GOH: Great Speckled Bird


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.

All the other birds are flocking ’round her
And she is despised by the squad
But the great speckled bird in the Bible
Is one with the great church of God.

All the other churches are against her
They envy her glory and fame
They hate her because she is chosen
And has not denied Jesus’ name.

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.

She is spreading her wings for a journey
She’s going to leave by and by
When the trumpet shall sound in the morning
She’ll rise and go up in the sky.

In the presence of all her despisers
With a song never uttered before
She will rise and be gone in a moment
Till the great tribulation is o’er.

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

When He cometh descending from heaven
On the cloud that He writes in His Word
I’ll be joyfully carried to meet Him
On the wings of that great speckled bird.

Although based on Jeremiah 12:9, this song is actually about how the conflict between Fundamentalism and Modernism — which I’m sure is exactly what Jeremiah had in mind when he penned that verse.

(And yes, I know the singer has a beard and is playing a “rock guitar” and that the audience claps afterwards. These are country-fried fundies so it’s not that unusual to see some variations from the standard BJU or Hyles type memes.)

Many thanks to John for both the video and the explanation

70 thoughts on “GOH: Great Speckled Bird”

  1. I never really understood this hymn. In this version these verses really sum up the Fundy POV…

    “All the other churches are against her
    They envy her glory and fame
    They hate her because she is chosen
    And has not denied Jesus’ name.

    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.”

    1. “…But really they find no mistake”

      And my thought is that if this was true, SFL wouldn’t exist and we would all be out soul-winning. Amen?

    2. Those verses nicely encapsulate how fundies think they are the center of other people’s worlds. In Fundythink all non-fundies wish they were fundies and secretly obsess about it. Non-fundies secretly know that fundies are right but they prefer to live their sinful life. GAG!

  2. Aaaaaah! Not this song. My mom and dad sang this at their fundy church last year by request from the pastor. I’d never heard of it when she was talking about it, but here it is again!

  3. Not only that but it mentions, not being in the Lamb’s Book of Life but in the church’s book. How full of pride and arrogance, “our works will make us unashamed to meet the Lord” nothing about His righteousness that should remove our shame, it is their perfect fundy standards and conduct. 🙄 🙄

  4. I can honestly say I have never heard of this song before. But I am not surprised to learn that Fundamentalists sing hymns to themselves.

  5. I just read Jeremiah 12:9. It reminded me of what my dad used to say about pastoring an independent Baptist church. He said it was “like getting pecked to death by chickens.” I am not sure why I think this is relevant.

      1. I am not sure how all of the rules about Separation™ work but it seems to me that when a country music singer hears your gospel song and thinks “hey that tune would make a good drinking song” you might be in violation of Separation™.

    1. Yes, it’s the same tune. The tune was not original to the “Speckled Bird” song. If I may quote from Wikipedia,
      ‘The tune is the same apparently traditional melody used in the folk song “I Am Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes,” originally recorded in the 1920s. The same melody was later used in the 1952 country hit “The Wild Side of Life,” sung by Hank Thompson, and the even more successful “answer song” performed by Kitty Wells called “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels.” A notable instrumental version is found on the Grammy Award-Nominated album 20th Century Gospel by Nokie Edwards and The Light Crust Doughboys on Greenhaw Records.’

    1. I caught that too, Polished. If it’s one thing fundies love, it’s dispensationalism.

  6. Considering that the context of Jeremiah 12 speaks to God giving over his “speckled bird” (hyena’s lair? Hebrew is so tricky/funny) to be obliterated due to their wickedness, I find this highly ironic.

  7. When I was a kid, we had this song on record in at our house. It was on a Reader’s Digest LP of hymns, recorded by country singers. The record was never played all that much.

    By the way, that is what I call a “killer stache” on the piano player and also he has a massive comb over. But, he does know how to play that particular style. He reminds me of a walrus. Maybe it’s the walrus and the carpenter from “Alice in Wonderland.”

  8. I also wanted to say that I never had any idea what the song was talking about. I just thought it was a senseless home-spun religious country song with no biblical basis. Thanks to John for the biblical reference, although I still can’t say that the song will have a profound impact on my life:)

    I think the guy that said “amen” at the end would say “amen” to just about anything.

    1. The biblical basis starts and ends with “speckled bird”. All the rest is a senseless home-spun religious country song with no biblical basis.

  9. Gah!!! I HATE this song. I heard it at a fundy church once and afterward the preacher stated that it was a song about the true church of God. I was looking aghast at my husband nearly the whole time they were singing it because I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It has nothing to do with Jeremiah 12. He agreed with me, but said some like, “Welcome to Southern Gospel music”. *shivers*

  10. I’ve never heard that song before. After reading the comments, I’m debating whether to keep it that way. 😳

    (and LOL at “country-fried” fundies) :mrgreen:

    1. I’m at exactly the same spot. Never heard of it, and after reading the words am pretty sure I don’t want to watch the video. 🙂

      1. I’ve never heard of this song either! And the church i grew up in was definitely filled with “country-fried” fundamentalists.

  11. I’ve never heard this song before either which surprises me because it seems that a song with lyrics like these would be wildly popular in all fundy churches. Always that superior thinking that they are the only church that really pleases God, everyone else comes short somehow. 😕 🙁 🙄 😡

  12. And here I was hoping we were going to have a tribute to the famous (in Canada anyway) country rock band fronted by Ian Tyson. Turns out that that band (GSB) was named after the hymn popularized by Roy Acuff, famous old-tyme country singer.

  13. The song serves to bolster the spirits of those with persecution paranoia. What a great song to sing right before a Sunday night viewing of Estus Pirkle’s “If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do?”

    (I never did get to see “Footmen” in church, although I did get to see “The Burning Hell” at the age of 4.)

  14. First of all, the guy on the keys needs to understand that with great mustache comes great responsibility.

    Second, can you imagine the confusion of a first time visitor to this place? Peavey speakers, Marshall and Fender amps, a Gibson(I’m guessing) guitar….what a let down.

    1. I think Captain Kangaroo there has one of the world’s great comb-overs. I kept looking at it so I wouldn’t have to think about the song.

    2. I don’t think this church gets a lot of first time visitors.

      By the way, are you glenn my brother glenn in Maine? Just curious. If you’re not, you have a similar sense of humor.

  15. So I have never heard of the song before and honestly could care less about it. However, I was impressed with the guy at the piano. I thought he played great! I have huge appreciation for someone who can play by ear and also add some pop and spice to a song. Bravo to him!

    1. I must admit, I watched/listened to the video purely for the pleasure of seeing Gramps there play the piano.

  16. Kudos – or something – to the songwriter for rhyming “God” with “squad.” Usually it’s “trod” or “sod.”

    I don’t like mixing metaphors – since when do great birds have books? (stanza 7)

    And my poetry-loving heart is in agony at these ridiculously convoluted lines:

    “For I want to be one never fearing
    The face of my Savior to look.”

  17. I didn’t know Wilford Brimley also played keyboard in a Baptist church.

    He should stick to peddling supplies for “diabeetus”.

    1. Exactly!! I never knew this song wasw ever sung in a church. I do remember it as a great country song to sing as we drank a few beers. You know how then there country people love to sing about religian as we drink. Song sounds better with a few extra beers.

  18. Like @dvdkndy, I’ve never heard this song before. It was a bit “twangy” for my taste, and I don’t really understand how the words apply to fundamentalism

  19. I love the song, always have. I think it carries a great message. I extend some literary license to any and all good books, stories, and songs.

    Many of you are acting as though the fundies are singing it in ref to just “their” individual church, (some may) I never took it the way, even when I was mired in fundyism. If you look at it as God’s church universal “The Church” on Planet Earth, would that help you like it any better?

    Great piano, and actully not bad guitar work, on-time and tasteful, I didn’t think the singing was all that bad either. Hay-Man!!

    1. The only problem with viewing it as the universal church is this stanza:
      “All the other churches are against her
      They envy her glory and fame
      They hate her because she is chosen
      And has not denied Jesus’ name.”

      I took it as glorifying their type of Baptist church rather than just their individual church. It definitely seems to speak of a specific church or type of church standing firm against the “corrupting” influences of other churches/types of churches. I don’t think it could be logically shown as speaking of the universal church.

      1. Point taken, but couldn’t it have been referring to Mormons, Jehovah’s, etc.

    2. Greg, how did I know without asking that this would be one of your favorite hymns? 😉

    3. The sentiment of the song, if, as you suggest, it is applying to the Church, and not a church (which I find a bit of a literary stretch) is fine. But unfortunately Jeremiah 12:9, when read in context, actually doesn’t mean at all what the song interprets it to mean. God is accusing his people of becoming like this “speckled bird.” It’s an accusation, not a celebration. Because they have not been faithful to the Lord (exactly the opposite of what the song implies), they have been been left to judgment by the birds of prey and the wild animals.

      And, if one continues on another couple verses, one finds that it is particularly the shepherds of God’s people who are responsible for destroying them. Ironic…

      1. Miriam – Don’t think I’ve seen you before, but I am known around here to always allow the scriptures to speak for themselves. (gets me in alot of trouble at times)

        So today when I read your comment, it caused me to once again go back and to re-evaluate this verse, in its context, which is supremely critical when examining any subject in the scripture. I even went so far as to start examing “how” it was translated, and found some curious things there as well.

        In conclusion I can say that I am more (not completely yet)in agreement with your interpretation than mine. The bible commentaries differ pretty widely on this verse, of course those are merely men’s thoughts, and are to be taken with a grain of salt anyway.

        So thank you for commenting. SFL is fun, and sometimes you learn something!! 😀

  20. I have never heard of this song before. I made it through the first two stanzas, but I did read the lyrics. What the what? Arrogance, much?

    I’ve got to hand it to the piano player, though, he’s skilled in a style that I’ve never been able to even stumble around in. The music reminded me a lot of the way “specials” would be done at the churches affiliated with the Landmark, Independent, Missionary, KJVO, Sovereign Grace Baptist church I attended. Yes, it seemed like all those labels were necessary every single time the church was described. haha. At any rate, a lot of the members and pastors were quite country, so that “honky-tonk” feel was perfectly acceptable for specials. We even had an electric bass for a while. Of course, at our church, I didn’t hear too much railing on music; and when it was preached about, it was never about instruments or rhythms, rather it was about worldiness, lustfulness, and sensuality. Country music was usually also avoided; pop and rock music were the targets. Gotta love that.

  21. Local fundy church that hubby & a friend of mine like – friend’s a member, hubby goes occasionally – is country-fried. Never heard that used to descibe a church! Too funny! 😆

  22. This song is referenced in another gospel song “Jesus Christ–What a Man” by Bobby Bare.

    “But you haven’t lived ’til you’ve heard Roy Acuff,
    Sing about Jesus and the Great Speckled Bird”.

  23. This was sung by Roy Acuff on his first appearance on the Grand Old Opry back in the 1930’s (However, some of the weirder verses must have been added at a later date.)

  24. Wow. Ok, I personally am not a fundy. Never have been. But i’ve been lurking, because i find this material really amazing, and I find the people here gathered to be honorable and interesting. And, up to this point, I’ve mostly been laughing at how dumb the fundy stuff is. Dumb on many levels. But here, I’m really concerned for how they will be judged for the mud they are capriciously slinging on Jesus’ spotless bride.

    This: “All the other churches are against her
    They envy her glory and fame
    They hate her because she is chosen
    And has not denied Jesus’ name.”

    …is not just stupid, not just heretical, but actively casting aspersions on the people God has saved. If fundies have specific qualms with the sins and errors of non-fundy christians, then be specific. But to say wholesale that all other churches have denied Christ is one of the most carelessly damnable things that a christian can say.

  25. That keyboard player makes me ashamed to be a church musician. I feel the need to wander down the street to the local Methodist church and bang out Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Sine Nomine,” complete with descants, on their pipe organ. I need to gouge my ears out with a rusty spoon. That would feel better than having listened to that abomination.

  26. Very confusing song concept considering both the Jeremiah 12:9 context and the mention of Jesus presenting to Himself ” a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle…but that it should be holy and without blemish” in Ephesians 5:27.

    To me at least, those verses together make the song lyrics all the more puzzling (especially in IFB circles where separation over any and every little minute disagreement has been treated almost like an extra Commandment).

    1. See the little tags to make the parts I wanted emphasis on bold didn’t take. Is there a way to make text bold on this site?

    2. From my understanding its actually a buzzard.Yeah what ABOUT being without spot or wrinkle?Anything described as spotted is usually a bad thing scripturally.The church is always described as dressed in white without spot or blemish.

  27. That’s on old timey Roy Acuff song

    Didn’t know anybody out there was still playing that one

  28. My grandmother used to sing this song. And my sister and I recorded a couple verses of it a few years ago. I’ve never heard verses 2,3 and 4. So I didn’t listen to the version here because I don’t need to hear someone slaughter a song that has sweet memories. 😎

  29. Now who on earth compares the LAWD’s own Real True Church to a speckled bird? Isn’t it against the KJV or something to use metaphors when describing the Church? 🙄
    As for the lines:
    “All the other churches are against her
    They envy her glory and fame
    They hate her because she is chosen”, here’s the perfect bird analogy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e70NIYIfiTc 😆

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