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Something Wonderful: White Bird

White Bird: The Documentary

[Note: In the black and white segments over Bill Graham’s voice you can see the Telegraph Avenue and Dwight block in Berkeley where I lived during the various Telegraph Avenue riots of the era. I was surprised to see it and wonder if, somewhere in that footage, is the boy I once was**. Probably, but as a footnote to that era I would be hard to see.]
White Bird: The Pretty Version

White Bird” is a song that most music fans (at least those of us of a certain age) will instantly recognize.

It’s a Beautiful Day were “Summer of Love” San Franciscan contemporaries of The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and Santana and their lilting rock, jazz, folk, classical style was unique in that context. They were neither very “proggy” or “fusiony. They certainly weren’t very psychedelic, either, but they made lovely music that still evokes an era splendidly, even if they are remembered primarily for just this one song. “White Bird” is one of the ultimate hippie anthems and has been a staple of FM radio for decades.

Ironically, bandleader and violinist David LaFlamme later said of “White Bird,” that the oh so pretty ditty was inspired by living in gloomy, soggy Seattle without a car:

“The song describes the picture Linda and I saw as we looked out this little window in this attic. We had a little Wurlitzer portable piano sitting right in the well of this window, and I’d sit and work on songs. When you hear lines like, ‘the leaves blow across the long black road to the darkened sky and its rage,’ it’s describing what I was seeing out the window. Where the ‘white bird’ thing came from: We were like caged birds in that attic. We had no money, no transportation, the weather was miserable. We were just barely getting by on a very small food allowance provided to us. It was quite an experience, but it was very creative in a way.” >>

Via Dangerous Minds.

White bird
In a golden cage

On a winter’s day
In the rain
White bird
In a golden cage

The leaves blow
Across the long, black road
To the darkened skies
In it’s rage
But the white bird
Just sits in her cage

White bird must fly
Or she will die

White bird
Dreams of the aspen trees
With their dying leaves
Turning gold
But the white bird
Just sits in her cage
Growing old

White bird must fly
Or she will die
White bird must fly
Or she will die

The sunsets come
The sunsets go
The clouds roll by
And the earth turns old
And the young bird’s eyes
Do always glow

She must fly
She must fly
She must fly

White bird
In a golden cage
On a winter’s day
In the rain
White bird
In a golden cage

White bird must fly
Or she will die
White bird must fly
Or she will die
White bird must fly
Or she will die

[HT: Auntie Analogue]




Gerard Van der Leun // 1692 Mangrove Ave Apt: 379

Chico, CA 95926

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • GoneWithTheWind April 25, 2020, 1:55 PM

    I was surprised I had never heard the song before and I’m as old as you. But I knew it must have come out while I was on a 4 year tour in Germany. There is a “hole” in my social life from 1968-1972 when I was stationed in Germany and saw no American TV or listened to any American radio. I came back in 1972 and reruns of Star Trek were new to me. Every now and then that “hole” comes up even now 50 some years later.

    • ghostsniper August 5, 2022, 4:13 AM

      I can relate.
      I too have that same “hole”.
      I did 37 months non stop in Germany, Oct 74 to Nov 77.
      A friend came back from leave in the states (1975) and had 2 albums by bands I never heard before, Kiss and REO Speedwagon.

  • Tom Hyland April 25, 2020, 7:14 PM

    I’ve heard the song hundreds of times. It was on the radio incessantly and I own the album, too, which has a gorgeous portrait of an old timey innocent yet sexy girl standing atop a hill. The cover, kinda Maxfield Parrish-like, is the perfect compliment to the acoustic splendor found within. Interesting was this video of Bill Graham describing the crappy times all around when this song was in play. Nothing has changed except things have gotten even worse. John Kennedy was blown away for so many reasons and one of the most probable was so Vietnam could rage forth, to the profit of the wealthy and powerful and the exoneration of LBJ who was looking at real jail time. Those protesters were onto something enormous & evil and the enemy was so much more obvious then. These days look at the spineless cowards in their blue masks wondering if it’s safe to go outside.

  • bfwebster April 25, 2020, 10:29 PM

    Bought this album many, many years ago (long enough so that I bought it in vinyl). I love the whole album, but this is my easily my favorite song from it. Thanks for posting it.

  • H April 26, 2020, 5:16 AM

    Everything about this song, from the vocals to the instrumentation and arrangements and phrasings, possibly even the humidity in the recording studio – perfection.

    For some reason, that makes absolutely no sense, other than the Jefferson Airplane song on it, I always think of George Benson’s White Rabbit album when I hear it:


  • Anne April 26, 2020, 6:21 AM

    Because, I was the only reliable source of income for myself and my little girl, I usually worked several jobs at a time. One of my jobs was a tour guide around San Francisco. Used to stop at Haight/Ashbury intersection and let the passengers on the tour bus witness the “summer of love” for themselves. You can only imagine the show they got for free! Most of the passengers on my route were from the UK or Ireland. Or, maybe you were there . . .
    I never did drugs–to busy working. I used to be called “too square”. Now, I am called “old fashioned”. I never did mind –just, don’t ever call me a baby boomer! 🙂

  • OneGuy April 26, 2020, 8:27 AM

    JFK was killed by Sam Giancana. When JFK was running for president Joe Kennedy made a deal with Giancana that if he stole the vote in favor of JFK that JFK’s administration would leave the Mafia alone. JFK reneged on the deal and Giancana had him killed. Giancana was also a little pissed off that JFK was bonking Marilyn Monroe while Giancana was too but that probably wouldn’t have been enough to kill him.

    • Mike Austin August 5, 2022, 4:35 AM

      Pretty much the opinion of Michael Franzese as well. Naturally there are other characters involved—Bobby Kennedy, Judith Exner and certain 3-letter agencies. Giancana was gunned down “by persons unknown” in 1975 right before he was to testify about CIA and mob connections.

      Dead men can’t dance. Or talk.

  • Steve in Greensboro April 26, 2020, 9:25 AM

    Thanks, Gerard, for the background on “White Bird”. I grew up in the Bay Area (the first third, 20 years more or less) and lived in Seattle for the second third. Now that you mention it, there is a “rainy, cool, Seattle” feel to the song.

    And what happened to violins in pop music since the 1960s and 70s? Besides David LaFlamme, there were Papa John Creech (with Jefferson Starship and Hot Tuna), Don “Sugarcane” Harris (Little Richard, Zappa, et al), Jean-Luc Ponty (Zappa) and probably some others that I’ve forgotten.

    Here is LaFlamme’s homage to Don Harris and Dewey Terry.


  • Randy Bosch April 26, 2020, 11:37 AM

    I spotted myself in the clip at Sather Gate – my recollection is coming out of mid-terms and finding the way into the Sproul Plaza blocked, as the apparently presiding officer said, due to the ongoing riot on the Plaza. Could see the wisps of teargas still rising from the broken glass “Christmas ornament” grenades on the pavement. Then a National Guard helicopter, apparently commandeered by the Alameda County Sheriff, flew overhead and teargassed the gathering. The trapped students had just finished singing a second round of “America the Beautiful” (irony abounded, accompanied by tyranny…) when the gas came. Most of use escaped into buildings, but the on-shore breeze carried the gas cloud into Sproul Hospital and the Day Care Center in Strawberry Canyon.

  • Vanderleun April 26, 2020, 11:53 AM

    Glad that brought up such vivid memories. I just fled down Telegraph after the helicopter start releasing gas.

  • ghostsniper April 26, 2020, 1:33 PM

    jeez, am I the only one here that hasn’t spent serious time in the SF bay area?
    The closest I got to it was on I-5 going from Anchorage to LA in 1980.

    • Jack August 5, 2022, 6:54 AM

      No sir, you are not. I grew up during that period, the Summer of Love and all that BS, and I was not swayed or even interested in what was occurring on the Left Coast or with bands like this one. With zero intention of ever traveling to SF or LA, the closest I ever got to it was water skiing on a local river with my chums while drinking cold beer and listening to Iron Butterfly cranked up as loud as that onboard stereo would permit.

  • captflee April 26, 2020, 2:59 PM


    America’s premier al fresco lunatic asylum is well worth the visit.

    Barring that there’s always Seattle, or as the gent whose boat was in the slip next to the houseboat on which I resided in Ballard was wont to call it, “San Francisco for the suicidal”.

    Messrs Bosch and VDL
    Only time I got gassed by the constabulary for real was at a comparatively well behaved collegiate celebration; though it was temporarily unpleasant, it was well worth it. After all, I had the joy of seeing Bill Walton’s insipid weather underground wannabe pie hole shut for a nanosecond, a memory to treasure forever.

  • Random Coolzip April 26, 2020, 4:02 PM

    Steve in Greensboro – Don’t forget Vassar Clements’ work with Jerry Garcia or Byron Berline with the Stones.

  • gwbnyc April 26, 2020, 7:06 PM

    wanna listen to some throaty guy wail “white-BIRRRRRRRRRRRRD” 9,000,000 times, well…

  • Nori April 26, 2020, 9:13 PM

    Had’nt heard this song in decades,yet I knew it immediately.
    A Something Wonderful tune.

    My compliments to the A-V team.

  • BJM April 26, 2020, 9:14 PM

    Good times aside, we failed; the assholes in the Deep State still control everything.

  • Anne April 26, 2020, 9:18 PM

    Yes, but only now they belong to the other side!

  • Anne April 27, 2020, 9:12 AM

    I believe that the “deep state” is now run by people who are seriously socialist, or communist. This became easy to see the day after election day November 2016!

  • BJM April 27, 2020, 12:32 PM

    Side? This ain’t dodgeball…they are on the same side as they always were: big govt. I don’t give a squat if they pull the lever for a D or an R, the result is same: we lose.

  • Anne April 27, 2020, 4:36 PM

    BJM–I disagree–The “other side” became very clear the day after the November 2016 election. The day the DOJ, FBI, CIA and almost all MSM went ballistic in their efforts to nullify the election results.

  • jwm August 4, 2022, 5:14 PM

    This song.
    DCBA 25, by Jefferson Airplane.
    Janis, by Country Joe & the Fish.
    12:30 by Mamas and Papas.
    There was a lot of pretty music from the hippie era.
    Still love that stuff. No apologies.
    Makes me feel like burning one and playing it again.


  • Dirk August 4, 2022, 5:53 PM

    Own the album, an original copy. And the CD, its a beautiful day, By It’s A Beautiful Day. Only did one album didn’t they?

    • D S Craft August 4, 2022, 9:14 PM

      They did a second album – Marrying Maiden. Good album with the great cut “Don and Dewey”. I still have both vinyl albums that I bought in the ’70’s, both still in excellent condition (I always took really good care of my vinyl).

      • Mike Austin August 4, 2022, 11:37 PM

        I have 1000 records, every one in mint condition. I prefer vinyl over CD, though I own—along with two turntables—hundreds of CDs.

      • Dirk August 5, 2022, 7:40 AM

        DS Craft, thank you, I stand corrected. For some reason I’ve always thought only one album.

  • KCK August 4, 2022, 6:10 PM

    Little 18 or 19 year old Casey moved to the Seattle area in the late, late 70s, and had several home addresses all over the place, including Seattle addresses. It would be pissing rain, black leaves, wind and shit, and I’d walk in the room and greet my friends with the most cheerful “how’s it goin’??” like this was the best fukn weather on God’s Green Earth. Because: I grew up in Hoquiam, and Seattle was the mutha fuggin sun belt for me, and rainy days were my wheelhouse.

    People wondered what I was on. Who feels happy on a rainy day? Me. That’s who.

    San Fran is a legendary beautiful city, like Seattle. All gone straight to hell, now. Can you see its redemption? Ever? I see Snake Pliskin rolling into Seattle and kicking ass and taking names, in an apocalyptic nightmare scenario titled: Escape from Seattle. But, in my day, it was the Emerald City and worthy of beautiful songs. Fuck these asshole hippies. Seriously. White Bird my ass. Rain is what it is: life -giving.

    Present company accepted, of course. Pours another G&T. Reminisces.

    • Mike Austin August 5, 2022, 4:40 AM

      What’s your gin? Mine is Boodles.

      • KCK August 5, 2022, 7:40 AM

        I will look at that one. Either Oola, or Gordon’s, and if I want to drink it is Navy Gin (3 Howls).

  • Hyland August 4, 2022, 8:21 PM

    Hey, that was fun! Sipping some merlot… I whupped out the flute and accompanied these visionaries upon their fanciful bodacious masterpiece. Also amused to read what I wrote two years ago… just when the SHTF… I haven’t changed my tune in that regard one note.

  • Mike Austin August 4, 2022, 11:39 PM

    I had not heard “White Bird” in almost 50 years. Yet when the first few notes played, I recognized it immediately and even remembered the lyrics.

    • ghostsniper August 5, 2022, 4:17 AM

      Music, a universal language, perhaps deeper than all other languages.

      • Mike Austin August 5, 2022, 4:45 AM

        Whoever would disagree with this has no functioning ears.

      • Nori August 5, 2022, 11:05 AM

        True that,Ghost. Something about music is primal,it enters your soul and never leaves,whether you heard it 5 minutes or 5 decades ago.
        The universality of their art was something that most of the musicians of the hippie era seemed to get,and believe in. It’s amusing to watch the hissy fit thrown by some more contemporary artists if the “wrong” people like their music.
        Maybe it’s because the drugs are different now. Weed made everybody happy and mellow;meth & fentanyl make ‘em edgy and bitter. And occasionally dead.

  • Joel August 5, 2022, 10:55 AM

    Jesus. I hate to be the village contrarian, but I had honestly forgotten how monotonous and annoying that song is.

    Rather like being trapped in a Seattle attic, maybe.

    • Jack August 5, 2022, 2:47 PM

      Don’t consider yourself a contrarian….I never could stand that song either.

      And I also hated every note that fell out of mouths of Seals and Crofts. Those two little warblers and particularly the one who wore his Chairman Mao and never took it off, got on my nerves more than any other musician who wound up on radio. They were just awful but some in the Hippie culture liked them….as if.

  • Terry August 5, 2022, 10:06 PM

    I was at SF State in 1968. I think I remember Grace Slick singing White Bird.

    Violent times then. I would have to believe violent times are in the immediate future.

  • Humdeedee August 6, 2022, 12:38 PM

    Love that song. Music is the pied piper of my memories, so I hardly every listen to any, except for the songs Gerard posts…most of them anyway. It’s not that the memories certain music/songs evoke are bad or unpleasant. Not at all. I think it’s the nostalgia I experience when I hear them, bringing on a bout of pensive recall of times past that often mean more to me now than then.

    Music appreciation or dislike is certainly subjective – there are many dearly beloved songs and musicians that do nothing for me, and myriads of them that I enjoy. I find it difficult to fathom why a song I love isn’t universally adored, yet my own dislike of popular or admired music doesn’t strike me as difficult to understand.

    This song brings back a time when I was reeling from a broken marriage, learning to face life on my own, full of self-doubt and recrimination. I identified with that white bird in the golden cage when I was married. Flying free seemed to be the resolution. With a little perspective and a few years of experience later, I realized that cage was of my own making.

  • jwm August 6, 2022, 2:56 PM

    No matter what song, no matter how popular, there’s a group of people who will reach for the volume dial, and crank it up. There is also a group who will practically break a finger punching the button to change stations.
    And then there are the songs that everybody likes, but no one will admit to liking.
    (Cue up Sugar Sugar)