“There’s a Hole in the Bucket” is a traditional folk song. It may be German in origin—a similar scenario is found in a German song from around 1700. A collection of folk songs from Pennsylvania that was published in 1949 is the earliest known English language version. The song was popular during the folk revival of the 1960s. American singers Harry Belafonte and Odetta recorded it in 1960. It’s also included on Pete Seeger’s collection of American Favorite Ballads published by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.
The original lyrics are based on a dialogue between two characters, Henry and Liza. Henry has a leaky bucket, and Liza tells him to fix it with a straw. But to cut the straw, he needs an ax; to sharpen the ax, he needs to wet the sharpening stone; and, to wet the stone, he needs water. Henry asks how he can get the water. “With a bucket,” Liza replies. But…. there’s a hole in the bucket. This is an example of a “circle song,” a song that comes back to where it started and begins again.
Singer Jennifer Rose http://jenniferrose.com and her daughter Lydia perform the song. “This is obviously our family’s very personal version of this song, which Lydia instigated one day in the car….I remember this song in my own family and at school growing up,” Rose says.