“Snowbird” is a song by the Canadian songwriter Gene MacLellan. Though it has been recorded by many performers (including Bing Crosby, Lynn Anderson, and Elvis Presley), it is best known through Anne Murray's 1969 recording, which—after appearing as an album track in mid-1969—was eventually released as a single in the summer of 1970. It was a No. 2 hit on Canada's pop chart and went to No. 1 on both the Canadian adult contemporary and country charts. The song reached No. 8 on the U.S. pop singles chart, spent six weeks at No. 1 on the U.S. adult contemporary chart, and became a surprise Top 10 U.S. country hit as well. It was certified as a gold single by the RIAA, the first American Gold record ever awarded to a Canadian solo female artist. The song peaked at No. 23 on the UK Singles Chart. In 2003 it was an inaugural song inductee of the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Anne Murray and Gene MacLellan had met while both were regulars on the CBC television series Singalong Jubilee and Murray recorded two of MacLellan's compositions, “Snowbird” and “Biding My Time”, for her first major label album release, This Way Is My Way, in 1969. Murray would recall: “Gene told me he wrote [“Snowbird”] in twenty minutes while walking on a beach in PEI.”
The theme and approach broadly resemble that of the earlier hits “Message to Michael” (a.k.a. “Kentucky Bluebird” in hit versions by Lou Johnson and Adam Faith) and “Yellow Bird” in contrasting the narrator's being stranded in the place of their heartache to the bird's ability to just up and fly away. “Snowbird” sold well over a million copies and was recently picked as 19th on the 50 Tracks: The Canadian Version list, a partially populist approach to defining the most influential songs by Canadians.
Gene MacLellan's own recording of “Snowbird” on his 1970 album Street Corner Preacher features an additional verse to the song's standard two verse format.
In 2007, Murray remade “Snowbird” for her Anne Murray Duets: Friends & Legends album; the song being rendered as a duet with Sarah Brightman.
Lynn Anderson - album Rose Garden Perry Como - album It's Impossible Annette Klingenberg (da) (as “Lille Sangfugl”) Anna-Lena Löfgren (as “Pröva Dina Vingar”) Loretta Lynn - album Coal Miner's Daughter Gene MacLellan - album Gene MacLellan Lize Marke (as “Zeemeeuw”) The Settlers, released as a single only in Italy as the A-side of “Go North” by Richard Barnes and Scandinavia Liv Maessen (No. 13 in Australia) Jean Shepard - album Here & Now Andy Williams - album The Andy Williams Show Slim Whitman - album Guess Who
Chet Atkins - album For the Good Times winner of Grammy Award for Best Country Instrumental Performance Ossie Scott - single released as the B-side of “Mad Mad Ivy” by Gladstone Anderson & Mudies All Stars Burl Ives - album Time Danny Davis & The Nashville Brass - album Somethin' Else Daliah Lavi (as “Wie Die Schwalben”) - album Daliah Lavi Jo Jo Bennett All Stars - single released as the B-side of “Drifter” by I-Roy and Dennis Walks Dennis Walks - released as a single only in the United States and Jamaica Päivi Paunu (as “Lumilintu”) - album Oi niitä aikoja : kootut levytykset 1966-71 Elvis Presley - album Elvis Country (I'm 10,000 Years Old) Hank Snow - album Award Winners Honey West - album The Moods Of My Man Dottie West - album Careless Hands
Chris Connor - album Sketches Bing Crosby - album Bing 'n' Basie. Billie Jo Spears - album Just Singin'
Wanda Jackson - album When It's Time to Fall in Love Again
Doc Watson - album Two Days in November
Gerard Cox - (as “Die laaielichter”)
Bles Bridges - album Fight For Love
Birthe Kjaer (as “Sangfugl”) - album Vi Maler Byen Rød
Helinä Ilkka (fi) (as “Lumilintu”) - album Jää vielä aamuun
Rita MacNeil - album Music of a Thousand Nights Dana Winner - album Unforgettable
Catherine MacLellan - album “Silhouette”
In popular culture
Anne Murray performed the song on episode 4.15 of The Muppet Show, where she kept getting interrupted by a badly punning dodo.
In the Family Guy episode “Chris Cross”, Brian and Stewie spend the third act arguing about the meaning of the song. When they travel to Canada to meet Murray in an attempt to ascertain its true meaning, Stewie becomes upset when he learns she did not write the song and holds Murray hostage. DTV Disney set the song to the Pluto short, Cold Storage.
Lyrically the snowbird is used as a metaphor for freedom by contrasting the narrator's inability to leave the place of his/her heartache with the bird's ability to just up and fly away.