Originally Posted by TheGorge
Here's my take--Like McCartney's "Blackbird," a very meaningful song about the struggles of an African-American woman in the Deep South before and during the Civil Rights movement disguised as a simple, beautiful ditty, Dave's "Little Red Bird," although slightly more straightforward than "Blackbird," is also a very meaningful song within a simple, beautiful ditty.
The entire song, from beginning to end, is a look at the plight of the Native Americans during the expansion and rise of the United States and was purposely written to parallel McCartney's "Blackbird." The similarities between the songs are too numerous to be accidental, from the use of an acoustic guitar and click track to the use of "bird" in the title and an instrumental bridge. The subject in the "Little Red Bird" and “Blackbird” are different (Native Americans and not an African-American women), but the topics are the same (the struggles of a minority population in the United States). Creating an homage to "Blackbird" is no easy task, but Dave pulled it off masterfully. In my opinion, "Little Red Bird" is one of Dave's best efforts as a songwriter in recent years.
"Little Red Bird" opens with the lines, "Little Red Bird, under a chair, waiting for the crumbs to fall, Daddy said get a job, but don't you see Daddy how good I am at catching crumbs." Throughout the song, when Dave uses the phrase, “Little Red Bird,” he’s referring specifically to Native Americans. Beginning in the 1800s, Native Americans were forced to "wait for crumbs to fall" because their way of life, for the most part, was systematically being destroyed by an expanding United States. "Daddy said get a job" is likely a reference to the US government, in that Americans expected Native Americans to give up the way of life they had know for thousands of years for the way of life Americans were creating. “Little Red Bird’s” response to this request—“but don’t you see Daddy how good I am at catching crumbs”—is the Native American’s refusal to take up the new way of life. Rightly so, the Native American would rather stay out of American society and just catch the “crumbs” that come his or her way.
The second verse, “General Custer it’s said, overestimated his abilities to win, Sitting Bull turned the table on him, a comfort to count the battles won after the war is lost,” is a self-explanatory and it enables the listener to understand what Dave was singing about in the first verse and the refrain. The second verse tells us how “Little Red Bird” found himself “under a chair, waiting for the crumbs to fall” because we learn that “Little Red Bird” lost the war. The United States was successful in its efforts to displace and move Native Americans to reservations. Sitting Bull’s victory against General Custer was a lone triumph in an otherwise unwinnable war for the Native Americans.
The third verse, “If there was a place, hidden in the stars, reflected on heaven's graces, if God had an honest face, a troubled expression would be watching the human race,” is a reference to Dave’s belief that what happened to the Native Americans in the United States is an atrocity. If God was watching, he would be troubled (rightly) by the actions of the United States.
"Guns and Gods and Little Red Birds” is used throughout the song as a refrain. Dave’s use of the word gun refers to how the United States was able to win the war.