music101 paper1 final 3-10-08 - Mimicry is the highest form...

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Mimicry is the highest form of flattery. In the music industry, this adage hold true across all genres and eras. One example is in the gospel song “The Great Speckled Bird”, which has been covered and redone many times throughout the years. The definitive version of the song was recorded by Roy Acuff in 1936. However, it was retooled and relyricized by Hank Thompson in 1951 as “The Wild Side of Life”, and again in 1952 by Kitty Wells as “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels”. Rather than recording pure imitations of the original song, Thompson and Wells added their own words and used different sets of instruments in their recordings to create songs that are extensions of the original “The Great Speckled Bird”, but at the same time are also unique songs unto themselves. The original song “The Great Speckled Bird” is a metaphor for religious faith. Written by a Christian reverend, the song draws its name and its subject matter from the Book of Jeremiah in the Old Testament of the Christian Bible, in which the ninth verse of chapter twelve reads, “mine heritage is unto me as a speckled bird, the birds round about are against her”. The use of the word “heritage” is peculiar in this situation, for the Book of Jeremiah was originally part of the Hebrew Bible, and the Hebrews were both a religious group and an ethnic group. In lyrical form, Acuff’s “Great Speckled Bird” is not only an embodiment of his heritage, but also of his Christian faith. In his song, the “other birds” are “all the other churches”, which can be construed as different faiths, as well as the atheists in general, in which case the term “church” is a synonym for “establishment”. The argument for these “other churches” being atheists is particularly strong given the end of this stanza, in which Acuff contrasts these others to the “great speckled bird”
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which “has not denied Jesus’ name”, thus implying that these “other churches” have forsaken Jesus Christ, and consequently Christianity, entirely. The subject matter of its lyrics, in addition to the origins of its name and the affiliations of its songwriter, give this song a clearly religious background. In direct contrast to this gospel song, Hank Thompson’s version of “The Wild
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music101 paper1 final 3-10-08 - Mimicry is the highest form...

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