Suggest a Songfact / Artistfact
Album: Tug Of WarReleased: 1982Charted:
This is a song about racial harmony, using piano keys as a metaphor. The black keys on a piano are ebony, and the white ones are ivory - the song asks why we all can't lie together in perfect harmony like the keys. (thanks, Jeremy - Seattle, WA)
McCartney wrote this song with the intention of singing it with Wonder, who he admired. It appeared on McCartney's 1982 album Tug Of War.
Beatles producer George Martin produced this track and the rest of the Tug Of War album.
This was a huge hit in the US, staying at #1 for 7 weeks. Listeners quickly tired of the song, however, and it got very little radio play after it dropped off the charts. In the following years, the song was often mocked as superficial and trite, and a stark contrast to the many McCartney and Wonder songs that have stood the test of time. In 2004, Blender magazine ranked this #10 on their list of the worst songs of all time.
In 1982, Saturday Night Live did a skit mocking this song where Joe Piscopo (playing Frank Sinatra) sings it with alternate lyrics along with Eddie Murphy portraying Wonder. Sample lyric: "You are black and I am white, you are blind as a bat and I have sight."
McCartney originally conceived the idea for this song after watching English comedian Spike Milligan playing on a TV show a segregated piano, on which the white and black keys were kept apart, in order to demonstrate how one couldn't work without the other. He subsequently penned the song after a marital tiff with Linda. McCartney said in to Mojo magazine March 2009: "It was like, 'Why can't we get it together- our piano can.'"
In October 2007 BBC 6 Music listeners named this their worst duet ever.
Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder recorded the duet together, on the island of Montserrat in the West Indies. However, due to conflicting work schedules, both laid down their parts for the song's music video separately.