Bye Bye Blackbird
"Bye Bye Blackbird" is a song published in 1926 by the American composer Ray Henderson and lyricist Mort Dixon. It is considered a popular standard and was first recorded by Sam Lanin's Dance Orchestra in March 1926, followed by Nick Lucas and Gene Austin the same year.
It was the #16 song of 1926 according to Pop Culture Madness. In 1982, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) posthumously awarded John Coltrane a Grammy Award of "Best Jazz Solo Performance" for the work on his album Bye Bye Blackbird. Recordings of the song often include only the chorus; the verses are far less known.
The song was also copied by Charlie and His Orchestra, German Karl Schwedler, of The Templin Band during World War II as part of Joseph Goebbels' propaganda campaign. But the lyrics were changed to reflect the German political rhetoric of the time and intended to demoralize the Allied forces. The tune(s) were sung in English and aimed at United States and British troops, as well as British citizens. It was not permitted in Nazi Germany to play the song and melody because the Nazi leadership forbade "degenerate" styles of music such as jazz.
Two former Beatles have each recorded the song: Ringo Starr for his 1970 album Sentimental Journey, and Paul McCartney for his 2012 album Kisses on the Bottom. Both men have commented that the song was one of many "standards" that they grew up singing with their families.
Meaning of the lyrics
There is much speculation about the meaning of the song. At least two commentators (using the same source) attribute the song to a prostitute's leaving the business and going home to her mother. As such, it is the opposite of "House of the Rising Sun," where the prostitute returns to the business. The reason for the song's apparent ambiguity is that the opening verse and the verses about the bluebird are rarely sung.
Another explanation is that the blackbird represents unhappiness, sad, gloomy times. The bluebird, on the other hand, represents happiness (e.g., the well-known Bluebird of Happiness) and sunshine. In short, blackbird, symbolically, is the antithesis or antonym of bluebird. The audience in those days (1926) would have understood the symbolism. In this case, the singer has had bad times, probably in the city, where "no one understands me" and where there are hard luck stories galore. Now he wants to leave the big city, which has only brought him sadness, and return to his girlfriend in the country who still loves and understands him. It is unlikely that an adult male would return to his mother, as is suggested in the other narrative. It's the faithful girlfriend at home who still loves him to whom he wants to return. He asks her to turn on the light (another possible symbol) at home because he is coming back to where his happiness was and is. Given the mores, even in the loose roaring twenties, it seems unlikely that the song refers to a prostitute. If the song were about prostitution, it is doubtful that the song would have been popular among the general public in those days. As for the claim that the bluebird verses, sung in minor, were dropped because of ambiguity, it was common years afterward to drop verses which were not as melodically memorable. For example, everyone one can probably hum the "In the Good Old Summertime" verses, but who remembers the intro? The intro is seldom played nowadays. Dropping verses later which were not melodically strong was done with countless songs from that period.
"Bye, Bye, Blackbird" has been recorded by many artists, including:
- Alison Moyet - Voice
- Ben Webster & Oscar Peterson, instrumental version in 1959
- Billy May - The Ultimate Billy May
- Bing Crosby
- Bobby Short
- Carmen McRae
- Chet Baker 
- Dean Martin
- Diana Krall, performed in the movie Public Enemies.
- Ella Fitzgerald
- Emilie-Claire Barlow
- Enoch Light And The Light Brigade - Big Hits of the 20's
- Etta Jones
- Eugen Cicero
- Frank Sinatra
- Gene Austin
- George Olsen and his Music
- Georgia Brown - Georgia Brown Sings Gershwin/Georgia Brown
- Joe Cocker
- Joey DeFrancesco
- Johnny Mathis
- Josephine Baker
- Julie London
- Keith Jarrett, as a homage to Miles Davis, on 1993 album Bye Bye Blackbird
- Layton & Johnstone (May 1927)
- Liza Minnelli
- Manfred Krug with Charles Brauer, in their last episode as investigators in the German TV series Tatort
- Martha Wainwright
- Mel Tormé - Mel's London Mood (1990)
- Melody Gardot - Bye Bye Blackbird EP (2010)
- Miles Davis
- Mitch Miller
- Nina Simone
- Paul McCartney - Kisses on the Bottom
- Peggy Lee - Sings for You (1995)
- Raul Midón, Synthesis
- Rickie Lee Jones
- Ringo Starr - Sentimental Journey
- Russ Morgan - Music In The Morgan Manner
- Sammy Davis, Jr.
- Sarah Vaughan
- Sharon, Lois & Bram
- Six Hits and a Miss featured in 1943 GI Jive #415 
- The Everly Brothers
- The Fleetwoods
- The History Boys (film), Samuel Barnett (voice)
- The Mills Brothers
- Tiny Tim
- Trini Lopez - Trini Lopez at PJ's
- Bill Henderson
- Mort Dixon. "Cover versions of Bye Bye Blackbird by Sam Lanin's Dance Orchestra - SecondHandSongs". secondhandsongs.com.
- Pop Music Hits of 1926 Song Chart at popculturemadness.com. Retrieved on 8 June 2009.
- John Coltrane, The Official Site Retrieved March 21, 2012.
- What are the rest of the lyrics to "Bye, Bye, Blackbird?" at straightdope.com. Retrieved on 8 June 2009.
- Renata Adler (1965-04-10). "Letter from Selma". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2013-09-24.
- Sentimental Journey (Booklet). Ringo Starr. Apple, Apple Corps / Capitol, EMI. 1970. CDP 0777 7 98615 2 1.
- Bye Bye Blackbird at beatlesbible.com Retrieved on 8 February 2012.
- "Jazz Standards Songs and Instrumentals (Bye Bye Blackbird)". jazzstandards.com.
- "Blackbird blackbird singing the blues all day / Bye, Bye, Blackbird". musicanet.org.
- "The Straight Dope: What are the rest of the lyrics to "Bye Bye Blackbird"?". straightdope.com.
- Ted Anthony, Chasing the Rising Sun: The Journey of an American Song
- Ben Webster & Oscar Peterson, Ben Webster Meets Oscar Peterson: The Legendary Sessions Retrieved 09-24-11
- McPherson, Ken (2008-12-17). "Chet Baker-Bye Bye Blackbird-1964 - Video Dailymotion". Dailymotion.com. Retrieved 2016-07-26.
- "Big Hits of the 20's - Enoch Light | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. 1990-10-25. Retrieved 2016-07-26.
- Miles, Barry (1998). The Beatles a Diary: An Intimate Day by Day History. London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 9780711963153.
- "AFRS G.I. Jive : WA4CZD : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive". Archive.org. Retrieved 2016-07-26.