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We’ve been on a Victory Boyd kick ever since we discovered her breathtaking rendition of “Psalm 91,” a tune we gushed about at length. Now we’re taking a look at another of her expressly religious works, an early 20th-century hymn titled “His Eye Is on the Sparrow.” The tune has been covered by such iconic names as Mahalia Jackson and Whitney Houston, but here Boyd bests them both and without the bombast.
Boyd sings the song accompanying herself on guitar, a sweet pairing of musical timbres that makes this hymn into a lovely lullaby. She has a way of approaching each vocal line with a certain tenderness, all the while injecting the 118-year-old hymn with heart-wrenching soulfulness. The complex jazz chords that she effortlessly transitions through display a talent on the guitar to rival that of her piano work.
Half the fun of this recording is seeing all the different emotions that the song draws from the artist. There, singing alone with her guitar, the music seems to bring her such peace and joy that it’s hard for the viewer to not feel the same. The humble way she presents herself additionally places all the focus on the faithful lyrics and extraordinary treatment she gives to the music.
“His Eye Is on the Sparrow”
Written in 1905 by Civilla D. Martin, a Canadian-American hymnist with a number of famous hymns to her credit, the song draws its lyrics from Psalm 32 and the Gospel of Matthew. The inspiration for this hymn was a couple by the name of Mr. and Mrs. Doolittle, who both suffered from disabilities.
The Martins and Doolittles were close friends, and on one occasion Civilla asked Mrs. Doolittle how she and her husband could remain so hopeful in the face of their hardships. To this, Mrs. Doolittle simply replied, “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.” Martin is quoted recalling this memory in the book A Foot in Two Worlds: A Pastor’s Journey from Grief to Hope, in which she said:
“The beauty of this simple expression of boundless faith gripped the hearts and fired the imagination of Dr. Martin and me. The hymn ‘His Eye Is on the Sparrow’ was the outcome of that experience.”