Bye Bye Blackbird

Album: Bye Bye Blackbird (1926)
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  • "Bye Bye Blackbird" is a feel-good song; it was written in 1926 by composer Ray Henderson and lyricist Mort Dixon. According to Don Tyler in his 2007 book Hit Songs 1900-1955: American Popular Music of the Pre-Rock Era, it was Henderson's third hit of the year. First popularized by Eddie Cantor, this standard has been recorded by numerous artists. A full arrangement (by Jeff Muston) was published in London by Francis, Day & Hunter at 3s6d, copyright 1954; the original was copyright 1926 by Jerome H. Remick & Co and 1948 by Remick Music Corp of New York. Gene Austin's original version was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2005; Josephine Baker's version is best forgotten.
  • The song retained its popularity through the Great Depression, probably because of its optimism, and has featured in a number of films, including most notably and unsurprisingly the 1953 biopic The Eddie Cantor Story. The following year it reached #1 in the UK, in a manner of speaking. Boogie woogie pianist Winifred Attwell included "Bye Bye Blackbird" in her instrumental medley "Let's Have Another Party," which held the top spot for five weeks. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alexander Baron - London, England, for above 2
  • The chart-topping 1993 soundtrack for Sleepless in Seattle, starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, features a version from Joe Cocker.
  • Diana Krall performed this in the 2009 gangster movie Public Enemies, starring Johnny Depp and Christian Bale.
  • Much speculation has been made that this song is about a prostitute. Some suggest the narrator is a young man who is disenchanted by the big city, where he has become mixed up with a prostitute, and ready to return home to his wholesome girlfriend ("sugar sweet so is she"). Or is it about the prostitute leaving the mean streets and going home to mother? No matter what the interpretation, most agree that the blackbird represents a dark period that the narrator is finally willing to move beyond.
  • Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney both covered this in their post-Beatles career. Starr included it on his solo debut, Sentimental Journey, while McCartney recorded it for his 2012 album, Kisses On The Bottom.
  • During the American Civil Rights Movement, segregationists adopted this as an anti-black anthem - spinning the title into hate speech against African Americans - blasting it from loudspeakers during the Selma to Montgomery marches. Many African American artists, however, have covered the song before and since, including Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Josephine Baker, Miles Davis, and Sammy Davis Jr. John Coltrane also performed a near 18-minute jazz rendition on his album Bye Bye Blackbird, which earned him a posthumous Grammy Award in 1982 for Best Jazz Solo Performance.
  • Peggy Lee's version is featured in Peter Jackson's 2005 remake of King Kong.
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