar to that of "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep".
Lyrics: (each line represents two measures, or eight beats)
The e-d-c-b part is as fast as the l-m-n-o part in the normal alphabet song.
Zed for Zee
In the United States, Z is pronounced zee; in most other English-speaking countries (such as the UK, Canada and Australia) it is pronounced zed. Generally, the absent zee-rhyme is not missed, although some children use a zee pronunciation in the rhyme which they would not use elsewhere. Variants of the song exist to accommodate the zed pronunciation. One variation shortens the second line and lengthens the last, to form a near rhyme between N and zed:
Another alternative zed version:
French Canadian version
A French-language version of the song is also taught in Canada, with generally no alterations to the melody except in the final line that requires adjustment to accommodate the two-syllable pronunciation of the French y.
Because the English language has more than 40 sounds and only 26 letters, children and beginning readers also need to learn the different sounds(or phonemes) associated with each letter. Many songs have been written to teach phonemic awareness and they are usually referred to as alphabet songs.
A newer example of this is from the musical Matilda. "School Song" is an acrostic that spells out the alphabet phonetically.
Backwards song (Verse 2)
The group Wee Sing released an alphabet song with the letters in reverse order, called "ZYXs".
The Canadian children's TV series The Big Comfy Couch used a version of the song in the first episode of Season 4, "Backwards".
Comedian Soupy Sales released a song in 1966 called "Backwards Alphabet" which contained the reverse alphabet in lyrical style. The original version of the song was performed by actress Judi Rolin with the Smothers Brothers in the 1966 teleplay adaptation of Alice Through the Looking Glass.
"A.B.C. Rock", written by members of Bill Haley and His Comets and recorded by children's entertainer Sally Starr for her 1958 album Our Gal Sal. Aimed at young listeners, the song incorporates a recitation of the alphabet. Haley and the Comets recorded their own version for Decca Records in 1959.
^The alphabet song is sometimes said to come from another of Bradlee's publications, "The Schoolmaster", but the first line of that song is given as "Come, come my children, I must see", in Yale University's library catalog. It is described as "a favorite glee for three voices, as sung at the Salem glee club."