The Beatles’ “Blackbird” Lyrics Meaning
There have been various explanations put forth concerning the meaning of The Beatles’ “Blackbird”, even from Macca himself. But ultimately it is intended to be his take on the Civil Rights Movements which at the time of this song’s issuance was one of the hot topics Stateside.
More specifically, as the story goes, the term bird, as used colloquially in the UK, was another way of saying girl. So the titular “Blackbird” would actually be a Black girl. As such, it can be said that Paul McCartney is addressing a Black woman in particular. But more to the point he is encouraging her, albeit metaphorically, to keep striving for freedom and equality.
So conclusively whereas the Beatles, according to McCartney, were sympathetic to the systemic plight of African-Americans, he personally was especially moved by African-American women.
“Blackbird, fly into the light of the dark black night“
Writing and Recording
This song was written solely by Paul McCartney. However, he not only acknowledged himself as its author but also his former bandmate John Lennon, under the name Lennon-McCartney.
During the recording of “Blackbird”, it took 32 takes for McCartney to get the song to sound the way he wanted.
The producer of “Blackbird” was the late George Martin (1926-2016). George is best remembered for his extensive collaboration with the Beatles. And this track is featured on one of their most-iconic projects, their self-titled album “The Beatles”. Said album is also known as the White Album.
It seems that, according to Paul McCartney, the sentiments expressed in the lyrics were particularly influenced by racial tensions in Little Rock, Arkansas. Little Rock is the home of Little Rock Central High School, which made history as being the first desegregated high school in the southern United States. Initially only a handful of African-Americans attended, dealing with intense racism throughout. These individuals became known as the Little Rock Nine. And Paul McCartney actually posted an image with two of the ladies who were part of that group, Elizabeth Eckford and Thelma Mothershed, in 2016.
And the guitar playing on this track was inspired by a musical piece by 18th century musician Johann Sebastian Bach entitled “Bourrée in E Minor”.
“Blackbird” release date
And “Blackbird” was released by Apple Records as part of the White Album on 22 November 1968.
McCartney has been known to play this song live on occasion throughout the decades. Indeed he performed the Beatles’ version of “Blackbird” by himself. Part of the reason for such is that by the time the White Album rolled around in 1968, the Fab Four had pretty much grown weary of each other’s company. But also the song itself features a simple arrangement. And this arrangement consists of only three sounds (outside of the bird calls which are dubbed in). Owing to this, it can be rendered by a single musician.
“Blackbird” is noted for having been one of the most-covered songs in the music industry. And amongst the artists who have rendered their own versions are:
- David Crosby
- Stephen Stills
- Graham Nash
- Bobby McFerrin
- Jose Feliciano
- Dave Grohl
Also interesting to note is that in 2001 a collection of Paul McCartney’s poems were published. Said book being is entitled “Blackbird Singing”.
“Blackbird” and Linda McCartney
Another interesting tale surrounded this song is that Macca was in fact so popular back in the day that some of his diehard fans actually camped outside his home. In 1969 he would go on to marry a lady by the name of Linda McCartney. And the first night she actually slept over at his place, he performed “Blackbird” from his windowsill for his loitering fans. Paul and Linda remained married until Linda passed away in 1998.
What is the connection between “Blackbird” and serial killer Charles Manson?
Oddly enough as history tells it this is one of the songs which, in a roundabout way, inspired deranged serial killer Charles Manson. The track’s lyrics reportedly played a role in inspiring Manson to eventually go on his killing spree in the name of trying to incite a race war.