Fly to my love, oh my pretty flamingo

Birds in music (part 2)

When my harlequin colleague HFI told me about the post she was writing about birds in music, I said, “I know lots of songs with birds in them too” – and started right over with “La Paloma, ohe” and “Wenn die Kraniche ziehen (When cranes migrate)”. My Harlekin colleagues struggled to hide their horror, but at the risk of lowering the intellectual level of the somewhat, I thought the topic “birds in music” would not be complete without Schlager1.

If you take a closer look at the lyrics, you will be surprised every now and then by the illogical or even completely senseless results song writers used to get away with! Many Schlager fans apparently didn’t really listen to the lyrics as long as the music was catchy enough. The ultimate in content vacuum was reached in the 70’s. The band “Middle of the Road” hit the charts in Europe with “Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep” – and the sibling duo Mac and Katie Kissoon likewise in the USA. And this is the chorus:

Last night I heard my momma singin’ a song
Ooh wee, chirpy chirpy cheep cheep
Woke up this mornin’ and my momma was gone
Ooh wee, chirpy chirpy cheep cheep
Chirpy chirpy cheep cheep chirp

Undoubtedly a tragic story – but who exactly is chirping and why, and what one has to do with the other, remains completely in the dark and was hotly discussed at the beginning of the internet era on various platforms.

The bird songs fall into three groups: those in which the singers take the perspective of the bird and are either about flight, freedom or wanderlust (“Una paloma blanca – I’m just a bird in the sky“); those in which they bother the birds with all kinds of unrequested advice or peculiar wishes; and those in which the performers “threaten” the birds with their own company.

Many of these songs are confusing in a zoological sense, for example the song about flamingos mentioned in the title (category 3). The lyrics say (in translation):

Fly to my love, oh my pretty flamingo
There to him, I’d like to migrate with you.”

What reason should a colony of flamingos have to take the singer of this song, Peggy March,  of all people with them on a flight to another place? And how should the flamingos know where exactly this loved one is? And how exactly did Peggy imagine this “migration”? On land, on water or in the air? Question after question…

Stefan Remmler’s “Vogel der Nacht (Bird of the Night)” is clearly a category 2 song. The bird is supposed to help win back the partner he apparently scared off through his own fault:

Bird of the night, fly to the moon
Look from where my darling now resides
Fly to her, tell her I am alone
Bird of the night, she must forgive me (note the use of “must” here!)
Sing her my song, say it breaks my heart
Bird of the night, sing of love and pain

The request “ fly to the moon ” shows an remarkable optimism concerning the bird’s condition – such stuff is only conceivable in the Neue Deutsche Welle ( New German Wave). We find the opposite tendency in the following song by singer Nicole:

Don’t fly so high, my little friend,
The sun burns hot up there
Whoever dares to fly so high is in danger
Don’t fly so high, my little friend,
Believe me, I mean you well
No one will help you, I know
What it was like for me then.

Here the bird is discouraged with a human clueless know-it-all attitude, and who is surprised in view of these gloomy warnings that the “little friend” lies dead on the road in the last stanza? That’s what it gets for it! Why didn’t it listen to Nicole either?

But weird metaphors and peculiar comparisons are not reserved for birds in Schlager music. Does anyone still remember the hit parade classic “Schmetterlinge können nicht weinen (Butterflies can’t cry)”?

1 Schlager music is a style of European popular music that is generally a catchy instrumental accompaniment to vocal pieces of pop music with simple, happy-go-lucky, and often sentimental lyrics. (Wikipedia)

Original text: BBR
English translation: BCO


Author: bbr

Hello, I am Beate Brinkman, the bbr.harlekin. I am editor and author for Harlekin.Blog e.V. and my “main job” is support coordinator in an international IT company. So far I have worked in German, Dutch, American and Indian companies and have acquired a great deal of experience of multicultural cooperation. I have been living in the Netherlands as a German for many years and have discovered that the cultural differences between Germans and Dutch alone could fill entire books. For professional and private reasons, I am particularly interested in multicultural (mis)understanding. Whether it’s about food, language, official conference calls or the organisation of funerals – when the cultures of several countries collide, things get lively. And that leads to sometimes unpleasant, often very funny, but always instructive situations.

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