Saturday, June 7, 2014

Maya Angelou--On Why the Caged Bird Sings

“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song” ~ Maya Angelou

Throughout the week, tributes were held in honor of the life of Dr. Maya Angelou. The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) replayed some of Maya’s appearances. In Conversations with Oprah: Maya Angelou, Maya explained why the caged bird sings: “The caged bird sings because it must. . . Sometimes the melody arrived at in the cage is much more fetching, much more appealing, much more profound, much more poignant than the melody arrived at by the bird who’s on the loose. The caged bird sings with a fearful trill. Its song is heard on the distant hill. For the caged bird sings of freedom.”

This reminds me of the book of Psalms, which is filled with songs of deliverance and hopes of freedom: “Lord, how are they increased that trouble me! Many are they that rise up against me. Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. Selah. But though, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head” (Psalm 3: 1-3). Even today the Psalms are sung in times of need, and they give the singer a hope of deliverance.

At a young age, my daughter communicated in songs. When I gave birth to my son, my mother, who lived in another state, stayed with us for several days to help out by taking care of my 3½ year old daughter. While I was in the hospital, my mother overheard my daughter singing a song she had composed all by her little self. It was a song of agony: “My throat hurts soooo bad. Noooobody knows it. My mother doesn’t knoooow. My father doesn’t knoooow. Noooobody knows it. I don’t know what I’m going to doooo. I am sooooo sick.” Upon hearing the song, my mother realized my daughter was ill, so she called my husband. He arranged a doctor’s appointment. Subsequently, the doctor diagnosed her with strep throat. I guess this was my daughter’s way of communicating her agony during a time she felt her world was being turned upside down—she was sick, her mother and father were away, someone new was taking care of her, and then there was this thing about a new brother or sister. Although my daughter knew her grandmother, living in different states prevented her from having the traditional close relationship with her grandparents.

Singing has a variety of purposes. Last week, when I was planting flowers in my yard, I noticed that one of my neighbors and a few of his friends had just finished putting together a play structure for his young child. Then the mother brought out the little boy. He was very happy. When he climbed onto the play structure, he started singing--loudly. 

Many people have experienced a song rising up from the depths of their hearts. When that happens, let it out. Singing has health benefits whether you are singing in or out of the cage. According to Clift & Hancox (2001) singing increases feelings of well-being, lessens feelings of anxiety, and benefits the heart (as cited in Young, 2009).

How has a song in your heart benefited you? This is the story in you. Share it.



Young, L. (2009). The potential health benefits of community based singing groups for adults with cancer. Canadian Journal of Music Therapy, 15(1), 11-27.

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