On the airwaves

On the airwaves

Our five favourite songs about birds.

#5 Mockingbirds, Grant Lee Buffalo.
Who knows where the inspiration for this song comes from, an earthquake, a relationship break up, perhaps even a bad review from a nasty critic? It doesn’t really matter – with the breathless falsetto and unique lines of Mockingbirds this evocative mid-90s tune has withstood the test of time.

#4 Blackbird, The Beatles
With just his guitar and some tapping of the foot Paul McCartney is accompanied here by a blackbird’s song in what has become a veritable Beatles classic. We like to think that Paul is most definitely a bird lover. After all, his next band would be called Wings.

#3 Little Sparrow, Dolly Parton
While her genre may not be to everyone’s taste Dolly is undeniably an incredible songwriter. Here she sings that love, like the sparrow, is “a precious fragile little thing”. And, just as Whitney took I Will Always Love You and made it her own, so too does Bettye LaVette with her cover of this great song – we recommend tracking it down for a listen.

#2 Bird On The Wire, Leonard Cohen.
In November the world lost a great artist. Leonard Cohen’s deeply personal song-writing has been loved by generations and this, one of his most well known compositions, is seen by many as his anthem. In it Cohen, both downbeat and proud, claims, “like a drunk in a midnight choir, I have tried, in my own way, to be free”. We hope he got there.

#1 When Doves Cry, Prince
The writing, singing and playing (of all instruments) here show just how gifted Prince was. It rewarded him with his first American number 1 (Spin magazine would rank as the 6th greatest single of all time), and the cover version was the best part of the soundtrack to the Leo/Claire version of Romeo and Juliet.

Honourable mentions

1. Birds, by our own Bic Runga. Ignore the bleak lyrics and just concentrate on the beautiful voice and melodies.

2. For bird-based music we have to nominate folk singer Andrew Bird too, and the 20 short seconds of haunting bird song from Ouo are certainly memorable.

3. Three Little Birds, by Bob Marley. Because everything little thing… it’s going to be alright.

4. The Littlest Birds, This banjo-driven beauty by The Be Good Tanyas lets us know “the littlest birds have the prettiest song”.

Dishonourable mentions

1. I’m Like A Bird, from Nelly Furtado. Nominated due to some big assumptions (being ‘like a bird’ means you’ll “only fly away”, that you “won’t know where your soul and/or home is”)

2. Surfin’ Bird, by The Trashmen. Yes, it made a great ETA chips ad on the telly years ago. But by now it’s no secret – everybody’s heard about the word.