His Eye Is on the Sparrow
|"His Eye is on the Sparrow"|
|Writer||Civilla D. Martin|
|Composer||Charles H. Gabriel|
"His Eye Is on the Sparrow" is a Gospel hymn. Although today it is a staple of African-American worship services, the song was written in 1905 by two white songwriters, lyricist Civilla D. Martin and composer Charles H. Gabriel. The song is most associated with actress-singer Ethel Waters who used the title for her autobiography. Mahalia Jackson's recording of the song was honored with the Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 2010.
The theme of the song is inspired by the words of David in the Psalms and Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew in the Bible: "I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye (Psalm 32:8). "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
The song has been performed extensively by both Christian and secular artists.
- 1951: Sister Rosetta Tharpe with Marie Knight; 45 single (found on Complete Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Vol. 4) (traditional gospel)
- 1952: Ethel Waters in the film The Member of the Wedding
- 1956: Mahalia Jackson; Bless This House (traditional gospel)
- 1958: Carmen McRae; Birds of a Feather (jazz)
- 1962: Josh White; Empty Bed Blues (blues)
- 1967: Dottie West; Sings Sacred Ballads (country)
- 1968: Marvin Gaye; 45 single (found on In Loving Memory (compilation album)) (R&B)
- 1978: Mickey Newbury; His Eye Is on the Sparrow (country)
- 1984: George Adams-Don Pullen Quartet; Decisions (jazz)
- 1986: Jennifer Holliday; TV special hosted by Paul Simon (gospel)
- 1993: Lauryn Hill and Tanya Blount in the film Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit
- 1997: Andy Griffith; Just As I Am: 30 Favorite Old Time Hymns (country)
- 1999: Selah; Be Still My Soul (contemporary gospel)
- 2000: Shirley Caesar; The First Lady of Gospel (re-release; original album unknown) (traditional)
- 2001: Jessica Simpson; Irresistible (pop)
- 2002: Crystal Lewis; Holy, Holy, Holy (contemporary gospel)
- 2002: Scott Amendola Band; Cry (jazz)
- 2002: Elena Gadel on the Spanish talent show Operación Triunfo
- 2009: Gladys Knight at the funeral service of Michael Jackson
- 2010: Abigail Washburn The Sparrow Quartet
- 2011: Judith Durham; Colours of My Life
- 2012: Agnez Mo at her residency concert in her homeland, Indonesia
- 2012: Carol Channing and Lulu Roman (of Hee Haw fame) on Channing's album True to the Red, White and Blue
- 2014: Darlene Love at the Oscars while accepting an award for 20 Feet from Stardom
- 2014: Anja Nissen on her debut album Anja Nissen
|"His Eye Is on the Sparrow"|
|Single by Whitney Houston|
|from the album Sparkle: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack|
|Released||June 8, 2012|
|Whitney Houston singles chronology|
Whitney Houston version
Whitney Houston recorded a version for the soundtrack of the 2012 remake of the 1976 musical film Sparkle. RCA Records released the song as the second single from the album on June 8, 2012, four months after Houston's death. The song made its debut only one day after the premiere of "Celebrate". AllMusic called it a "piano, organ, and choir" showcase for Houston, citing it as a highlight of the soundtrack although admitting "Houston sounds as commanding as one can expect from a later recording." Entertainment Weekly editor Melissa Maerz called it "a gorgeously rippling solo" with Houston "testif[ying ...] that Jesus is watching over her." Jody Rosen of Rolling Stone panned the cover, saying "Houston sings – and croaks – in a voice octaves lower than in her prime. At times the song has a ravaged magnificence, but mostly it's painful."
Later published arrangements
There are many arrangements of the hymn that have been produced since its original publication. These include:
- 1963, in The Reader's Digest Family Songbook of Faith and Joy
- 1975, in The Josh White Songbook
- 1986: Five American Gospel Songs for solo voice and piano by Luigi Zaninelli includes a concert arrangement of it
- 1999: Six Gospel Hymn Preludes has an arrangement for solo organ by Wilbur Held
- 2007, in Songs of Comfort and Hope: Vocal Solos for Memorial and Funeral Services
- Waters, Ethel, with Charles Samuels, His Eye Is On The Sparrow: An Autobiography, New York, 1951, reprinted by Da Capo Press, 1992
- Andy Kellman. "Sparkle [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]". AllMusic. Retrieved 23 September 2015.
- "Sparkle: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack". ew.com. Retrieved 23 September 2015.
- "Various Artists Sparkle: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Album Review". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 23 September 2015.
- Dan Fox, ed., Pleasantville, N.Y. : Reader's Digest Association
- Walter Raim, Walter, ed., Chicago, Quadrangle Books
- Published by Harold Flammer, Inc./Shawnee Press, Delaware Water Gap, Pennsylvania
- Published by MorningStar Music Publishers, Fenton, Missouri
- Mark Hayes, ed., Lorenz Publisher, Dayton, Ohio
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- Civilla Durfee Martin
- Selected Songs by Charles H. Gabriel texts and MIDI sequences of 44 songs, including "His Eye Is on the Sparrow"
- Piano version and background of His Eye Is On The Sparrow Free MP3 piano version of "His Eye Is on the Sparrow"