- Blackbird (song)
Name = Blackbird
22 November 1968
track_no = 11 of disc 1
11 June 1968
Genre = Folk
Length = 2:18
Audio sample? = yes
Misc = Extra musicsample |filename=Beatles blackbird.ogg |format=
Tracks = Side one
Back in the U.S.S.R."
Wild Honey Pie"
The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill"
While My Guitar Gently Weeps"
Happiness Is a Warm Gun"Side two
Martha My Dear"
I'm So Tired"
Don't Pass Me By"
Why Don't We Do It in the Road?"
Mother Nature's Son"
Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey"
Long, Long, Long"Side four
- "Revolution 1"
Cry Baby Cry"
"Blackbird" is a
Beatlessong from double-disc album "The Beatles" (also known as "The White Album"). Blackbird was written by Paul McCartney, who was inspired to write this while in Scotlandas a reaction to racial tensions escalating in America in the spring of 1968.cite book |title=The Beatles as Musicians: Revolver through the Anthology |last=Everett |first=Walter |location=New York, London |publisher=Oxford University Press |pages=190 |isbn=978-0-19-512941-0 |year=1999]
McCartney revealed on PBS's "Great Performances (Paul McCartney: Chaos and Creation at Abbey Road)", aired in 2006, that the guitar accompaniment for Blackbird was inspired by
Bach's " Bourrée in E minor", a well known classical guitar piece. As kids, he and George Harrisontried to learn "Bourrée" as a "show off" piece. "Bourrée" is distinguished by melody and bass notes played simultaneously on the upper and lower strings. McCartney adapted a segment of "Bourrée" as the opening of "Blackbird," and carried the musical idea throughout the song.
The first night
Linda Eastman, who would later become his wife, slept over, McCartney played it to the fans camped outside his house.cite book |first=Ian |last=MacDonald |authorlink=Ian MacDonald |title=Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties |year=2005 |pages=291-292 |edition=Second Revised Edition |publisher=Pimlico (Rand) |location=London |isbn=1-844-13828-3]
Composition and recording
The song was recorded
11 June 1968in Abbey Road studios, with George Martinas the producer and Geoff Emerickas the audio engineer.cite book |first=Mark |last=Lewisohn |authorlink=Mark Lewisohn |title=The Beatles Recording Sessions |year=1988 |pages=137 |publisher=Harmony Books |location=New York |isbn=0-517-57066-1] McCartney played a Martin D 28 acoustic guitar. The track includes recordings of a blackbirdsinging in the background.
The structure of the song is quite uneven, featuring a good amount of
free versephrasing, with the timing varying between 3/4, 4/4 and 2/4 metres. It is in the key of G, with the bass and melody lines on the guitar progressing mostly in parallel tenths, all the while maintaining an open G-drone on the third string. The song is played with a unique combination of fingerpicking and (a kind of) finger-strumming, though the bass notes are always played by the thumb on the downbeat.
The song starts with an intro whose chords progress through I-II7(no5)-I6/3 up to the I chord played an octave higher. The verse begins with the same progression before moving into a long phrase starting on the IV chord with the bass notes ascending in half-steps up to the VI chord, before descending (also in half-steps) back to the IV. They descend still further back to the I chord, before launching into an instrumental
interlude, a shortened four-measure backward recounting of the verse. The second verse follows, though this time it skips the interlude, going directly into the refrain. [The refrain consists of a two-round chord progression: VII (flat) (add9)-VImin(no5)-I7/5(no3)-IV, first time defined to a Imin/3 followed by the IV chord, and second to a I/3 chord, merging to the same chord progression as the interlude.]
An instrumental reprisal of the verse, followed by the refrain (with vocals), leads back into the intro phrase whose last chord is repeatedly played for a couple of measures before making way for the introduction of the birds-chirping overdub. There is another brief instrumental interlude, which contains phrases from the intro and the verse, before going into a reprisal of the first verse and ending with an outro, containing the same sequence of chords as the first interlude.
The song uses only a guitar, vocals, a steady tapping, and birdsong-overdub. It is disputed whether the birdsong-overdub is an actual Blackbird. The tapping rhythm, which sounds like either a foot tapping or a mechanical metronome, is in fact, according to
The Compleat Beatles, an intentional scratch made on the Master.
However, there exists a video that shows McCartney alternatingly rapping his feet on the floor, while singing an early version of the song, producing the percussion that can be heard in the recorded version. [ [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3uqGCqMYaHQ "McCartney Blackbird's early version", "youtube.com"] retrieved 19 June, 2008.]
Covers and cultural references
Many bands and performers have made
cover versions, including Phish, the Grateful Dead, Billy Preston, Kenny Rankin, Keller Williams, Carly Simon, Bonnie Pink, the Guess Who, Arturo Sandoval, Jesse McCartney, Dionne Farris, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Doves, Brad Mehldau, Harpers Bizarre, Bobby McFerrin, Jaco Pastorius, Dave Grohl, John Denver, Drake Bell, Dave Matthews Band, O.A.R., Elliott Smith, Justin Hayward, Marillion, and Maria João& Mário Laginha.
Elements of the lyrics "("take these broken wings and learn to fly")" have re-appeared in other pop songs over the years, notably the number one hit "Broken Wings" by
Mr. Misterand the Savage Gardensong, "Gunning Down Romance" from the "Affirmation" album. Sections of "Blackbird" were incorporated into The Waterboys' cover of the Van Morrisonsong "Sweet Thing" on their album " Fisherman's Blues", and into the end of U2's " Beautiful Day" during their set at the Live 8concert in Hyde Park, Londonon July 2 2005, as well as some of the shows on the Vertigo Tour. Dynamite Hackreferences it at the end of their cover of "Boyz-N-The-Hood." Sarah McLachlanperformed it for the soundtrack of the 2001 film I Am Sam. Evan Rachel Woodperformed it in the 2007 film "Across the Universe". Carly Smithsonperformed it on " American Idol" on March 18, 2008during the Beatles second theme night. Gustavo Santaolalla, a composer, was inspired by "Blackbird" when he wrote "The Wings" for the movie " Brokeback Mountain". Charles Mansontook the song, along with "Helter Skelter" and " Piggies", as a metaphor for black-white race relations in the United States, which purportedly inspired his murders. Sara Gazarekwrote a medley of "Blackbird" and " Bye Bye Blackbird" that appears on her 2005 debut album, "Yours". Cris Barbercovered "Blackbird" on her 2008 album entitled "This Moment to Be Free", a line taken from the song. Eddie Vedderalso performed the song several times on his 2008 solo tour.
*Paul McCartney: Acoustic Guitar, Vocal, and tapping.
* [http://www.stevesbeatles.com/songs/blackbird.asp Song lyrics]
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