November 8

“May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose”

“May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose” by James Cecil Dickens is a 1965 original. It was “Little Jimmy Dickens’” most successful single on the country music chart. Spending two weeks at number 1 and staying on the chart for 18 weeks, it also reached the Billboard Hot 100 peaking at number 15. This was the only Dickens’ song that reached to a pop chart. As Bobby said in one of Lord’s show, he introduced him as: “A little bitty man with a great big hit” record.

In the 60’s, one of the best songwriters, Neal Merritt, composed its lyrics. At that time, Merritt was working with Central Songs. With the record company and its manager Happy Willson, they gave it to Dickens. Inspired by the Johnny Carson Show, Merritt quoted:

I really like the Johnny Carson TV show and I watch it all the time. Johnny always uses a saying “…may the bird of paradise…” something or another. Like when the Minnesota Twins lost the world series, Johnny said, “may the bird of paradise lay a wreath on the Minnesota Twins”. He uses the saying a lot. I wrote that song in 20 minutes back in April of 1965.


The Story Behind the Lyrics

The song has three parts—each part tells a story that is perceived to be insulting. After then, each story is followed by a sarcastic chorus—a way of returning the insult.

In the first verse, Dickens sees a beggar and gives him only a penny. The second verse tells that Dickens gets a call from his laundryman, who returns $100 that Dickens left in his clothes. Dickens gives him 10 cents as payment for his phone call. Dickens asks a cab driver to rush so he can catch a train. Because of over speeding, the driver is ticketed. Passenger Dickens stands by while waiting for the change from his fare in the final verse.

I was going to put in the line “may your babies be born without clothes” but that was too common so I kept it out.-Merritt


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