I was thinking about a previous article I wrote about the sparrow and wondered, Hmmm where the song came from, or where it originated. This is something we don’t think of very often, but I am sure it comes up once in awhile in conversations, but really do you know the background of the song.
So what thought or action provoked such a melodic piece that can bring even the mature Christian to tears when sung by the spirit?
Eye on the Sparrow was written in 1905 by Civilla D. Martin, who wrote the lyrics, and Charles H. Gabriel, who created the music, worked together to create the hymn that we now know as Eye on the Sparrow. The lyrics are beautiful and simple at the same time. The song was birthed from a conversation that Civilla and her husband had with friends in New York. Their friends both had physical issues that prohibited what most would considered a normal life.
Civilla questioned how they were able to live such happy lives. Lives in which they were more of an inspiration to others, than down and out about the world and their situation, all the while bringing joy to all those they meet. The simple reply was, His eye is on the sparrow. This is what moved Civilla to write the poem Eye on the Sparrow.
Once she finished her poem she shared it with Mr. Gabriel so that he could add music. The original arrangement of Eye of the Sparrow does not sound much like it is sung today, however its messages still effects many of us that open our hearts to receive.
Artist such as Rosetta Tharpe, Mahilia Jackson are just a few who were the first to perform the song, but it was not lost to artist like Mickey Newbury, Andy Griffith or even Marvin Gaye. As time passed it became more and more popular and never fell short of expectation, one minute especially when it was sung by artist such as Shirley Caesar Whitney Houston, or Lauryn Hill.
These of course are not the only to perform the song and I am very sure they will not be the last.
Through out the different arrangements, the meaning of the song has not changed. I see the different arrangements as a form of expression for the different genres as well as the generations. I hope you get a moment to listen to the original piece. I was even amazed at the difference of what we here today, but not surprised at how I was still moved by the simplicity of it.