Though “Snowbird” has been recorded by several performers, including Bing Crosby, Lynn Anderson, and Elvis Presley, the song is best known through Anne Murray’s recording in 1969.
After appearing as a track in her studio album This Way Is My Way in mid-1969, it was eventually released as a single in the summer of 1970. And it went to No. 2 hit on Canada’s Pop Chart and No. 1 on both the Canadian Adult Contemporary and Country charts.
“Snowbird” also reached No. 8 on the U.S. Pop Singles chart and No. 1 on the U.S. Adult Contemporary chart, where it spent six weeks. Surprisingly, it became a Top 10 U.S. country hit as well.
A Song When The Going Became Too Hard
Written by the Canadian songwriter Gene MacLellan, “Snowbird” was inspired by a walk along a chilly Canadian beach while looking at the birds flying off to warmer climes. It made MacLellan wonder what it would be like if men could just get up and fly away when the going became too hard, just like those snowbirds.
“The breeze along the river seems to say that he’ll only break my heart again should I decide to stay. So, little snowbird, take me with you when you go to that land of gentle breezes where the peaceful waters flow,” the song goes.
“Snowbird” was only the second song MacLellan had ever written, and he wrote it within just twenty-five minutes. MacLellan also recorded it for his own album, Street Corner Preacher, in 1970.
For someone that was suffering from depression, MacLellan was writing about himself a lot of times. There’s no surprise there’s a touch of that in a lot of his music. MacLellan actually had a tough life growing up. He contracted polio as a child and was badly injured in a car accident that killed his own father.
Unfortunately, MacLellan waited long enough for his own snowbird to come and take him away to a place where the sun shines every day, and the air was light and free. MacLellan’s depression worsened during his later years. He sadly took his own life in 1995 at his home in Summerside.
Anne Murray met Gene MacLellan while both were regulars on the CBC television series, Singalong Jubilee, where she was inspired to release her version of “Snowbird.” Tune in and watch Murray’s remarkable performance of the song below.
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