Click on a Theme below to go to a summary of the four posts about that Theme.

Birds, "Free Bird," a song by Lynyrd Skynyrd

Subthemes: Roaming Freely, Sudden, Darting, Frightened, Pets

A young man explains his leaving a girlfriend, and exults in his choice, by invoking the image of a bird unfettered to come and go as it pleases. He can’t help himself, he suggests, and he can’t change his behavior because, like a bird, he is destined to flit off to other places, other experiences, other women. What else does this song suggest about Birds?

“Free Bird”" by Lynyrd Skynyrd

If I leave here tomorrow
Would you still remember me?
For I must be traveling on now
‘Cause there’s too many places I’ve got to see

But if I stay here with you, girl
Things just couldn’t be the same
‘Cause I’m as free as a bird now
And this bird you cannot change
Oh, oh, oh, oh
And the bird you cannot change
And this bird, you cannot change
Lord knows, I can’t change

Bye-bye, baby, it’s been sweet love, yeah, yeah
Though this feelin’ I can’t change
Please don’t take it so badly
‘Cause Lord knows, I’m to blame

If I stay here with you, girl
Things just couldn’t be the same
‘Cause I’m as free as a bird now
And this bird you cannot change
Oh, oh, oh, oh
And the bird you cannot change
And this bird, you cannot change

Lord knows, I can’t change
Lord help me, I can’t change
Lord, I can’t change
Won’t you fly high, free bird, yeah

Here is an 11-minute performance of Free Bird by Lynyrd Skynyd way back in 1977 at the Oakland Coliseum.

Roaming Freely: Birds fly anytime, anywhere, and any distance for as long as they have energy. In their natural habitat the flits and flights of birds are completely unfettered: “free as a bird” goes the saying. Like the singer, they move on whenever they choose ’Cause I’m as free as a bird as a bird now. Unlike a plane, car or train, no roads, railway tracks, or airports restrict where they start and end or how they travel. Because birds can fly, they are symbols of freedom with their ability to quickly and easily escape from troubles, dangers, or complications. This boy leaves his girlfriend even though he knows, I’m to blame.

Sudden, Darting, Frightened: We can’t tell from the song why the boy decides to be alone, that he must fly away. We can’t spot why a tree full of birds scatter, but often a sound sets them off. Like many animals, they are skittish and afraid; the boy perhaps fears “being trapped” or led unwillingly to the altar or that the emotions and attractionjust wouldn’t be the same. Take fright, take flight. Or perhaps he was upset and depressed, but no nightingale cheered him.

Pets: It’s interpreting this song speculatively to wonder if the girl was an ornament, a short-term and casual fling with a plaything pet. Many bird lovers keep a canary, a pair of lovebirds or other songbird as a pet. They require little maintenance, other than cleaning the cage from time to time, and they display distinctive personalities. You can train birds and even let them fly around the house at will. An ugly side of the popularity of birds, bird traffickers brutally capture the helpless creatures, killing many of them or ruining their habitats, imprison them in dreadful conditions, and sell them.

 

A rock song heavier on music and live performance than on the quality of its lyrics, “Free Bird”" epitomizes the footloose, callous unwillingness of a boy to settle down. He abandons the girl he’s been seeing, without introspection and with the excuse of being free as a bird.

If you are interested in other thoughts on the concept “Birds,” consider other subthemes that don’t fit as directly to the poem, painting, rock song, and movie written about in this series. For an overview, this article explains Themes from Art or click on the navigation bar, “About.”

We invite you to read about other rock songs discussed on this blog, and their themes. Here they are:

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