Friday Video: Revisiting Sufjan Stevens “The Great God Bird” and audio from Brinkley, Arkansas

From NPR

This week’s Friday video is more of a Friday audio piece.  And it’s an old one, originally published in 2005.   Sufjan Steven’s “The Lord God Bird,” popped up into my playlist yesterday, and every time that happens I always wind up hitting repeat at least three times.  Sometimes more like seven.

Below is an audio clip from Youtube for the song. There’s another video that was produced for the song which you can watch here, but I don’t feel that the video, in any way, captures the mystery or the layers of the song. So I prefer this one with the single image.

For those new to the song or the story, Sufjan Stevens wrote the song as part of an audio piece for NPR back in 2005 exploring the town of Brinkley, Arkansas .  Here’s the back story on the story and the radio piece from NPR:

Singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens has a lofty goal: exploring each of the 50 states in song. He’s already released a critically acclaimed full-length CD simply called Michigan. His latest honors the people, places and history of Illinois.

Independent radio producers Dan Collison and Elizabeth Meister were curious about how Stevens writes his songs, which, much like their own work, are filled with stories of places and people. So, they introduced Stevens to the Arkansas town of Brinkley.

Brinkley is a small farming town not far from where the ivory-billed woodpecker recently was rediscovered. News that the bird is not extinct has brought a ray of hope to the residents of Brinkley.

Producers Collison and Meister spoke with people in the town, then shared the interviews with Stevens. He wrote a song about the ivory-bill, known as the “lord god” or “great god” bird because of its breathtaking appearance. Together, they offer a portrait of Brinkley in word and song.


It’s a nice audio piece, if a bit surfacey, tip-toeing into the complexity of place, economy, insiders, outsiders, poverty, wealth, and the varying perceptions of the animals with whom we share our homes.

The song, however, stands alone. It has such wonderfully mythic quality and succeeds in capturing something of that place between geography and imagination.   Hit repeat seven times and you’ll discover a new layer with each listen, even six years later.

What do you hear in the song? 

Have a great weekend, everyone.