“Sparrow”: Wyn Starks Dives into His Breathtakingly Beautiful George Floyd-Inspired Ballad

Wyn Starks © 2021
Wyn Starks © 2021

This Black History Month, Atwood Magazine has invited artists to participate in a series of essays, interviews, reviews, poetry, playlists, and more features in recognition of, and out of respect for the symbolism and significance of this month.

Today, Minneapolis pop-soul artist Wyn Starks dives into the depths of his achingly bittersweet new ballad “Sparrow” as a part of Atwood Magazine’s Black History Month series. Since debuting in mid-2019, Sidewalks Records-signed Starks has been releasing a steady stream of soul-inflected pop songs that shine with a life of their own. 2020’s EP Who I Am serves as a faithful introduction, summing up Starks’ first year nicely with a collection of high highs and stirring grooves: Tracks like “Circles” and “Dancing My Way” radiate warm light while showcasing the sheer breadth and evocative strength of the artist’s voice. Meanwhile, the effervescent, soaring “Sunday Morning” aches with that inner glow reserved for only the most special songs.
Oh brother the water is rising on me
Oh cease to my sorrow has filled up the sea
The time is will changing, I dream I was free
But brother the water still rising on me
The way of this mountains too heavy for me
Oh father these mountains too heavy for me
But I’ll keep on walking till I rinse my feet
Until in the water still rising on me
Starks brings that singular talent with him into 2021 with January’s breathtaking single “Sparrow,” a Gospel-inspired collaboration with producer Fred Williams (AKA Built By Titan) that is neither a protest nor a hymn, yet carries the stunning weight of both in its timely message and dramatic upheaval of sound and feeling. Written in the wake of George Floyd’s murder on May 25, 2020, “Sparrow” reckons with themes of hope and anger alongside the United States’ ongoing struggle with systematic racism. As much a prayer as it is a song, “Sparrow” resonates with visceral, heartbreaking emotion – roaring toward cathartic breaks and poignant lows that carry within them a deep, multi-generational spiritualism. Starks credits Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic final speech “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” as a significant influence on his song.
Oh brother the water is rising on me
Oh cease to my sorrow has filled up the sea
The time that will changing, One day I’ll be free
But brother the water still rising on me
I flew like the sparrow into the sun
I march with the others to my race was done
I saw all the children and dream they were free
And all of their troubles swept by the sea
All of their troubles was swept by the sea
For Starks, “Sparrow” is an emotional rallying cry for hope and change. It’s an empowering moment of pain; of passion; of love, grief, hope, and strength.
“We wanted to write from the perspective of an old Negro spiritual, where they talked about dreaming of a day where we’d all be free. Although created in response to America’s ongoing struggle with systematic racism, “Sparrow” emphasizes hope over anger, with Wyn crediting Martin Luther King Jr.’s final speech — the iconic “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” – as one of the song’s biggest inspirations.” – Wyn Starks
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by Wyn Starks

Sparrow - Wyn Starks

Atwood Magazine: What is the significance of this song, for you?

Wyn Starks: I think that 2020 sums this up; it’s a song that’s needed at this moment. It brings us back to those times during the civil rights movement – and now today with everything that happened with George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others…

How did you start writing “Sparrow”?

Wyn Starks: After the killing of George Floyd – the whole nation was hurting. This song came from that.

I'll keep on walking 'til I rest my feet, until then the water's still rising on me.” It's a very stunning visual line. What does this lyric mean to you, and how do you feel the metaphor of water rising captures the emotions inside?

Wyn Starks: With the endless police brutality against unarmed black people and the ongoing systemic racism in our country – it just shows us that we still have a long way to go; I can only imagine how my ancestors felt writing those old Negro Spirituals. We may not see change or a resolution with these civil rights issues in our lifetime, but I will keep doing my part and speaking out against racism until the end.

Wyn Starks © courtesy of the artist
Wyn Starks © courtesy of the artist

When I hear “Sparrow,” it feels very much like a prayer. Is that something that played a part of its creation?

Wyn Starks: Yes, I wanted the song to feel like an old hymn, something familiar and comforting!

Did you learn anything about yourself over the process of writing and recording this song? Did it offer any sort of closure or re-instilled belief?

Wyn Starks: It definitely brought a lot of emotion out of me. Digging through the pain of it all. It doesn’t offer closure, per se but I hope that it offers comfort more than anything. It made me believe that maybe there is a chance that we can come together and make change… that’s the hope.

What do you hope others take away from this song?

Wyn Starks: I hope that whoever listens to “Sparrow” feels a little stronger and more hopeful than they were before.

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Stream: “Sparrow” – Wyn Starks

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Sparrow - Wyn Starks

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:: Wyn Starks ::

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