A Bird in a Gilded Cage

"A Bird in a Gilded Cage" is a song composed by Arthur J. Lamb and Harry Von Tilzer. It was a sentimental ballad (or tear-jerker) that became one of the most popular songs of 1900,[1] reportedly selling more than two million copies in sheet music.[2][3] Jere Mahoney (Edison) and Steve Porter (Columbia) recorded two early popular versions of this song.[3]


According to Von Tilzer, he was approached in 1899 by Lamb with the lyrics for a song. Although Von Tilzer liked it, he asked Lamb to change some of the words to make it clear that the woman in the song was married and not a mistress. Later that evening, as he worked out a melody at a piano in a public house with some friends, he noticed that many of the girls nearby were crying, which convinced him the song could be a hit.[1] Later, Von Tilzer would claim that this song was "the key that opened the door of wealth and fame" for him.[3] Its success signalled the dominance of ballads in American popular music through 1914.


The song describes the sad life of a beautiful woman who has married for money instead of love. Its lyrics are as follows:[4]

Tony Martin sings it with Edith Fellows in the movie "Music in my Heart." Bing Crosby included the song in a medley on his album On the Sentimental Side (1962). Sylvester Stallone sings the song in his guest spot of The Muppet Show. Malcolm McLaren produced, together with Bootsy Collins, a cover version of "Bird in a gilded cage" in hiphop style as a bonus track for a release from his album Waltz Darling, The House of the Blue Danube. (1989). Kristin Chenoweth sings the song as Lavinia Peck-Foster in season 2 episode 2 of Trial & Error.


  1. "Harry Von Tilzer, Tin Pan Alley Pioneer". Parlor Songs. Retrieved 2010-04-14.
  2. "Tear Jerkers in American Song, Part 1". Parlor Songs. Retrieved 2010-04-14.
  3. Ruhlmann, Wiliam. Breaking Records (One Hundred Years of Hits), New York & London: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, 2004, p.8
  4. "A Bird in a Gilded Cage lyrics". PD Music. Retrieved 2010-04-14.

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