Sunday, July 11, 2010

High Flying Bird and Coal Mining

Michael Kelemen sent me an interesting email about the Jefferson Airplane song, "High Flying Bird." As Michael pointed out, and as is written about in the website linked below, the song was originally about a coal miner dreaming of escape by death from his coal mining life, into the freedom a bird enjoys.

From Raymond's Folk Song Page:

"This great coal-mining song tells the story of a miner who dreams of escaping the mines by thinking about the freedom of a flying bird, but the only way he can ultimately escape the mines is by dying. It was covered a lot in the early 70s by artists such as Jefferson Airplane, Richie Havens and Gram Parsons, but often with changes to the lyrics that lost the original meaning. I first heard it sung by Judy Henske, who was the first to record the song. It was the title track of her 1963 album (1963) and she sang it with the original words. It was then picked up by Richie Havens and it became his signature song. Wheeler personally did not like the way Havens did the song. He said in a in an interview that "it was too monotonous - although I was thrilled that he did it. I don’t care how you do my songs as long as you do ’em! It is flattering and it helps me to eat."'

High Flying Bird on youtube

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