Song Lyric Sunday/Song of the Day: The Manhattan Transfer, “Birdland”

Jim chose "Bird/Cat/Dog/Fish/Pet" as today’s prompt, and, well, you know me…

Birdland is a nightclub in Manhattan, named for saxophonist Charlie Parker, called "Yardbird" or simply "Bird." The club inspired Joe Zawinul, keyboardist of the fusion band Weather Report, to write "Birdland," which appeared on the band’s 1977 album Heavy Weather. (It’s a great album; I recommend it highly.) Jazz lyricist Jon Hendricks added the words, and The Manhattan Transfer sang it for their 1979 album Extensions. The song won two Grammy Awards in 1980, one going to Janis Siegel for "Best Vocal Arrangement For Two or More Voices," the other to the whole group for "Best Jazz/Fusion Performance."

The lyrics are courtesy of AZLyrics:

5,000 light years from Birdland
But I’m still preachin’ the rhythm
Long-gone, uptight years from Birdland
An’ I’m still teachin’ it with ’em

Years from the land of the Bird
An’ I am still feelin’ the spirit
5,000 light years from Birdland
But I know people can hear it

Bird named it, Bird made it, Bird heard it, then played it
Well-stated! Birdland
It happened down in Birdland

Oh!

In the middle of that hub
I remember one jazz club
Where we went to pat feet
Down on fifty-secon’ street

Everybody heard that word
That they named it after Bird

Where the rhythm swooped and swirled
The jazz corner of the world

An’ the cats they gigged in there
Were beyond compare

Birdland – I’m singin’ Birdland
Birdland – Ol’ swingin’ Birdland

Hey, man, the music really turns you on!
Y’ turn me on,
Really, y’ turn me aroun’
‘N turn me on

Down them stairs, lose them cares – where?
Down in Birdland
Total swing, bop was king – there
Down in Birdland
Bird would cook, Max would look – where?
Down in Birdland
Miles came through, ‘Trane came too – there
Down in Birdland
Basie blew, Blakey too – where?
Down in Birdland
Cannonball played that hall – there
Down in Birdland
Yeah…

There may never be nothin’ such as that
No mo’, no mo’
Down in Birdland, that’s where it was at
I know, I know
Back in them days bop was ridin’ high
Hello! ‘n goodbye!

How well those cats remember
Their first Birdland gig
To play in Birdland is an honor we still dig
Yeah…that club was like…
In another world, sure enough…
Yeah, baby
All o’ the cats had the cookin’ on
People just sat an’ they was steady lookin’ on
Then Bird…he came ‘n spread the word…
Birdland

Yes, indeed, he did
Yes, indeed, he did
Yes, indeed, he did
Yes, he did, Parker played at Birdland
Yes, he really did
Yes, indeed, he really did
Yes, he really did
Told the truth down in Birdland
Yes, indeed he did, Yardbird Parker played in
Birdland

Yes, indeed, he really did
Charlie Parker played in Birdland

Bird named it, Bird made it, Bird heard it
Then played it
Well-stated! Birdland
It happened down in Birdland

Everybody dug that beat
Everybody stomped their feet
Everybody digs be-bop
An’ they’ll never stop

Down them stairs, lose them cares, yeah
Down in Birdland
Total swing! bop was king, yeah
Down in Birdland

Bird would cook, Max would look, yeah
Down in Birdland
Miles came through, ‘Trane came too, yeah
Down in Birdland
Basie blew, Blakey too, yeah
Down in Birdland

Cannonball played that hall, yeah
Down in Birdland

Down them stairs, lose them cares, yeah
Down in Birdland
Total swing! bop was king, yeah
Down in Birdland

Bird would cook, Max would look, yeah
Down in Birdland
Miles came through, ‘Trane came too, yeah
Down in Birdland

Basie blew, Blakey too, yeah
Down in Birdland
Cannonball played that hall, yeah
Down in Birdland

Down them stairs, lose y’ cares, yeah
Down in Birdland
Total swing! bop was king, yeah
Down in Birdland

Bird would cook, Max would look, yeah
Down in Birdland

Come in pairs down them stairs, lose y’ cares
Them that dares gits it!

Pay the gate, don’t be late
It’s a date! – whattay’ know
If y’ dig, then you’ll dig, it’s a groove
Quite a groove, ’cause y’ t’ move
Come in twos, pay your dues

What can you lose?
Just your blues!
So lose them!

The band swingin’ one and all and what a ball!
Yeah!

Music is good, music is better than good
Pretty good
Very nice
Really very good – things are bein’ like they should
Very good, very good, very good

All y’ gotta do is lend an ear
An’ listen to it
Then y’ dig a little sooner than soon
You’ll be diggin’ everything diggin’ all the music

What a ball!

How y’ gonna figure out
A way t’ bring it all about amid a
Lot o’ other music on the set’n on
The scene know what I mean?
How y’ gonna separate the music from the scene
‘Gonna have t’ keep the memory clean
Y’ gonna hear a lotta’ sound… a lotta soun’

And that’s Song Lyric Sunday and Song of the Day for November 29, 2020.

22 thoughts on “Song Lyric Sunday/Song of the Day: The Manhattan Transfer, “Birdland”

  1. I love this song. I’m a muso and have been playing it on and off for 30 years (ugh showing my age lol). I played it for the first time on alto sax in the school stage band. Then on clarinet in the district concert band which toured. Since then I have played it in most bands I’ve been part of (including my current one). The audience always bops to this one, it’s fun to play and is a happy tune. What’s not to love.

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    1. You’re a few years younger than I… 😉

      Alto sax and clarinet are both in E-flat, right? Is the fingering the same? Seriously, that’s fantastic that they’re including Weather Report and other modern jazz and fusion in the program. I think our jazz band played mostly standards, though they did a pretty good job with Frank Zappa’s “Peaches On Regalia.” This is a great tune, and not too hard that younger players couldn’t handle it…

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      1. Clarinet is B-flat, and no, different fingering. Sax is almost identical to flute fingering (played flute in orchestra). Clarinet is my preferred instrument though.

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        1. A real woodwinds expert! I had always heard that clarinet was an E-flat instrument, but you’d know… I tried my hand at arranging when I was in high school, but never for clarinet…

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  2. This made me think of The Bird’s the Word song by The Rivingtons.
    I hope your November went as well as it could and that you’ll experience joy in the coming holiday season.
    There’s a giveaway on my blog that ends today, if you’re interested.

    Like

    1. I’ll definitely check it out! Thanks!

      The Trashmen did a hilarious version called “Surfing Bird” that was a combination of the Rivingtons’ “Bird Is The Word” and “Papa Oom Mow Mow.”

      Like

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