Birdland

Album: Heavy Weather (1977)

Songfacts®:

  • This is still considered a landmark in modern Jazz. It has been covered many times over by the likes of The Manhattan Transfer and The String Cheese Incident.
  • This is a tribute to Jazz great Charlie Parker, who was known as "Bird." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Jeff - Kendall Park, NJ, for above 2

Comments: 13

  • Greg from D.c., UsaI keep seeing (here and in other places) that Birdland is a reference to Charlie Parker. That's only peripherally true. It's really about the now defunct jazz club named Birdland in NYC -- the original one which shut down around 1965 (I think -- it went bankrupt). Birdland, the club, used to feature Charlie Parker, but not frequently. Parker's nickname back then was "Yardbird." Because he played there more and more infrequently through the years the manager/bartender started keeping caged birds (I think finches or canaries) in the joint to keep the moniker going.

    A song about Maynard coming to terms with his mother's death? Really? How far can we reach here, people? "Birdland" the song is an oft-covered instrumental giving due to the jazz club and the most inspiring version (in my opinion) is the original by Weather Report.
  • Sarah from Phoenix, AzThis song is about Maynard coming to terms with the decision to pull the plug on his mother's life support machine. As we know from the TOOL album 10,000 Days, we know that she was in said state for that period. Maynard was struggling with having to kill her, because there was still a very small chance she might have woken up. In the end, he did make the hard choice. The first verse of this song is memories of his childhood with her, and when he says that he must "cut away, clear away this umbilical residue" he means he must let go of wanting to keep her alive for his own sake. The bit about "one more medicated peaceful moment" is probably my personal favorite. This part is now just guesswork, I get the feeling here that this lyric isn't about his mother, it's about him. With this kind of stress on a person, doctors will often prescribe mess for anxiety or depression, or perhaps he just started self-medicating with more illicit drugs, but in any event, I believe this lyric is about him not wanting to to have to feel the "overwhelming hostility" that he was thinking about it. The part about Greek mythology? That's just an allusion to the mythos. Maynard does that a lot(ex: the song Lateralus follows the numerical sequence to make the perfect spiral, later in the song, he even references spirals). He's alluding to the story of Orestes because the situations are so similar.
  • Sara from Silver Spring, MdThe Manhattan Transfer's version is the best known. It was supposed to be co-written by Eddie Jefferson but he was killed before it was written so Jon Hendericks wrote the new version. It which won the group it's first Grammy (Best Jazz Fusion Vocal or Instrumental). Jay Graydon produced this version.
  • David from Roseville, CaThis song is amazing no matter who has done it. Anyone remember Buddy Rich's version. Masterful
  • John from Nashville, TnThis jazz classic was the opener on Weather Report's biggest album HEAVY WEATHER. The album went multi-platinum and is the biggest selling album in the group's career. Composer Josef Zawinul also composed the top 20 pop hit "Mercy Mercy Mercy" for Cannonball Adderly.
  • Guy from Benson, NcYou need to change the Songfacts. The song is NOT about Charlie Parker the man, but about the club named after him BIRDLAND. Also, the type of harmonics played are called false harmonics. You mute the string with the thumb and pluck with the index finger. The trick is to pluck at the right spot on the bass.
  • James from Gettysburg, PaMy dad played this for me and my brothers when we were very young. As a result, we didn't know it was about Charlie Parker. We imagined a paradise of bird-people who are overthrown (the cascading notes here) and then create a new a better world by the end of the song.
  • Mtlb from Buffalo, NyWhen I first heard the intro to the song, I thought funny, they don?t have a guitar player. I found out later that Jaco played the guitar ?sound? by plucking harmonics. (Left hand for part of the note while his right hand thumb muted the string as he picked the string with his index finger behind it, near the bridge.)

    (I also got to see him play a few years after he left the band at Toad's Place, New Haven, CT.)
  • Brandon from Morristown, TnI like Maynard Ferguso's verison better RIP The Boss.
  • Per Persson from Stockholm, SwedenI thougt Birdland was a jazzclub now closed in New York. A great song. Weather Report never did a song agaibn good as thi, which is imposible.
  • Kevin from Council Bluffs, IaHeavy Weather,the album Birdland appeared on is an amazing showcase of talents. I was priviledged to see Weather Report perform in Omaha Ne. when the band was promoting the album,not a common occurence for these cats. Zawinul,Shorter,Pastorius,Acuna and Badrena played every track on the album,(another rarity)in this live show. Outstanding throughout!
  • Scott from Ionia, MiPlaying the song is one thing, and yes, that is great. But you should try singing The Manhattan Transfer version with all the tight harmonies. There is nothing better. WMU Gold Company 1980
  • Leah from East Bank, WvThis is an awesome tune. I played it with the jazz band at my college. I love it.
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