Birds always prove to be worthy of our songs
Charlotte's Web Spinning Tails
A bald eagle rests on a branch.
Viera Voice archive photo Charlie Corbeil
Spinning tales about birds featured in songs.
Birds enhance our lives. In return, we sing about them. Hopefully, these songs foster cheer, hope and especially fortitude.
Esteemed in songs is the bald eagle, characterized by its white head. It is the national symbol of the United States and dominates the Great Seal. Nearly extinct from pesticides, the eagle proudly soars again. Statesman John Ashcroft wrote a tribute to America’s virtues in “Let the Eagle Soar.” It was sung by Guy Hovis from “The Lawrence Welk Show” during the 2005 Bush inauguration.
Since 1927, the Florida state bird is the mockingbird. It is an outstanding mimic which often sings all night, especially under spring moonlight. This vocalization may be loud, varied and repetitive. The song “Listen to the Mocking Bird” depicts the bird singing above a loved one’s grave. Understandably, many identified with this song during the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln commented, “It is as sincere as the laughter of a little girl at play.” This moderately lively melody, which also served as marching music, was written in 1855 by African-American street musician Richard Milburn.
Seemingly, the vibrant bluebird is the harbinger of happiness. For example, Dorothy in the 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz” surmises that “Over the Rainbow” happy little bluebirds fly. This academy-award winner written for the movie was ranked the greatest movie song and the song of the century. Incredibly, it was initially deleted from the movie because it supposedly slowed down the action; also, it was considered too mature for Dorothy to sing.
The whippoorwill is named onomatopoeically — after its call which sounds like “whip-poor-will.” The opening lyrics “When whippoorwills call, And ev’ning is nigh” to the song “My Blue Heaven” suggest it is time to hurry home to happiness. Walter Donaldson, who wrote the music in 1924, was then employed by the renown composer Irving Berlin. The song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1978.
Symbolic of spring is the robin, an abundant migratory bird. And the first to see the spring robin will have good luck! Seemingly, rejuvenation begins “When the Red, Red Robin (Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin’ Along),” published in 1926. In 1972, Michael Jackson recorded his version of “Rockin’ Robin” in which the robin tweets in the company of the swallow, chick-a-dee (onomatopoeia), owl, crow, raven, buzzard and oriole. (Unfortunately, the cherished robin is a host of the West Nile virus.)
A soft, drawn-out lament or distinctive cooing identifies the mourning dove. Mated for life, this creature will mourn for its dead mate and attempt to care for it. It is a leading game bird and may be selected to clone the passenger pigeon, a related species hunted to extinction. “When Doves Cry,” a 1984 song by Prince, promotes hope despite tragedy.
Also motivating music, especially for children, is “The Ugly Duckling” in which a homely youngling (a cygnet) matures into a beautiful swan. This long-necked, graceful creature is closely related to the duck and goose. The song originated from the 1843 Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, a reflection of his own life.
The ultimate message is delivered in “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley in 1977. Their sweet songs by his doorstep insist, “Don’t worry about a thing.”
Fittingly, “Serenade,” which arises from the 1924 operetta “The Student Prince,” embraces the soothing lyrics:
Nothing is heard but the song of a bird
Filling all the air with dreaming …