|Song by The Beatles from the album The Beatles|
|Released||22 November 1968|
|Recorded||11 June 1968|
|The Beatles track listing|
McCartney explained on Chaos and Creation at Abbey Road, aired in 2005, that the guitar accompaniment for "Blackbird" was inspired by J.S. Bach's Bourrée in E minor, a well known lute piece, often played on the classical guitar.
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As children, he and George Harrison tried to learn Bourrée as a "show off" piece. The Bourrée is distinguished by melody and bass notes played simultaneously on the upper and lower strings. McCartney adapted a segment of the Bourrée (reharmonised into the original's relative major key of G) as the opening of "Blackbird", and carried the musical idea throughout the song.
McCartney was inspired to write it while in Scotland as a reaction to racial tensions escalating in the United States in the spring of 1968.
In May 2002, during a show at the Reunion Arena in Dallas, Texas as part of the Driving USA Tour supporting the Driving Rain album, McCartney spoke on stage about the meaning of the song. KCRW DJ Chris Douridas interviewed McCartney backstage afterwards for his radio show New Ground, and the meaning of the song was discussed. This interview aired on KCRW on 25 May 2002.
I had been doing poetry readings. I had been doing some in the last year or so because I've got a poetry book out called Blackbird Singing, and when I would read "Blackbird", I would always try and think of some explanation to tell the people, 'cause there's not a lot you can do except just read the poem, you know, you read 10 poems that takes about 10 minutes, almost. It's like, you've got to, just, do a bit more than that. So, I was doing explanations, and I actually just remembered why I'd written "Blackbird", you know, that I'd been, I was in Scotland playing on my guitar, and I remembered this whole idea of "you were only waiting for this moment to arise" was about, you know, the black people's struggle in the southern states, and I was using the symbolism of a blackbird. It's not really about a blackbird whose wings are broken, you know, it's a bit more symbolic.
— Paul McCartney, Interview with KCRW's Chris Douridas, May 25, 2002 episode of New Ground (17:50–19:00)
Also, before his solo acoustic guitar set during the Driving USA Tour, McCartney explained that "bird" is British slang for girl, making "blackbird" a synonym for 'black girl'. Near the end of the song's performance, a young black woman sang the lyrics, "You were only waiting for this moment to arrive, blackbird fly...", after which the program faded to commercial.
In 2009, McCartney performed this song at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, commenting prior to singing it on how it had been written in response to the 1960s Civil Rights movement, and added, "It's so great to realise so many civil rights issues have been overcome."
Composition and recording
The song was recorded on 11 June 1968 in EMI Studios, with George Martin as the producer and Geoff Emerick as the audio engineer. It is a solo performance with McCartney playing a Martin D 28 acoustic guitar. The track includes recordings of a male blackbird singing in the background.
The instrumentation consists of tapping, guitar, vocal and birdsong overdub. The tapping "has been incorrectly identified as a metronome in the past", according to engineer Geoff Emerick, who says it is actually the sound of Paul tapping his foot, which Emerick recalls as being mic'd up separately. Footage included in the bonus content on disc two of the 2009 remaster of the album shows McCartney tapping both his feet alternately while performing the song.
The mono version contains bird sounds different from the stereo recording, and was originally issued on a mono incarnation of The Beatles (it has since been issued worldwide as part of The Beatles in Mono CD box set). The song appears on Love with "Yesterday", billed as "Blackbird/Yesterday". "Blackbird" provides an introduction to "Yesterday".
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"Blackbird" is, by one count, one of the top ten most recorded covers of all time. The following artists have recorded "Blackbird" in a variety of styles (in alphabetical order):
- Blackbird appears on the Crosby, Stills, and Nash 1991 box set.
- On March 15, 2011 Chris Colfer's character Kurt Hummel sang Blackbird for the episode Original Song on the FOX show Glee.
- Evan Rachel Wood sang the song in the 2007 film Across the Universe.
- Sarah Darling covered the song in 2012 for the album Let Us In: Nashville – A Tribute to Linda McCartney, and it was released as a single. Darling's version was later featured in the 200th episode of Criminal Minds.
- Ara Dinkjian recorded the song in "Night Ark".
- Dave Grohl has played the song in concert a number of times.
- Justin Hayward covered the song on his 1994 Classic Blue album.
- Dave Matthews covered the song in three performances during 2005 (2005-08-21, 2005-08-31, 2005-09-10). The third recording was released in his Weekend on the Rocks live album set. It was also played as an outro on 2005-8-20 and used in sound checks a few times prior.
- In 2001, Canadian musician Sarah McLachlan recorded a cover version of "Blackbird" for the I Am Sam movie soundtrack. It also appears on her 2008 compilation album Rarities, B-Sides and Other Stuff Volume 2.
- Jazz pianist Brad Mehldau recorded what has been described as a "haunting version of the Beatles' classic" on his 1997 album The Art of the Trio Volume One.
- The Paragons featuring Rosalyn Sweat recorded a ska/rocksteady version in 1973.
- Jaco Pastorius recorded the song in 1981.
- In 1972, Billy Preston recorded the song on his Music Is My Life album.
- Carly Simon recorded a version for her 2007 album Into White.
- Ben and Zohar performed Blackbird on Shrewsbury unplugged 2014 at Shrewsbury International School Bangkok
- MacDonald 2005, pp. 291–292.
- Everett 1999, p. 190.
- KCRW, "New Ground" with Chris Douridas, 25 May 2002 (17:50–19:00), "KCRW Archive", "Audio"
- NME 2009.
- Lewisohn 1988, p. 137.
- Recording the Beatles, pg. 484
- Tamashiro, Tim (3 August 2012). "Jazz for Dabblers: 'Blackbird,' the Beatles and Brad Mehldau". CBC Music. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
- The Art of the Trio, Vol. 1 at Allmusic. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
- Everett, Walter (1999). The Beatles as Musicians: Revolver through the Anthology. New York, London: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-512941-0.
- Lewisohn, Mark (1988). The Beatles Recording Sessions. New York: Harmony Books. ISBN 0-517-57066-1.
- MacDonald, Ian (2005). Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties (Second Revised Edition ed.). London: Pimlico (Rand). ISBN 1-84413-828-3.
- "Paul McCartney gets emotional during marathon Coachella set". NME. 18 April 2009.