His Eye In On The Sparrow

His Eye Is On The Sparrow

Words and Music Todd L. McCagg 05/17/2011

I recorded this for my Aunt Elsie. She is very ill from cancer. We went to visit on Sunday and she seemed in good spirits but then again, she was never one to let circumstances get her down. Growing up our families lived very close and as a result we all grew up together. Holidays, weekends, anytime… we were together. Time passes and people move apart but the memories and the love last forever. My brother had been there to visit for a few days and left the day before Louise and I made our visit. After talking to Scott to try and see what Elsie and my cousin Patti might need, he said that they were pretty well set but asked if I knew the hymn His Eye Is On The Sparrow and thought it would be a great idea to record/play/sing it for her. My next day off being today, I took the opportunity to put this together. Hope you enjoy it. If this isn’t your cup of tea, please don’t miss the big finish!

I sort of remembered this as an old church hymn and when I began researching this song, early on I found a version by Ethel Waters, whose singing and acting had always made her one of my favorites in my younger days. Continuing my research, I think I unearthed the original version that I had heard so many years ago. Actually the film came out the year I was born so I must have seen it on TV in reruns. Her version was from the 1952 movie “The Member of the Wedding” With Ethel Waters as Bernice Sadie Brown; Julie Harris as Frankie Addams; and Brandon De Wilde as John Henry.

Acoustic Guitar, Dobro, Bass, Drum Programming, All Vocals: Todd L. McCagg 05/17/2011

Other interesting stuff:

Written in 1905 and mostly known as a Negro Spiritual but was actually written by two white songwriters, lyricist Civilla D. Martin and composer Charles H. Gabrie! Popularized by Ethel Waters. Interesting. Also covered by Mahalia Jackson, Marvin Gaye and many many more.

From wikipedia (corroborated by other sources as well):

The theme of the song is inspired by the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew in the Bible, as referenced by Mrs. Doolittle in Elmira, New York: “Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:26) and “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:29-31).

Civilla Martin, who wrote the lyrics, said this about her inspiration to write the song based in the scriptures outlined above,

Early in the spring of 1905, my husband and I were sojourning in Elmira, New York. We contracted a deep friendship for a couple by the name of Mr. and Mrs. Doolittle—true saints of God. Mrs. Doolittle had been bedridden for nigh twenty years. Her husband was an incurable cripple who had to propel himself to and from his business in a wheel chair. Despite their afflictions, they lived happy Christian lives, bringing inspiration and comfort to all who knew them. One day while we were visiting with the Doolittles, my husband commented on their bright hopefulness and asked them for the secret of it. Mrs. Doolittle’s reply was simple: “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.” The beauty of this simple expression of boundless faith gripped the hearts and fired the imagination of Dr. Martin and me. The hymn “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” was the outcome of that experience.

—Civilla Martin

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