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Blackbird by The Beatles

Album: The White AlbumReleased: 1968
  • Paul McCartney wrote this about the civil rights struggle for blacks after reading about race riots in the US. He penned it in his kitchen in Scotland not long after Little Rock, when the federal courts forced the racial desegregation of the Arkansas capital's school system. McCartney told Mojo magazine October 2008: "We were totally immersed in the whole saga which was unfolding. So I got the idea of using a blackbird as a symbol for a black person. It wasn't necessarily a black 'bird', but it works that way, as much as then you called girls 'birds'; the Everlys had had Bird Dog, so the word 'bird' was around. 'Take these broken wings' was very much in my mind, but it wasn't exactly an ornithological ditty; it was purposely symbolic."
  • Only 3 things were recorded: Paul's voice, his acoustic guitar, and a tapping. According to the video The Complete Beatles, the tap was not a foot or metronome - the Master was intentionally scratched. If you listen closely you will notice that is sounds like a scratch on a record. Birds were dubbed in later.
  • This was one of 5 Beatles songs McCartney performed on his Wings Over America tour in 1976.
  • Blackbird Singing is the title of a book of poems McCartney wrote.
  • Brad Mehldau recorded an instrumental jazz version of this in 1997.
  • In 2002, The Doves covered this on the soundtrack to the TV show Roswell.
  • The guitar accompaniment for this song was inspired by Bach's Bourrée in E minor for lute. This is often played on classical guitar, an instrument Paul McCartney and George Harrison had tried to learn when they were kids. McCartney told Mojo magazine October 2008: "We had the first four bars (of the Bourrée in E minor) and that was as far as my imagination went. I think George had it down for a few more bars and then he crapped out. So I made up the next few bars, and (sings his four-note variation Bach's theme) it became the basis of Blackbird."
  • Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl told Q magazine that he feels this is the greatest Paul McCartney song. He commented: "It's such a beautiful piece of music, perfect in composition and performance, and in its lyrics and in the range of his voice. Just learning that song made me a better guitar player and gave me a better appreciation of songwriting. To me it's just musical bliss."
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Comments: 100

Paul double tracked the vocals in parts. That gives it that distinct sound.Jim - West Palm Beach, Fl
RE: Richard of worldpress.com... Blackbird is w/out a doubt one of the most amazing tunes written for acoustic guitar. I find it depressing that one of the few British contributions to this discussion is a link to his personal blog.Eliot - Chicago, Il
I went to see Paul in concert (Detroit 2011) and he can still sing this song really well. This is my theme song.Grayson - New Orleans, La
I think it's funny how many people think this is tried and true fingerpicking style. It's not. Paul doesn't do a traditional fingerpicking style. He uses his own pick/pluck-strum style that pretty much unique to him. He used the same technique in Mother Nature's Son, Calico Skies, and Jenny Wren, among others. Just look at him play it in any video. Even Sean Lennon commented recently that he had been playing it wrong all these years by just using a fingerpicking method. It is NOT the Travis fingerpicking style John uses in Dear Prudence. Paul said he never really had the patience to learn it.Kedame - Tuscumbia, Al
I saw a video on youtube of Paul sitting down in a chair in a recording studio recording Blackbird. He was wearing a pair of bright red shoes ( probably tap shoes) which he was tapping... left right left right etc. on the wooden floor as he played Blackbird. This doesnt prove it is the sound on the recording but it strongly suggests the possibility and is also very interesting to see.Priscilla - Harvard, Ma
Check out http://richoliff.wordpress.com/ for the REAL story behind this beutiful songRichard - Gretton, United Kingdom
the song 'Blackbird' had actually been written for Angie McCartneys (Pauls stepmother) mum by Paul as he sat on the end of a bed with an old Grundig reel-to-reel tape recorder. It was inspired by a blackbird singing in a tree outside their home. I know this because Angie told me this herself last Friday in an interview on British radio. It was all very moving! All the best Ang! xRichard - Gretton, United Kingdom
Blackbird is about as simple a song as it gets.Simplicity is the essence of art.I totally agree with Sylvia from London England.No artist can out do the Beatles,the Beatles are in a class all by themselves.George - Belleville, Nj
I heard it was Lennon hanging out in Eric Clapton's back yard and he ask for the guitar and just started jamming about wat he saw in a dream GUESS I AM WRONG!Austin - Lawndale, Ca
You seen? Sorry, I feel the need to correct your grammar. Either way, I'm watching The Beatles On Record, and it looks like the tapping was made by clogs.K - Nowhere, On
I seen Paul McCartney do this song twice in concert, most recently at Citi Field. The first time I seen him in Madison Square Garden. He stated that it was written in regards to the racial tension in America in which they paid much attention to at the time. Then he went on to tell how he and George used to do the Bach Song, and he actually played the 4 bars he knew then proceeded with the song. On the second time in Citi Field, he said he wrote this for the racial inequality to uplift the black women struggling in the south in America. Being that it was Paul himself, the man who wrote the song, stating the same introduction twice, I'll tend to believe him over Simon CowellAnwar - Scotch Plains, Nj
it actually is a metronome, go read "Here, There and Everywhere" by Geoff Emerick, the Beatles' recording engineer. ALSO, it was recorded outsideKatira - New York, Ny
wonderfully soothing song. perhaps the beatles' best acoustic, and thats saying something. today's june 18th; happy birthday paul :)Chloe - St. Louis, Mo
This morning, walking on the lakeshore I live on, looking at blackbird nibbling cattails, I realized, *that* is the same birdsong blackbird (at least, a certain song blackbirds nearby here) makes - a natural fifth! That is, beginning line is a natural fifth--two notes up. "Blackbird sitting in the" is low, "dead of night," up.) Now, having read "Songfacts" about "Blackbird" I realize it wasn't written that way, but I still am enjoying that for my morning. And having that come into my head and out, singing it this morning back to the birdcalls made for a happy beginning to my day (although the birds may not have agreed!).Valya - Clear Lake, Wa
Great song. Beautiful lyrics. I have to say that it sounds much prettier when the girl in across the universe sings it. But still an amazing song.Caroline - Atlanta, Ga
When I was a kid my dad convinced me that he was the fifth Beatle. Every time Blackbird came on he would say, "I wrote that song!" I have to say I passed on the madness to my own kids :)Mel - Riverbank, Ca
Charles Manson didnt dig the CSNY version, so neither do I.Jeff - Austin, Tx
2 things; it is not difficult to play, and some people have a "built in" metronome. I also love the chromatics used in the guitar!Jim - Ayr, United Kingdom
This song has a fake ending-well, I qualify it as a fake ending. Also, Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young covered this song as well.Peter Griffin - Quahog, Ri
In 1989 a book was published titled,"Beatlesongs",which I happen to have puchased. In the acknowledgements it states,"This book could not have been possible without the numerous authors and interviewers who did the original research and asked the right questions of the various Beatles". Under the song Blackbird it states it was McCartney inspired while reading a newspaper account of U.S. race riots in mid-1968 and wrote this song as a metaphor of the struggle for the black civil rights. But Lennon takes credit for one line in the song. It was recorded June 11th, 1968 at Abbey Road. There was no mention of the song being called "Sparrow".Scott - Oskaloosa, Ia
McCartney said this song was made for Sarah McLachlan after he heard her version she made for the movie I Am Sam....Tiffany - Nonya, Oh
This song IS about the civil rights movement. I have seen Paul McCartney 4 times and the last 2 times I saw him he did Blackbird both times and mentioned that when this song was written, it was written about a black girl during that time period.Jules - San Jose, Ca
Simon Cowell (A.I.) says that the song originally was called "sparrow". He states that Paul saw a sparrow fly down to a water puddle that had oil in it. The bird got some of the oil on it and was actually darker so Paul changed the tittle to "blackbird". Cowell did make this statement in front of 30 million viewers so I tend to believe it. Which then shoots the "racial"theory down.Steve - L.a., Ca
The bird song is indeed a British blackbird, a member of the thrush family, but it was whistled by bird impressionist Percy Edwards.Ed - Deal, England
I have something kind of funny to share about this song. I saw this interview on youtube with Paul and he was talking about this song and how he wrote it and played it etc and he said something like "well, I'm not very good at fingerpicking" HES CRAZY!!!!!! This song is pretty darn hard to finger pick if you ask me.Christy - La, Ca
This song is soooooooo amazing!! I absolutely love it. I don't take lessons and can't read tabs so I had to figure out the whole thing by ear. The chords arent that difficult but the finger picking is pretty fast. When you listen to the song it sounds like he is strumming, but he is actually picking the strings very very rapidly. If you want to play this song the right way you have to finger pick it. If you can't figure it out I dont know where you would learn it though. All of the lessons on youtube were wrong. But yeah anyway this song ROCKS!!!Christy - La, Ca
Alexandra from Toronto- I heard the same thing when I was at the concert in Milwaukee! This song is so pretty! Certainly Paul at his best! I also read somewhere that Paul has a fake fingernail on his left pointer finger from all the crazy cords he plays in this song. How weird!Meredith - Wauwatosa, Wi
I know the song's about the black civil rights movement in general but I've always believed the title wasn't a reference to a "black bird" struggling during the movement but a play on the term "Jim Crow," which came to being in the late 19th century from a black & white minstrel act & became a racial slur used against black people. But that's my interpretation, anyway!Becky - Yorkshire, England
This song was recorded outside of abby road studios in the back....McCartney wanted the sound to sound outdoorseyish...so thats what geoff (one of the peeps that recorded him at abbey road...) gave him...Anthony - Fredonia, Wi
Nick - that's because it is easy. I had never ever had guitar lessons, and had hardly played, but I looked up the Tab and got it down at age 12. believe me, it's an incredibly easy songKristen - Portland, Or
Yeah, Colin, it's just standard tuning, I was throwing out a curveball to find out how many posters return to the site, read the new comments and respond or not... but it's so amazing, the sheer mass of talent the Beatles shared; I truly believe they are Angels reincarnated at the beginning of the Age, to lead the way...Phillip - Fresno , Ca, Ca
great riff to play
a little trickey to get the timing rite tho
Brendan - Calgary, Canada
It's in standard tuning... It's not that difficult to play. I allways thought it was about WW2 planes...Colin - Old York, England
i first heard this song on the roseanne episode. big fan of tht show.....&& this song. i never thought the beatles would be a group id be into but there awesome!Me. - Not Telling You : ), Ky
The clicking is Paul tapping his feet on a piece of wood put there deliberately to make the tapping louder. There's a photo showing the mic used to pick up the tapping along with a detailed description of the entire session in "Recording The Beatles"Joe - West Boylston, Ma
Actually Phillp there is this singer named Jesse McCartney ( no relayionship to Paul) u may or may not know him but he tried to sing this song. You can watch the video at that adress. But it was awful the way he did it.
http://youtube.com/watch?v=7NqaD1xwcmQ
Krissy - Boston, Ma
I agree with Krissy, there will NEVER be another version remotely comparable to the White Album; it would be like some Hollywood actor reciting Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream"...
For all the little 13 year old guitar players talking about how quickly and easily they nailed this "simple" song - please post the tuning you used... I am an award-winning record producer and the ONLY person I have ever heard duplicate this note-for-note with the EXACT fingering and droning as Sir McCartney was taught by the COMPOSER to this virtuoso and the alternate tuning was so far out I had never even contemplated it! I want to see if your rendition contains Paul's oh-so-subtle nuances or if you merely reproduce notes at different places on the guitar neck. Please post your tuning for the world to evaluate, sir...
Phillip - Fresno , Ca, Ca
The infamous American mass killer, Charles Manson, said this song was about a fight between blacks and whites... That is so bloody stupid...
The song was obviously about the American civil
rights movement. Yeah, I'm a brit living in the not so good US of A..
Joel - Marsten Heath
Hello.. Regine, of NYC, NY

The artist you are seeking is Dionne Farris, formally of Arrested Development.I love this song.
I have the original on my Ipod and the Farris CD. Listening to Paul sing this song brings peaceful thoughts. Hearing Farris' version brought to mind the struggles of black woman from slavery to civil rights. I was floored when I discovered it was written in that very spirit..WoW : )
Sabrina - Richmond, Va
In listening carefully to the 'tapping' sounds, I noticed that it is an alternating high/low pattern. One sound more 'bright', the other more 'dull'. Similar to the 'tick tock' sound of a clock. So I think it's safe to say that the sound was not made by tapping feet, but by an electronic metronome.Tanya - Safford, Az
I had never thought it was foot tapping, but according to Francie Schwartz, who was present at the recording of the song, it's foot tapping.
GREAT song.
Cristina - Santiago, Chile
The Cafe Wha? band in New York plays this song so beautifully!! The first time I was there was the first time I heard this song and it made such an impression on me. The way the bassist, Byron, sings this is so touching and wonderful. I ended up choosing this song at my father's funeral last year and it sent everyone into the ugly cry. This is the most beautiful song ever!Anca - The Hague, Netherlands
just a suggestion..if you like blackbird go find McCartneys "jenny wren", from his solo works, the similarities are astonishing.Julia - Newark, De
Great song, actually one of the first songs I learned when I started playing guitar. In fact I just played it like an hour ago, pretty fun.Buzz - Towntown, Mi
I love this song! I am using it for an English paper, comparing its optimism to the optimism that Holden in Salinger's Catcher in the Rye maintains throughout the book. It makes me happy!Megan - Wouldn't You Like To Know!, Mt
I had a bet with someone. He said Billy Preston wrote this song. I know Billy remade it, but Paul definitely wrote it, correct? What year did Paul write it and what year did B.P. redo it?Carl - Hershey, Pa
In fact, if you listen to some old Beatleg material of Paul doing some acoustic stuff with Donovan you hear(though the details are tough to discern)Paul talking abt. the british term 'bird' for a woman or girl;joking about not wanting any black women to be offended by the song title, and at some point he mentions THAT THE SONG IS A TRIBUTE to Diana Ross???!! Dave, Lincoln,NEZontar - Lincoln, Ne
We all know that this song was remade several times, and some are very good. For example, Sarah MacLachlan is mentioned a number of times, but how would I find all the remakes? I'm specifically looking for a beautiful version of this song by an African American woman in the 90s.
Does anyone know how I can find an answer to the first or second question?
Regine - Nyc, Ny
I heard a version of Burton Cummings and Randy Bachman doing it. Randy Bachman said he was given it by someone involved with The Guess Who and that he thought no one would have ever heard it again.Warrinder - A Town, Canada
This song inspired "The Wings" by Gustavo Santaolalla. This song is better known as the Brokeback Mountain theme. Listen and compare the two songs. You'll see I am right.Vera - Charleston, Sc
This is an amazing song and was stuck in my head for weeks, and I still need to make a dove out of hands while singing it!!Michelle - Antigonish, Canada
Sounds best live, beautiful song.Linus - Hamilton, On, Canada
To me this is the coolest acostic song ever! It's so awesome b/c it's very uplifting.Julian - Anaheim, Ca
This song is on teh album for I AM SAM, its is done very well by a women, the entire soundtrack are beatle songs, Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam) does hide your lvoe away and it kicks ass, i would recommend buying it I AM SAMAce - Kingston , Canada
Alex, It's Paul tapping his foot. I have a video of the recording session, and he was CLEARLY tapping his foot.Yuya - Kyoto, Japan
Paul was tapping his foot. In the Anthology Dvd's they show paul playing this while tapping his foot. Although it obviously isnt the version on The White Album, but Paul is a pretty recourceful guy and foot tapping seems to suit his style better.Robb - Hamburg, Ny
I love this song. The guitar is fabulous! About my favorite Paul song. I don't think people should even bother covering Beatles songs! They should know better that it is not possible to recreate the awesomeness that their songs had originally! Boy are some of the covers I've heard embarrasingly horrible. No matter how hard people try, they will never be as good as The Beatles!Sylvia - London, England
"You know what? It is a metronome. I just emailed Paul McCartney, and he told me. But I'm not allowed to give out his e-mail address!"

OK that's obviously a lie.

It's quite apperently just someone tapping.
Tyler - Brantford, Canada
You know what? It is a metronome. I just emailed Paul McCartney, and he told me. But I'm not allowed to give out his e-mail address!Alex - Seattle, Wa
i was at Paul's concert on october 10th at the acc in toronto and he said that when he was younger he and george used to play the guitar outside their house and they would play a song by bach. the little riff from that bach song actaully turned into black bird and that is how it came to be. just thought you'd be interested!Alexandra - Toronto, United States
Great song, great origin. That simple acoustic guitar of Pauls was something else. This is my girl friend JTs favorite.Lee - Clearwater, Fl
The Dave Matthews Band covered this last night at the Gorge in Washington. The Gorge is a huge venue for DMB, and this was the first time it has been played in concert. Keyboardist Butch Taylor has been teasing it occasionally, and last night the whole band launched into an impromptu cover of it.

Just wanted to give you all a heads up.
Clay - Yardley, Pa
Paul said in a concert that the song "Blackbird" was about a black girl during the civil rights movement. He said in England, women were called "birds" at the time. I heard that the tapping sound in this song is actually a plastic or paper cup being tapped on a table.Jim - Winchester, Ma
This song is just so amazing. I absolutly LOVE it. When I first heard it, it was in the movie: I am Sam and was done by another artist- who didnt TOTALLY destroy it- but once I found out who it was really by- the Beatles- I was immediatly went out looking for the record. I listened to it, and they do an AMAZING job and it has been probably my favorite for a long time. Great song.

And, thanks to this song- I've become a Beatles fan!
Mandy - Calgary, Canada
Crosby Stills Nash performed this at Woodstock right after SUITE: JUDY BLUE EYES. If you listen to the 3 disc WOODSTOCK LP you can hear Stills strum the chord of Blackbird. In 1994 the CSN version of Blackbird was released on the WOODSTOCK DIARY cd.Barry - New York, Nc
Another great cover is Bobby Mcferrin's, in which he makes all the sounds and effectsYoni - Rehovot, Israel
I learned this song in guitar in about half an hour... its beautiful... It seems to be much more complicated but in fact is very easy... a man who wrote such a beautiful song like this one can only be a geniousAlejandro - Mexico D.f., Mexico
One of my favorites by Paul, great guitar work not that hard to play. Just makes you feel good. the beatles are amazing.Adam - Rochester, Ny
Must have had a whole lotta influence over Maya Angelou when she wrote " I know why the caged bird sings" http://www.americanpoems.com/poets/Maya_Angelou/13474

They use alot of the same imagery and have about the same meaning.
Ric - Green Bay , Wi
Hey, I love the Beatles. But, I Just wanted to say something. Kathy, Liz doesn't actually want to strangle you. She was only a little peeved that you wrote "Beetles" instead of "Beatles". She was merely using hyperbole.Ross - Independence, Mo
Paul said in a recent interview with Guitar World Acoustic Magazine (his first interview with a guitar magazine in 10 years!), that he and John were attempting to play Bourree in Em by JS Bach by ear. The sloppy result ended up as Blackbird. I've been playing guitar for about 2 years now, and Blackbird is very easy. I learned Bourree first, so that was interesting to hear Blackbird in Bourree rather than hearing Bourree in Blackbird. It was like time travel...sorta...maybe...Mike - Chicago, Il
Y'all probably don't care but I saw a Beatles tribute show at a club recently. It's a club I go to a lot with my dad, so we know a lot of the people there, and that's the reason we were able to get in, because it was completely sold out. Well anyway, the doorman dedicated 'Black bird" to me, and I thought that was pretty cool. He had told us that when he had learned the song, that he went home later and couldn't remember any of it. Well, he remembered a lot of the song when he performed it this time, but he kept stopping a lot. i think it's because he was so nervous that he wouldn't remember it. Anyway, i think it's really cool that he dedicated it to me, and by golly, he was determined to get through that song, which he did. and despite stopping a lot, I think he did a good hob.Stefanie Magura - Rock Hill, Sc
are you kidding? sounds like Paul's tapping his foot to me!Stefanie Magura - Rock Hill, Sc
Kevin Spacey did a suprisingly beautiful (yet short) rendition of this beaute.Jay - Geneva, Cheezland
Ha yes. Would you not get tired of tapping your foot. Plus it sounds exact. Usually when you tap you cannot keep such a steady thing. And still keep the timing. Nontheless, it is much too complicated.

UM THE BIRD DOESNT SOUND LIKE A BLACKBIRD. Would you people stop saying BEETLES :O
Lola - Street, Md
Sarah McLachlan is performing this on her 2005 "Afterglow" world tour. It was amazing! (She's amazing)John - Miami, Fl
"George Martin mentions that birds were NOT used on this song, but that they hired a guy that performed birdcalls professionally to provide the sounds" Probably a Musicians' Union thing.Nessie - Sapporo, Japan
At Glasto Macca said it was about a struggling black woman he saw specifically, but about the civil rights struggle for blacks in general.Mel - Uk, England
I've played guitar for 2 years... I learned it after one year... I'm 13 years old... and it's very easy... it's an amazing composition, don't get me wrong... it's just... easyBrad Nash - Rochester Hills, Mi
I'm quite certain that in the Anthology documentary George Martin mentions that birds were NOT used on this song, but that they hired a guy that performed birdcalls professionally to provide the sounds.Sigmoid - Vancouver, Canada
Liz,
Thank you for responding to my question. However, I'm not quite sure why it is you would want to strangle me. It was a simple question about a Beatle's song, I was not trying to cause any problems.
Kathy
Kathy - Lincoln, Ne
This song was mentioned in the book The Perks of Being a Wallflower. It is a modern coming of age novel. The group of friends in the book loved this song.Kristen - Aurora, Il
Re: Yes, I follow Ted ... Blackbird is one the best Beatles "heartbreak" songs!!Tobi - Bonn, Al
This is not a hard song to play on guitar!If you have played guitar for 10 years and can't fix this one, then you must consider a new instrument...Morteb - Stavanger, Norway
Paul sure does like Birds, Blackbirdm, Bluebird.
I love Sir Paul and his music
Sean - Oconomowoc, Wi
crosby, stills, nash and young also covered this. Probably the best cover version in my opinion.Jesse - New York, Ny
The "tapping" is a metranomeN01mportant - Parkersburg, Wv
I agree w/ rob, i mean it doesnt really sound like tapping as much as it sounds like a dubbing. Although this can be argued, it would depend on what shoes n all. But to me its more of a dubed version, i always thought tht, tapping never was in my mind, cept when i came here and read it.Josh - Coral Springs, Fl
Well Melvin, unless you have the recording of the original recording session, I still beg to differ. According to "The Beatles Recording Sessions: The Official Abbey Road Studio Session Notes 1962-1970"
- - - -
"Tuesday, 11 June, 1968. While John was busy experimenting with sounds, Paul started and finished the recording of 'Blackbird', a lovely new composition which featured his own lead vocal, double-tracked in places via an overdub, accompanied by his acoustic guitar and a metronome gently ticking away in the background. It was a straightforward recording - no reductions necessary - and was perfected by the 32nd run through, just 11 of which were complete."
Rob - Carrollton, Tx
I was working with a guy from Colombia. We had nothing in common and nothing to talk about. I started whistling this song. He automatically recognised it. A 2 hour discussion about the beatles and music in general ensued. He is now bass player in my band. Shows how musin brings people together!Ronan - Dublin, United States
wrong Rob, it was actually Paul tapping his foot, not a metronome. i got a video of the recording...Melvin - Sydney, Australia
"Take these sunkin eyes and learn to see..." My friend has been playing guitar for over 10 yrs and he admits this song is extremely hard 2 play. Now imagine how hard it would be solo on stage in front of 80,000 people. Sir Paul does it and makes it look easy...Nick - Buffalo, Ny
Also on the Wings' album "At the speed of sound".Scott Baldwin - Edmonton, Canada
This song is the reason I love the Beatles.Ted - Pittsburgh, Pa
This song was on the White Album and Charles Manson and his "family" listened to it alot and the investigators tried to make a connection between the word "arise" (in the song) and the word "rise" which was written in blood at one of the murders.Megan - Lambertville, Mi
I read that although they wanted blackbirds, they settled for bluebirds.
Liz, Phoenix, AZ
Liz - Chandler, Az
the Foo Fighters also covered this song... lolDash - New York, Ny
The bird singing isn't a blackbird, it's a thrush, I think.

Paul performed the song at this year's (2002) 'Party at the Palace' for Queen Elizabeth II of England.

Pete Porchos Brisbane
Pete - Brisbane, Australia
Sarah McLachlan sang this song for the I Am Sam soundtrackCarolyn - P'ville, Ca
Re: Blackbird - that's not Paul tapping his foot; that's a metronome he had in the studio with him when clicking away in the background.Rob - Carrollton, Tx