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Who/what is the Great Speckled Bird?

21 Apr 00 - 07:28 PM (#215810)
Subject: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: Banjer

I may have asked this a couple of years ago, but still have no good answer. Given all the new 'faces' in the forum let's throw the question out again and see what comes of it.

What a beautiful thought I am thinking
Concerning the Great Speckled Bird

Further into the song reference is made to "Desiring to lower Her Standards", giving the entity a female reference.
How do YOU interpret this wonderful old standard? Or is it meant to be one of the mysteries of life? What is the Great Speckled Bird??


21 Apr 00 - 07:57 PM (#215820)
Subject: Lyr Add: THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD (Rev. Guy Smith)
From: Amos

For reasons I can't find, the term "great speckled bird" was historically used in Christian metaphor to represent the Christian church on earth, conceived as the "bride" of Christ.

The complete song goes:

The Great Speckled Bird
                Written by Reverend Guy Smith

                What a beautiful thought I am thinking
                Concerning a great speckled bird
                Remember her name is recorded
                On the pages of God's Holy Word

                Desiring to lower her standards
                They watch every move that she makes
                They long to find fault with her teachings
                But really they find no mistake

                I am glad I have learned of her meekness
                I am proud that my name is in the book
                For I want to be one never fearing
                On the face of my Savior to look

                When He cometh descending from heaven
                On the clouds, as He writes in His Word
                I'll be joyfully carried to meet Him
                On the wings of the great speckled bird

                © Universal Dutchess Music Corp. (BMI)


21 Apr 00 - 08:19 PM (#215835)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: Stewie

Banjer

In case you are unaware of the following, I draw this passage to your attention:

[Roy] Acuff began his recording career in 1936, when William R. Calaway of the American Radio Corporation heard him singing 'The Great Speckled Bird' (the original record labels, however, spelled it 'Speckle' and to many people it will always bear that title). Set to a melody reminiscent of 'I'm Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes', the song came to Acuff through the performances of another Knoxville radio group, Charlie Swain and the Black Shirts. The authorship of this famous song will probably always remain unknown, although it has been attributed to a Rev Gant and to Rev Guy Smith (Acuff also wrote four additional verses which became known as 'The Great Speckled Bird No 2'). The song, which pictures the church as a group of persecuted individuals who ultimately will gain eternal salvation as a reward for their earthly travail, is based upon the ninth verse of the twelfth chapter of Jeremia: 'Mine heritage is unto me as a speckled bird, the birds round about are against her'. The song was popular not only as a recording hit but as a favorite in some of the Pentecostal Holiness churches as well. Vance Randolph, for example, heard it sung in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, as an official Assembly of God hymn, and W.J. Cash claimed that it was 'the official hymn of the Church of God'.
[Bill C. Malone 'Country Music USA' University of Texas Press Revised Edition 1985 pp 189-190]

Shelton and Golblatt ('The Country Music Story) also refer to the Jeremiah passage, but suggest the title of the song is a symbol for the Bible.

--Stewie.


21 Apr 00 - 08:44 PM (#215852)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: jofield

And the tune is such an anthem it got reused for "Wild Side of Life" and Kitty Wells' answer song.

James in Bristol, RI


22 Apr 00 - 11:12 AM (#216057)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: GUEST,Allan S.

Somewhere in the distant past somone told me that the Great speckled Bird is the Bible. I'm not sure if this helps.


22 Apr 00 - 11:22 AM (#216060)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: Rick Fielding

And of course the tune also is used for "I'm Thinking Tonight of my Blue Eyes". Popular tune.

Rick


22 Apr 00 - 11:44 AM (#216074)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: harpgirl

...for my money, Lucinda Williams' version of this song "talks to me"...harp


22 Apr 00 - 11:46 AM (#216076)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: Banjer

Thanks to all, I don't remember such a good response the first time around! I had a good laugh with my banjo instructor at the time by telling him that during his absence I had learned at least four songs! He asked to hear them and I played The Great Speckled Bird for him. This was followed by silence....broken only by his asking "Well, what are the other three?" My reply to him was that the tune also covered "Wild Side Of Life", "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels", and "I'm Thinking Tonight Of My Blue Eyes"!


22 Apr 00 - 03:18 PM (#216139)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: Mark Clark

If you visit any on-line Bible site and search for "great speckled bird" you'll find the reference. I think it's in Revelation (The Apocalypse of John). The great speckled bird (as the song says) represents "the great Church of God."

- Mark


22 Apr 00 - 03:27 PM (#216144)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: Peter T.

Banjer, great story! Like all those Irish songs -- Wearing of the Green, etc. Learn one, get one free.
yours, Peter T.


22 Apr 00 - 08:06 PM (#216250)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: catspaw49

Love the story Banj............And Peter, isn't that the great thing about folk music to begin with? Learn one tune and you know half a dozen songs....if you like Woodt, you know 2 dozen!

Spaw


23 Apr 00 - 12:30 AM (#216354)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: DADGBE

When will we folkies stop looking for obscure meanings when the obvious truth lies before us? The Great Speckled Bird is a large avian with mottled plumage.


23 Apr 00 - 12:49 AM (#216366)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: catspaw49

Oh......Well OK....I guess it could have been a free range Emu.

Spaw


23 Apr 00 - 02:20 AM (#216420)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: Eluned

The Christian Church is an Emu?! I'll buy that!!


23 Apr 00 - 06:31 AM (#216457)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: Joe Offer

It's Jeremiah, Chapter 12, Verse 9 (Jer 12:9):
Mine heritage is unto me as a speckled bird, the birds round about are against her; come ye, assemble all the beasts of the field, come to devour.
Click here for the entire chapter, so you can read it in context.
The Revised Standard Version translation is:
Is my heritage to me like a speckled bird of prey? Are the birds of prey against her round about? Go, assemble all the wild beasts; bring them to devour.
I think the RSV is a little easier to understand.
But in the song, the church is like the great speckled bird.
-Joe Offer-


24 Apr 00 - 11:26 PM (#217426)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: Art Thieme

There was a fine four star film done in 1941 about this I'm pretty sure.It was directed by John Huston and featured Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Ward Bond, Lee Patrick and Jerome Cowan (among others). Bogey plays Dashiel Hammett's detective Sam Spade. This great film was previously issued in 1931 and also in 1936 (as SATAN MET A LADY). This film, called The Great Spackled Bird, was probably better known as The Maltese Falcon.

Art Thieme (sheepishly)


25 Apr 00 - 11:38 AM (#217656)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: catspaw49

Art, there is NOTHING FRESH about that pun and to REFRESH it is an abomination of taste. It was really bad in the best sense of the word.

Spaw


25 Apr 00 - 11:44 AM (#217662)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: Amos

Oooohhhhh Art. You must have been stone plastered when you came up with that one. Ya laid it on kinda thick there. :>)

A


25 Apr 00 - 11:54 AM (#217669)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: Crowhugger

The truth about the "mottled avian": it was the 60's backup band to Ian & Sylvia ... y'know, Ian Tyson and Sylvia (then Fricker) Tyson. Honest! Canadians do not kid about things like this, not about folkies from the days when an hour was longer than 22 minutes.

S&D,
CH


25 Apr 00 - 02:47 PM (#217754)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: canoer

Art, didn't know you did drywall in your day job.


16 Mar 01 - 11:30 PM (#419690)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: wysiwyg

Well, it took a recording of Bluegrass Gospel Hits for me to finally find this tune all the rest of yo u knew all along, whcih I have had words to for YEARS.... and we sang it tonight with our jam group for what seemed like hours of delightful pickin' and authoharpin'.

I'm sure it was delightful but I am not sure it was hours, though after a bit I had to quit strummin' an' rock a babygirl off to sleep on my shoulder as I sang it over her sleepy little warm fuzzy head. That pertickler babygirl has been part of our jam group since afore she was borned, when she was still inside her mama. Mama was here too... daddie plays geetar in our group, and with me sometimes for our Saturday night service, but tonight was mama's birthday and they came over after dinner to jam anyway. I was proud they came, and glad they brought Katarina... mama feel out all sleep in Hardi's recliner. The rest played so pretty, and I got the baby and the melody.

I know I'll never forget all that, when I sing it the rest of my life, and I know Katarina won't either.

I'm gonna put all the verses I can find all together in one big long ole hymn an' do 'er up in church soon's I can. An' I'll tell them all about the Mudcat and how the story was right here when I came looking for it.

Them Ecopalian's dunno much about them birds but I tole Hardi the story would be here, an' he like this right fine.

~S~


17 Mar 01 - 11:20 AM (#419931)
Subject: Lyr Add: SONG OF SONGS
From: GUEST,Gene

The late BOXCAR WILLIE bundled them up
in a duet with WILLIE NELSON

SONG OF SONGS
Recorded by Boxcar Willie w/Willie Nelson
Written by Vern Stovall, Bill Palmer & Lloene Martin

Sung to the tune of:
I'M THINKING TONIGHT OF MY BLUE EYES

How I love that old melody they're playing
I heard it in so many different songs
It made stars out of country music singers
And somehow it just keeps playin' on.

Oh I'm Thinking Tonight Of My Blue Eyes
Seems to me it's been around since time began
It was there with our soldiers during wartime
And right today, we still hear it, now and then.

Roy Acuff was young country singer
His records were just starting to be heard
That old tune took him right up to stardom
On The Wings Of The Great Speckled Bird.

Hank Thompson is a country music legend
He sang western swing and songs of peace and strife
That same tune gave old Hank the break he needed
On a record called The Wild Side Of Life.

A young girl made the world stop and listen
Kitty Wells was that young singer's name
It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels
That melody rang clear as country rain.

Oh those notes must come straight out of heaven
In so many different songs they were the same
I know someday they'll be etched in gold forever
And placed in the Country Music Hall Of Fame.

TAG:
And placed in the Country Music Hall Of Fame.

SOURCE:
BOXCAR WILLIE/BOXCAR WILLIE
1986 MCA Records MCA 39052


17 Mar 01 - 11:31 AM (#419935)
Subject: Lyr Add: THERE'S A GRAND OLE OPRY SHOW PLAYING...
From: GUEST,Gene

Another tribute to country music song-

THERE'S A GRAND OLE OPRY SHOW PLAYING SOMEWHERE
Recorded by Red Johnson
Words and music by Bud Auge and Red Johnson

Sung to the tune of:
"I'm Thinking Tonight Of My Blue Eyes."

There's a Grand Ole Opry Show playing somewhere
In a distant land so many miles away
Only country music's greatest get to go there
Where I wish that I could also go someday.

I'd see Williams, Horton, Patsy Cline and Copas
Hawkshaw Hawkins and Jack Anglin, too
There's a Grand Ole Opry Show playing somewhere
In a distant land so far beyond the blue.

As the Velvet curtains open in the twilight
Choirs of Angels sings the sweetest harmony
As the show goes on in Hillbilly Heaven
What a beautiful sight it must be.

Jimmie Rodgers is the M.C. of the evening
One by one he calls each artist from the wings
To perform and do the songs they've made so famous
As the melodies are played on golden strings.

There's a Grand Ole Opry Show playing somewhere
On a starlit stage so many miles away
Only country music's greatest get to go there
Where I wish that I could also go someday.

SOURCE:
The World of Country Music
Capitol NPB-5


17 Mar 01 - 11:33 AM (#419936)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: wysiwyg

That's wonderful. My mind sort of sang me to sleep last night on that tune, done medium slow, so genteel, so sweet. Now I have a song with lyrics that I can use to illustrate the folk process with kids I will be working with. Thanks!

~S~


17 Mar 01 - 01:57 PM (#419996)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: Ebbie

I don't understand the significance of 'speckled'. In the context, does it mean that the 'other' birds are solid colored and the speckled one is different? Maybe kind of like the ugly duckling which turns out to be a swan?

Point of interest: An immature bald eagle is speckled- it doesn't gain its distinctive white head and tail until it's around 4 or 5 years old.

Ebbie


17 Mar 01 - 02:09 PM (#420000)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: wysiwyg

Maybe the other birds are not GREAT, but smaller. I dunno. DUH, what if I pull out the BIBLE ALMANC right here at my left hand.... native birds... hmmm.....

"Birds were common in Palestine and the people of biblical times used them for many different purposes..... Bible writers often used birds to descibe man's spiritual condition.... Again, the writers of Scripture were fascinated by the magnificence of the eagle and its ability to soar in the sky. For this reason, they used the symbol of the eagle to challenge man to rise above his circumstances and follow God (cf Prov. 23:5)."

I think I'll go over to Beliefnet and use the online Bible tools there to see which Hebrew word is used in the citations given above-- my ALmanac lists the birds by our word and Hebrew word. BRB.

~S~


17 Mar 01 - 02:09 PM (#420001)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: Amos

Ebbie -- I think you got it -- the speckled one, being of unexpected hue, is rejected by the white or black or brown hens (or whatever they are) for being different.


17 Mar 01 - 02:20 PM (#420007)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: Matt_R

And he will raise you up on eagle's wing
Bear you on the breath of dawn
Make you to shine like the sun
And hold you in the palm of his hand...


17 Mar 01 - 02:34 PM (#420011)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: wysiwyg

This 486 and my headache slowed me down too much to find the site with Strong's numbers inserted in the King James text. But the Almanac I have does have Hebrew bird names, so if anyone has the Hebrew word to offer from the Jeremiah cite or the Revelation one-- pony up and I'll see what I have.

The Bird in the song stands in for a variety of images, not just one... it's a teaching on several things at once. It's a lot, all folded up into the metaphor. Shall I say more? If so-- later.

~Susan


17 Mar 01 - 04:51 PM (#420068)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: GUEST,Roll&Go-C

Traditional hens, those back in biblical times, were more likely to be speckled than solid. Our solid white, black and brown chickens would have been pecked to death in a minute if they had materalized in that time period. At least, so says one more familiar with fowl than the bible. So there, you chicken pluckers!


18 Mar 01 - 12:21 AM (#420285)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: dick greenhaus

The tune also pops up in "Can I Sleep in your Barn Tonight, Mister".


18 Mar 01 - 12:34 AM (#420289)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: Mark Clark

Are you sure it's her standards they are desiring to lower? I've always heard and sung it as standard meaning flag or banner placed by and representing the "forces" of the Church. Big difference in meaning.

      - Mark


18 Mar 01 - 12:50 AM (#420291)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: catspaw49

Yeah Mark, it would also kinda' make you come up with a different definition of "bird."..........a bit more like the English slang perhaps? Of course then you'd need to maybe change the line to "sweet, freckled bird."

Spaw


18 Mar 01 - 12:58 AM (#420297)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: Mark Clark

I love it! Oh man... I think I'm about to have an epiphany... no, wait... it's a... oh crap. I can't even remember what it's called any more.

      - Mark


18 Mar 01 - 09:06 AM (#420370)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: Giac@Brian's

GUEST, Gene:

Although noted with There's A Grand Ole Opry Show Playing Somewhere that the tune is I'm Thinking Tonight Of My Blue Eyes, the lyrics read more like There's A Star Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere.

Although somewhat similar, the tunes, as I know them anyhow ~;o), are different.

Mark:

I, too, always heard the word as "standard," meaning flag, and lowering her standard, would mean bringing down her flag in defeat.

It seems that churches are often referred to in the feminine, as are ships, thus "her" standard?

- Mary


18 Mar 01 - 09:22 AM (#420378)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: Banjer

I think when taken in context the meaning becomes clear...
'Desiring to lower her standards, they watch every move that she makes, They long to find fault with her teachings, but really they find no mistakes...
That sounds more like 'they' are trying to find a way to discredit than conquer.


18 Mar 01 - 01:03 PM (#420460)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: artbrooks

My Hebrew is pretty rusty, but the word in my Hebrew bible transliterates as "ayim", which is a vulture.


18 Mar 01 - 01:37 PM (#420478)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: wysiwyg

I'm just starting the research, as of yesterday. What I have so far is that the bird is a "taloned" "swooper" which is speckled... these are the word pictures folded up in the Hebrew words used in the verse in Jeremiah. The Jeremiah passage, however, does not fully support all of the verses of the song. That will take some more digging, trhrough the prophets as well as the New testament. What will be interesting about that is that the language shifts from one testment to the next-- Hebrew for OT, Greek for NT. The sense of the word pictures shifts accordingly.

We need to do this research so that when we introduce the piece in our church, we can say how it fits with what they already understand. Classical seminary for Hardi did not happen to include a course on Great Speckled Birds!

I'd love to hear from anyone else who knows how to do Bible research-- most of the things that have been said so far are small slices of the whole bird and little servings of the stuffing, when compared to the treasures of the whole dish the hymnmaker has cooked up and served for our nourishment. Let's see if we can get the whole picture though before slinging around parodies and cute comments. Or the only thing speckled and avian around here will be the mutant crow shreds hanging outta some of our mouths! Nothing great about that!

~Susan


18 Mar 01 - 01:45 PM (#420481)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: Matt_R

Father Tom has knows everything that has to do with Biblical reseach, and has a huge library of thousands of book on the subject. All alphabetized, he has on average 5 books on each "book" of the Bible.


18 Mar 01 - 01:51 PM (#420482)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: wysiwyg

Well get him going on it then Matt!

The offer to sing the song at Newman!

~S~


18 Mar 01 - 02:17 PM (#420501)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: wysiwyg

... and since the tune is also similar to I'M USING MY BIBLE FOR A ROAD MAP-- that's my plan for research on it.

BTW, ever notice TRAMP ON THE STREET and WINGS OF A DOVE are almost the same too? Now the dove, that's one's easy.

~S~


18 Mar 01 - 03:13 PM (#420512)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: Banjer

Boxcar Willie did 'There's Nothing Like A Good Old Country Song' to the tune of the GSB. I found it on Rose's web site. Pretty song no matter what the words are.


18 Mar 01 - 03:48 PM (#420518)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: Micca

Banjer, you havent heard, " flushed from the bathroom of your heart" to the same tune?


18 Mar 01 - 06:50 PM (#420593)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: wysiwyg

Clarifying-- TRAMP ON THE STREET and WINGS OF A DOVE are similar to one another, not the same as GSB.

~S~


18 Mar 01 - 07:32 PM (#420616)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: GUEST,Gene

RE: Giac@Brian's [Mary] comments....
For those interested in-

'SONG OF SONGS'
and
'THERE'S A GRAND OLE OPRY SHOW PLAYING SOMEWHERE'

I can upload a RealMedia file of it to website

or you can leave a MUDCAT personal message
if you want EMAIL COPY

and YES I ARE A MEMBER.....
But I ENABLE/DISABLE cookies daily


18 Mar 01 - 10:36 PM (#420673)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: Giac@Brian's

Gene -

Thanks, I'm sending a PM.

Mary


19 Mar 01 - 03:16 AM (#420731)
Subject: Lyr Add: THE CHILD'S SIDE OF LIFE (Wayne Raney)
From: Gene

also on Rose The Record Lady Website-
Archives Page 11

THE CHILD'S SIDE OF LIFE
Recorded by: Wayne Raney

A little Boy stood cryin' in a courtoom
Before a Judge with face so grim and cold
He brought tears to the eyes of all the Jury
As they listened to the story that he told.

I know my Mom's not a Honky Tonk Angel
I know she's not as bad, like people say
I know my Daddy didn't mean the words he uttered
When he said she went a wild and wicked way.

I know my Daddy loves me and and he loves my Mommy
'Cause he told us that the day he said goodbye
He wouldn't tell us that he loved us and not mean it
I know my Daddy wouldn't tell his Son a lie.

I couldn't live without Mommy and Daddy
They mean so much to me Judge, don't you see
There'd be no Mom to kiss and tuck me in at bedtime
There'd be no Dad to hold and bounce me on his knee.

So would you ask my Daddy if he'll kiss my Mommy
As Mother, she will kiss my Daddy too
Then I know that all my Prayers have been answered
And the three of us can start our lives anew.

A silence fell upon that crowded Courtroom
Each one thought of the words that Jesus Saves
A little child shall lead them, was that wisdon
And homes began to build instead of graves.


11 Mar 02 - 09:03 PM (#667375)
Subject: ADD: Speckled Bird No. 4
From: wysiwyg

Transcribed, as recorded by BIG SLIM THE LONE COWBOY (5/9/04 - 10/13/66)
"Star Of WWVA Wheeling Jamboree"

~S~

================================================


SPECKLED BIRD No. 4


What a beautiful thought to be thinking
Of that heavenly home bright and fair
Where God waits in all of His glory
To receive all His children up there.

God has told me He He'd take me to heaven
And I know that His promise is true.
That Great Speckled Bird He'll be sending
And I know it will carry me through.

My mother is waiting to greet me
In that home where no sorrows can dwell.
To this old world of sin and its trouble
Soon I'll be bidding them farewell.

When my life with its troubles is ended,
And my burdens they no longer I can bear,
God will send His white angel in its glory,
To take me with Him to dwell up there.

I can see that great bird now preparing
To make her long-expected flight.
I can hear sinners crying for mercy,
As she speeds through that dark and fatal night.

Everyone has been warned of its coming--
To be ready on that glad memorial day.
When the Great Speckled Bird comes descending,
I'll be ready to go on my way.


SOURCE:
ROSE THE RECORD LADY
(You can find the Real Audio recording there.)

SH


12 Mar 02 - 12:23 AM (#667485)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: Dicho

The "Great Speckled Bird," by Rev. Guy Smith, consists of eight four-line verses. The longer version by Acuff, Number (2) given in the DT, contains the original words by Smith, but has two errors which were perpetuated in one of Acuff's recordings. The verses are run together, as well.
Verse 1:
(G)What a beautiful thought I am (C)thinking,
Con(D)cerning a great speckled (G)bird.
Remember her name is re(C)corded
On the (D)pages of God's Holy (G)Word.
(Acuff sang "On the pages of pure shining gold")

Verse 4:
Desiring to lower her standard,
They watch every move that she makes;
They long to find fault with her teachings,
But really they find no mistake.
(Acuff sang "But they cannot find any mistakes")

I have added Acuff's chords. His first recording, (1937) did not include verses 2, 3, 5 or 6.

Guy Smith's poem was printed in 1936 in a newspaper, before Roy Acuff's copyright. Smith may have obtained the idea from an earlier hymn or poem. (Traditional Ballad Index)


12 Mar 02 - 07:33 AM (#667565)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: Jeanie

This question of the Great Speckled Bird came up outside Mudcat a few weeks ago, and out of curiosity I found myself spending ages trawling through (some of !) the 9,660 entries in Google and then through numerous Bible commentaries and concordances.

This is what I found, which has not yet been mentioned in previous posts:

Summary of the book of Jeremiah: Jeremiah warns the people of Judah about their coming captivity, which is God's judgement for their persistant sins and failure to live as God's people should. The people have chosen to ignore God; now God will ignore them, but only for a time. God also promises to restore His people when they turn back to Him. Jeremiah tells the people that judgement should not be looked at merely as punishment, but rather as a loving act by God to restore His people to Himself.

God's people had become vultures, birds of prey, and therefore unworthy of a place in God's house. Birds of prey were not allowed to be offered in sacrifice to God in the Temple.

They are continually pulling and pecking at one another, speckled with shed blood. They have made their country a cock-pit.

The Hebrew root word behind the word "speckled" is the same as the one behind the word "to colour", so as well as denoting a speckling with blood, it also denotes a blending together of the Law of Moses with the paganism of the surrounding nations, a mxing of the superstitious with the divine.

The birds round about (the surrounding nations) are against her. Those that have made a prey of others shall themselves be preyed on.

In other words, to be like a "great speckled bird" is not good ! However, underneath all of this wrath of God is His love for His people and the ultimate promise of His mercy.

This means that the implications, in various verses of the song,that the great speckled bird is somehow "better" than the rest, are theologically rather "off-beam". Likewise the part which mentions the bird's "meekness".

It seems to me that the songwriter has totally misinterpreted the Jeremiah passage in the first place. The great speckled bird in the Bible is certainly not something to be admired or aspired to.

This song was adopted by a denomination known as the "Church of God", who felt themselves attacked by other denominations, and therefore identified with the bird in the song being attacked by others. I didn't note down the reference, but when I was looking all this up, I did find a reference to Roy Acuff having been a member of the Church of God.

- Jeanie


12 Mar 02 - 08:58 AM (#667604)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: Cappuccino

I always enjoy impressing country fans (but nobody else) by saying that I met Acuff backstage at the Grand Ole Opry (another phrase that goes down well with country fans!) in the early 80s, I think.

They were just building the new Opryland, and an agent told me that they had built a special house in it for Acuff to retire in. That's nice, I said.

No, they answered - they're just waiting for him to die, then they can turn it into a museum and charge entry!

Such cynicism in country music? Dear me...! - Ian B


12 Mar 02 - 11:30 AM (#667665)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: wysiwyg

That's GREAT, Jeanie! Thanks!

~S~


12 Mar 02 - 02:50 PM (#667769)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: TJO

Somewhere back in the dim and distant I heard that "The Great Speckled Bird" came from a visual image of an open Bible. The open pages form wings on either side, and the letters make them look speckled. I can't vouch for any truth in that derivation, but I like it. And it seems more fitting for a country song than some scholarly glosses on the Book of Jeremiah. Certainly the Bible being identified with the church could have led to combining the images.


12 Mar 02 - 06:03 PM (#667885)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: GUEST,redhorse

A CD set I just got includes Great Speckled Bird by "Roy Acuff and his Crazy Tennesseeans" dated 1936, which has the second verse

With all the other birds flocking round her
She is so despised by the squad
The Great Speckled Bird is the Bible
Representing the great Church of God

Seems fairly explicit


12 Mar 02 - 06:35 PM (#667905)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: SharonA

Great work, Jeannie! (I still like catspaw's characterization of the Christian Church as a free-range emu, though...)

At one point, Jeannie, you say: "It seems to me that the songwriter has totally misinterpreted the Jeremiah passage in the first place." I'm wondering whether it was the songwriter who misinterpreted it, or whether he might have heard that misinterpretation from the pulpit. In other words, had the church (or any denomination thereof) referred to itself as The Great Speckled Bird at the time the song was written, or before then? It certainly wouldn't have been the first time that some enthusiastic preacher mixed his metaphors!


12 Mar 02 - 06:41 PM (#667911)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: Dicho

The interpretation by Redhorse is one Roy Acuff took from the song by Rev. Guy Smith, but see the posting by Joe Offer. Here he quotes the original Bible passage, and the original meaning seems to be the church.
Stewie, I may be wrong (can't help it not having all the data) but I thought all of the verses in version #2 (in DT) were actually used by Smith in his published poem before Acuff recorded it. I also have notes that Acuff's original recording had only four of the verses. He varied it through the years.
I think Joe is closer to the biblical meaning (his training and background). Neither Acuff (or myself) have the theological background to get at the true meaning.


13 Mar 02 - 03:17 AM (#668144)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: Jeanie

I gathered material from many different Bible commentaries,Dicho. If you want to look into this in more detail,a starting point is the on-line commentary on www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/mhc/Jer/

Joe may want to add to this himself, but in his post where he quotes Jer. 12:9, he says "BUT in the SONG the church is like the great speckled bird."

There's no doubt that in the song, the "great speckled bird" is being used to represent the church (or a church/denomination/members thereof), and, moreover, in a positive light.

But the original question was : "Who/what is the great speckled bird?" For that, you go back to the source, the Bible, where the "great speckled bird" represents something very different.

As SharonA says, here is one example of very many, where a bible passage or concept has been misinterpreted and, over time, like a game of Chinese whispers, a whole false mythology has sprung up.I find that whole process fascinating.

- Jeanie


13 Mar 02 - 04:43 AM (#668164)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: Cappuccino

I think you're right. I think Acuff was sincere, but not entirely correct... as Dicho suggests,we can all get slightly theologically adrift in some of the songs we do.

And my favourite version of the song is by Mudcatter Norton1 and his mates, on the Frio Caballeros CD.

- Ian B


13 Mar 02 - 06:35 AM (#668202)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: Dave Bryant

Brenda Wooton with freckles !


13 Mar 02 - 08:18 AM (#668235)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: gnu

Is it kin to the Great Bird of Diminishing Returns ? That which flies in ever smaller circles until it flies up it's own ass and disappears ? Oh, how I use to love airline economic studies !


13 Mar 02 - 08:40 AM (#668257)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: WyoWoman

I don't know about all this, but I do think it lives in the tree above my parking spot.

ww


13 Mar 02 - 08:53 AM (#668265)
Subject: RE: Who/what is THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD?
From: Dave Bryant

I which case it's THE GREAT SPECKLING BIRD.


11 Feb 11 - 05:12 PM (#3093489)
Subject: RE: Who/what is the Great Speckled Bird?
From: GUEST,C Brown

I've been researching this subject and here is one paragraph I found:
Recorded in 1936 by Roy Acuff, the lyrics were apparently written by the Reverend Guy Smith. The image of the "speckled bird," most experts agree, is a reference to Jeremiah 12:9: Mine heritage is unto me as a speckled bird, the birds round about are against her. The use of "heritage" here means the life one must lead as a consequence of the way one was "raised," but also the one determined by dint of personality: in contrast to an oral tradition, in which thought is spirit, from the outside (as from God), the song is an example of psyche, the experience of literacy, in which thought comes from within. Although the lyrics would suggest gospel music inspirations (they were written by a minister, after all), the music was inspired by a song from the secular realm, and as such the song would seem to be a fierce statement of self-reliance, perseverance, and the perils of the individual within a mass society. Most sources I've come across claim the melody is traditional, used first (in recorded history; it is no doubt much older) in "I Am Thinking Tonight Of My Blue Eyes," a song recorded in the 1920s. The same melody was also used in Hank Thompson's "The Wild Side of Life," and in Kitty Wells' answer song to "The Wild Side of Life," titled "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels." To my knowledge, the fact that the four songs all used the same melody was first pointed out, in recorded form anyway, by David Allan Coe, on the best album he ever did, RIDES AGAIN (1977), and the song, "Punkin Center Barn Dance."


11 Feb 11 - 06:11 PM (#3093528)
Subject: RE: Who/what is the Great Speckled Bird?
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle

The most amazing thing about this song is the myriad number of country songers who have been attracted to it. Its very mystifying if you come to country music fairly late in life - you really wonder if its some sort of club. And you search for the metaphor - but even wonderful expositions like Jeanie's do not explain quite why this song has such resonance and meaning for country music artists.


12 Feb 11 - 11:43 AM (#3093841)
Subject: RE: Who/what is the Great Speckled Bird?
From: Amos

ANd just to round the collection out:

Wild Side of Life

    Recorded by Hank Thompson
    [key of C moderate 4/4 time]

[C] You wouldn't read my letter if I [F] wrote you
You [G7] asked me not to call you on the [C] phone.
But there's something I'm wanting to [F] tell you
So I [G7] wrote it in the words of this [C] song.

(chorus)
I didn't know God made honky tonk [F] angels
I [G7] should have known you'd never make a [C] wife
You gave up the only one that ever [F] loved you
And went [G7] back to the wild side of [C] life.

The glamor of the gay night life has [F] lured you
To the [G7] places where the wine and liquor [C] flows.
There you wait to be anybody's [F] baby
And for [G7] get the only love you'll ever [C] know.

Kitty Wells' version:

You wouldn't read my letter if I wrote you
You asked me not to call you on the phone
But there's something I'm wanting to tell you
So I wrote it in the words of this song

I didn't know God made honky tonk angels
I might have known you'd never make a wife
You gave up the only one that ever loved you
And went back to the wild side of life

As I sit here tonight the jukebox's playing
The tune about the wild side of life
As I listen to the words you are saying
It brings mem'ries when I was a trustin' wife

It wasn't God who made honky tonk angels
As you said in the words of your song
Too many times married men think they're still single
That has caused many-a good girl to go wrong

It's a shame that all the blame is on us women
It's not true that only you men feel the same
From the start most every heart that's ever broken
Was because there always was a man to blame

It wasn't God who made who made honky tonk angels
As you said in the words of your song
Too many times married men think they're still single
That has caused many-a good girl to go wrong

I didn't know God made honky tonk angels
I might have known you'd never make a wife
You gave up the only one that ever loved you
And went back to the wild side of life
And went back to the wild side of life


04 Apr 11 - 06:33 AM (#3128130)
Subject: RE: Who/what is the Great Speckled Bird?
From: GUEST

the great speckled bird was a song written in the 1930s by guy smith. i believe that smith wrote it about jeremy and some of the verses were about john but no one knows if that's true. i think that an earlier song called on the wings of a dove might have bene written in the 1890s which means that the carter family were not the first to write their tune of 'i'm thinking tonight of my blue eyes in 1929'. i also think this song about the bird should be sung more times and more well remembered thaat the 1952 song the wild side of life is. when i look at the singers who are from britain the things they say is we like to sing that kind of music. a scottish singer from glasgow named lena martell who sings country music likes the wild side because in the interview she said that i do sing hymns but i have never heard of the song about the bird. the first time i heard the song was by roy acuff and i could not believe that that tune was made into a more memorable song and looking at the recordings of this song of the bird i could not beleve that more folk songs were set to this tune, and if you write that type of music with new words i thought that doing a chart of many songs that have been known as different titles including the great speckled bird.


30 Jul 11 - 12:48 PM (#3198537)
Subject: RE: Who/what is the Great Speckled Bird?
From: GUEST,Seth

If you really read the Jeremiah passage carefully, in Old Testament context, and to line up with the rest of the Bible, you will find that "The Great Speckled Bird" really represents the Children of Israel, NOT "the great Church of God." It's ridiculous when people call their group "Israel" when the Bible is, in fact, literally talking about ISRAEL when it is talking about Israel. It should be obvious now, with the reestablishing of the nation of Israel, that the biblical concept of this nation is not obsolete and there is no need that any "church" replaces Israel. Israel and the Church are two entirely different concepts.


30 Jul 11 - 10:25 PM (#3198873)
Subject: RE: Who/what is the Great Speckled Bird?
From: GUEST,leeneia

"Mine heritage is unto me as a speckled bird, the birds round about are against her"

When small birds see a large one, which they take to be a predator, they will mob it. They dive at it from above, attacking its eyes. All the big bird can do is keep flying, because it lacks the maneuverability (sp) of the small birds.

I've seen gulls, hawks and crows being attacked in this fashion. I've also seen crows mobbing a red-tailed hawk.

The Jews stood apart from all other groups because they alone were monotheists. I believe the prophet is saying that the Jews are being persecuted by pagan of various sorts. Or it could be that the Jews are being attacked by others acting in consort, simply as another in the many wars of the middle east.

=====================
My father (born 1914) would sometimes talk about an airplane taking off, and he would say "And it was off like a great speckled bird!" The saying was not symbolic at all.


31 Jul 11 - 10:19 AM (#3199074)
Subject: RE: Who/what is the Great Speckled Bird?
From: GUEST,Desi C

I don't think it refers to the Bible, More a symolic and as explained in the lyrics, to refer to a bird, or person that doesn't fit in with the crowd, the other birds/people are jealous and feel threatened by it's difference, trying to force it to become more like them i.e 'desiring to lower it's standards. It pretty much relayes to things like racish, homophobia, all sorts of idioms where those who deviate from the 'norm' are 'great speckled birds' The ironic thing of course is that while it originally refers to religion, or believers in God, It's Religion that is the most Racist, phobic, divisive part of life


31 Jul 11 - 01:09 PM (#3199168)
Subject: RE: Who/what is the Great Speckled Bird?
From: Mark Clark

I'm not sure it's useful to look for a lot of Biblical or theological meaning when the song (GSB no. 2) says "The great speckled bird in the Bible is one with the Great Church of God." Who knows what the composer (Acuff in this case) was thinking. Remember that people have constructed an entire set of worship practices from the Biblical phrase "and they shall take up serpents."

      - Mark


31 Jul 11 - 02:19 PM (#3199213)
Subject: RE: Who/what is the Great Speckled Bird?
From: GUEST

I live in Chattanooga Tennessee. There is an old church in a nearby community, Reliance, Tennessee. There is a plaque at the church with the inscription that the song was written by someone in that church (whose name I can't recall). Reliance is on the Hiwassee River. I think that the movie deliverance was partially filmed there.
Wilco in Tennessee


08 Aug 11 - 04:17 PM (#3204093)
Subject: RE: Who/what is the Great Speckled Bird?
From: GUEST,greg

Some of the lines from the song show the real and hidden meaning of
the scripture passage. This song portrays the church world even in todays setting,but it's not as bad now as it was 40 to 50 years ago.
As the church advances we seem to stray from old biblical teachings.
The song states that others that were apart of her on rank talk about her because she holds the standard of God's word while the others want to change and stray from true teachings " Let's make Living for God easier and a less time consuming" But she held the standad and was picked upon for her Love of the TRUTH of GOD's WORD
by her very own and they formed an allance against the true Word.
I raise chikens and if you place a speckled chicken in to the flock
they will peck them some times to death just because of they look different than the rest ,


12 Sep 12 - 05:56 PM (#3403561)
Subject: RE: Who/what is the Great Speckled Bird?
From: Mark Clark

It should be noted that The Prisoner's Song is also set to essentially the same melody.

      - Mark


13 Sep 12 - 12:43 PM (#3403965)
Subject: RE: Who/what is the Great Speckled Bird?
From: Arkie

Had not thought of the similarity of the tune with The Prisoner's Song and glad to have that brought to our attention.

On the meanings of the Great Speckled Bird, fortunately, people keep singing the song and do so because it strikes some chord of appeal and has done so for many generations.

A couple of observations. Several species of birds are "speckled" when they are young. Bluebirds and Robins come to mind. The Ugly Duckling tale is based upon rejection based upon the difference in appearance. Neither of these concepts are related to 'meaning' but both might involve a sense of recognition.

The song does relate to a specific passage from the Bible, but it is also based upon imagery and analogy and neither requires a literal interpretation. The suggestion is that the people of God are different from those around them and there is persecution because of the difference. The historical context suggests the people are the nation of Israel, but that is only one level of interpretation. The basic underlying truth is that people who are different do risk ill treatment.


08 Dec 12 - 08:07 PM (#3449558)
Subject: RE: Who/what is the Great Speckled Bird?
From: Henry Krinkle

We had an underground newspaper here in the 60's and 70's. The Great Speckled Bird.
=(:-( ))


10 Dec 12 - 02:22 AM (#3450006)
Subject: RE: Who/what is the Great Speckled Bird?
From: GUEST,Big Al Whittle

I always envisage it as a big mistle thrush.


10 Dec 12 - 03:39 AM (#3450018)
Subject: RE: Who/what is the Great Speckled Bird?
From: Dave Hanson

No, it's a greater spotted woodpecker Al

Dave H


27 Jan 13 - 06:33 PM (#3472212)
Subject: RE: Who/what is the Great Speckled Bird?
From: GUEST

I always thought the speckled bird refferance was about some sort of anphetimine, Speckled birdies was a common street name for doctor prescribed diet pills ( speeders, uppers, etc)which during the time he recorded this song was one of the most widely prescibed medication in the united states.


05 Dec 16 - 01:50 PM (#3824664)
Subject: RE: Who/what is the Great Speckled Bird?
From: GUEST,Deacon

The Great Speckled Bird is the Church


11 Aug 17 - 03:51 PM (#3871071)
Subject: RE: Who/what is the Great Speckled Bird?
From: GUEST,Joe

What people should know about this song: The tune has been known as a bit of a lie and a mix-up. The Carter Family weren't the first to come up with this tune all together. The first song that came into public in the recording industry was called Thrills I Can't Forget recorded by John Ferguson who if you want to look you won't be able to find anything on but you'll still find the song on the list of songs that were set to this tune.


11 Aug 17 - 06:08 PM (#3871084)
Subject: RE: Who/what is the Great Speckled Bird?
From: Jackaroodave

Thank you, Joe.

Looking for John Ferguson, I found instead a 78 recording on you tube. It's a very old 78, and you can watch it being played, but its condition was so bad, for me, it was mainly of historical interest, and a chance to pay my respects to the creator who brought variously so much pleasure to so many people. I'd recommend looking at the lyrics first to follow the song at all.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=lWAdasjovaA


11 Aug 17 - 06:13 PM (#3871085)
Subject: RE: Who/what is the Great Speckled Bird?
From: Jackaroodave

Oops, take its back about finding the lyrics to "Thrills That I can't Forget." At least I couldn't.


12 Aug 17 - 06:49 AM (#3871149)
Subject: RE: Who/what is the Great Speckled Bird?
From: GUEST,Phil d'Conch

John Ferguson's real name was Welby Toomey (1897 – 1989) from central Kentucky.

Jeremiah 12:8-10 (verse 12 is on keeping faith when others around you have lost theirs / are attacking yours.)

"Mine heritage is unto me as a lion in the forest; it crieth out against me: therefore I have hated it.

Mine heritage is unto me as a speckled bird, the birds round about are against her; come ye, assemble all the beasts of the field, come to devour.

Many pastors have destroyed my vineyard, they have trodden my portion under foot, they have made my pleasant portion a desolate wilderness.
"

Heritage = the Bride of Christ, the old school fundamentalist American Presbyterian Church.

Many pastors = theological liberalism.

Guy Smith (aka - Uncle George of the Goodwill Family, KWTO-AM, Sprinfield, MO) was a fundamentalist. His side lost the 1920s 'big debate.'


12 Aug 17 - 07:45 AM (#3871168)
Subject: RE: Who/what is the Great Speckled Bird?
From: GUEST,Phil d'Conch

PS: The "speckled bird" equivalent of a roaring lion would be a raptor. eg: Falcon.


13 Aug 17 - 07:01 PM (#3871488)
Subject: RE: Who/what is the Great Speckled Bird?
From: GUEST,Phil d'Conch

A little more context:

Fundamentalist–Modernist Controversy - Wikipedia

The biggest fuss, mostly scripted, was the Scopes Trial with Clarence Darrow for evolution and William Jennings Bryant for creationism.

"Never let the truth stand in the way of a good story, unless you can't think of anything better. Twain

And yes Smith has completely transformed the Old Testament context.

Jeremiah's speckled bird is the bird that keeps the other birds awake at night. The bird that knocks.

Smith's speckled bird is sent from God to carry the faithful to heaven on judgement day. Nice birdie.