What is a Birmingham Painting?
Although it may sound like a magnificent work of art or a style of painting, the reference to a Birmingham painting actually has nothing to do with visual arts. The phrase relates to "Paint Me a Birmingham," a song released separately by two country music performers in 2004. The song tells a poignant story about undying love through one man’s desire for an artist to “paint me a Birmingham.”
The Song’s Back Story
Listening to "Paint Me a Birmingham" reveals a story that echoes one of the writer's real-life experiences. As a teenager, Gary Duffy experienced loss when a girl he loved died in a car accident. Walking along the beach, he came across a painter capturing the scenery. Duffy took out an old photo of him and his girlfriend and asked the painter to create a larger image he could keep to remember the young romance.
The resulting painting depicted Duffy and his girlfriend sitting together on his porch. His family’s home was a Birmingham-style house, as noted by Country Daily.
The Meaning Behind the Song
As listeners enjoy the song, they are treated to an unfolding story that begins with the narrator walking on the beach. He comes across an artist and watches as the artist brings the waves to life. The narrator asks the artist if he only paints the ocean, and the artist offers to paint anything he wants for $20. The narrator inquires, “Could you paint me a Birmingham?”
This is the first time in the song that a Birmingham painting is mentioned. The narrator goes on to tell the artist about the plans he thought he would share with his love and asks him to "paint me back into her arms again." The meaning behind the song is recapturing lost love, even for one brief moment.
What Is a Birmingham Painting?
It would be tempting to assume that a Birmingham is a painting style or a painting of the city of the same name in Alabama. In the song, it’s simply what the narrator in the song calls the painting he wants. He’s already seen the artist’s skill at bringing the ocean landscape to life.
He wants his dream of a little house with a wraparound porch and his lost love on a swing in the front yard to come to life. Considering Duffy’s back story, painting a Birmingham likely refers to the Birmingham-style home featured in his painting, which is what he wanted to enjoy with his love.
What the Song Describes
In "Paint Me a Birmingham," the narrator tells the artist about his plans and describes the picture in his mind. He sees a little house on the outskirts of town with a big porch that goes around the whole house. He wants his love in the front yard on a swing, wearing a cotton dress in the warm spring weather. The lyrics depict the artist's understanding of the truth: "He looked at me with knowing eyes."
Artists Who Recorded the Song
Two artists released their own recorded versions of "Paint Me a Birmingham" in 2004. Ken Mellons released it on his Sweet album, and the song hit #54 on the charts. Fans appreciated the emotion that Mellons conveyed in his version, as noted by Wide Open Country. Tracy Lawrence released the song as a track on his 2004 album Strong. It hit #4 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart.
Newer Versions and Parodies
In 2016, Kane Brown covered the song. The version was shorter than the original and featured Brown and another performer playing guitar. It's available on YouTube. In 2005, Cledus T. Judd recorded a parody of the song, "Bake Me a Country Ham," that reached #58 on the Billboard charts.