“His Eye is On the Sparrow” (1905) is one of the most influential gospel songs of the last century, as well as one of the most recorded. Inspired by the “bright hopefulness” of a physically impaired husband and wife, lyricist Civilla Martin (1866-1948) drew on Jesus’ assurances found in Matthew 10:29-31 and a parallel text, Luke 12:6-7, and expanded them into a personal affirmation of the nearness and provision of God in the life of the believer. The music was written by prolific gospel songwriter Charles Gabriel (1856-1932).
I have had a long relationship with this gospel song, playing Luigi Zaninelli’s solo voice arrangement on trombone in church worship services many times over the last thirty-plus years. Though I have performed all of the settings in Zaninelli’s Five American Gospel Songs, “Sparrow” is my wife’s favorite, and this setting for wind band was created as a gift for her.
Though the misfortunes of 2020 were not the impetus for this project, it was a fitting coincidence that the anxiety-producing events of the year (a global pandemic chief among them) were the backdrop for my work with this melody and its associated message of encouragement.
Why should I feel discouraged? Why should the shadows come?
Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heaven and home when Jesus is my portion?
My constant friend is he: His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me.
“Let not your heart be troubled,” his tender word I hear,
And resting on his goodness, I lose my doubt and fear;
Though by the path he leadeth, but one step I may see;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me.
Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise,
When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies,
I draw the closer to Him, from care He sets me free;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he cares for me.
I sing because I’m happy! I sing because I’m free!
For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me.