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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Birds of America Don't Care-Oh

Birds of America Don't Care-Oh
words and music by Lloyd Miller (c)(p) 2011
arrangement by Ari Dolegowski, Chris Johnson, Ely Levin and Lloyd Miller

appears on Strange Dees, Indeed by the Deedle Deedle Dees (release date: October 31, 2011) 

Birds of America don't care-oh
How they look in pictures
Well maybe sparrows
the coot is vain
so's the black cap titmouse
Creeping warblers complain
but not like the screech owl

If they'd been alive to see themselves drawn
what would they have to say about John James Audubon?

Other creatures would be flattered
to see themselves in handsome books,
postcards and calendars
But birds are fickle, fancy fellows
a canary'll take you to court over a shade of yellow

If they'd been allowed to critique his work
Would his name still be synonymous with birds?

Would the Grey-Crowned Purple Finch take offense?
Or the Least Peewee Flycatcher be incensed?
Can't you see Bonaparte's gull now, hand to his breast?
And we've all seen bob-o-links and vireos bothered by less

Never a man to hunt birds for sport
Audubon still ate some Birds of America
after he finished up their portraits

Written after I read the book Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. At one point in this historical novel, Thomas Cromwell and others critique their portraits by Hans Holbein. These paintings of course are part of every art history slide show for the period, definitive works that are studied by most aspiring art scholars or artists. I really liked imagining these works when they were brand-new and people were looking at them saying things we might say: "Do I really look like that?"

So, my mind working the way that it does, this caused me to wonder: What if Audbuon's birds saw themselves as depicted by the name who, in many ways, is "synonymous with birds?" What would they have to say about paintings, which, in the world of bird and animal art, are just as definitive as Holbein's portraits.

Um, yeah. That's the nutty story of how this nutty song came about.

Who does what on "Birds of America Don't Care-Oh"
Booker Dee (Chris Johnson): piano
Moby Dee (Ari Dolegowski): electric guitar, crow, pigeon and other bird calls
Otto von Dee (Ely Levin): drums
Ulysses S. Dee (Lloyd Miller): upright bass, vocals
Dean Jones: recording, mixing, trombone, bird orchestration