“His Eye is on the Sparrow” is the resulting song from a visit to an ill, bedridden friend. The impact that such visit had on the author is essentially huge that she had to put it down in a poem. And for many years, the song continued to impact many lives of people who listen to it. Many gospel singers and even those from other music genres were likewise hooked with the tune breathing new life to it through their distinct vocals and singing styles. Among them was the late American gospel singer Mahalia Jackson. Dubbed as “The Queen of Gospel,” Jackson recorded nearly 30 albums throughout her career. Many of her records including her signature record “Take My Hand, Precious Lord“ became million-selling hits and received numerous honors.
In 1951, Jackson recorded a cover of Civilla Martin’s “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” Her version was released under the Apollo label along with other gospel hits that reached wide acclaim. Moreover, the Grammy Hall of Fame Award recognized Jackson’s recording of the tune in 2010.
Watch her live performance of the song below
Brief Song History
A poet born in the late 18th century, Civilla Martin traveled with her evangelist husband and worked with him on most of the musical arrangements. In the early 1900s, she visited an ill, bedridden friend, Mrs. Doolittle. This friend’s husband was also suffering from a physical disability. But despite their circumstances, the couple lived a happy Christian life and brought hope and inspiration to others. Civilla’s husband became interested with the husband’s bright hopefulness. Hence, he asked them the secret of it. Mrs. Doolittle’s response was quite simple but very substantial.
“His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.”
Those words were a great idea for a poem as Martin thought. Immediately after that visit, she jotted down the idea and came up with “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” That same day, Martin sent the poem to Charles Gabriel, a well-known composer. The beautiful music that Gabriel wrote for the hymn had reached small churches and great crusades worldwide. Indeed, God never sleeps and He is always watching us!
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Charles Gabriel, Civilla Martin, His Eye is on the Sparrow, Mahalia Jackson