Blackbird - The Beatles

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The Beatles

Blackbird (1968)

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McCartney stated that the guitar accompaniment of "Blackbird" was inspired by Bach’s Bourrée in E minor. This is often played on classical guitar, an instrument Paul McCartney and George Harrison had tried to learn when they were kids.

He writes in his autobiography:

“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 it became the basis of Blackbird.”

In an interview, he said of the track:

“There’s nothing to the song. It is just one of those ‘pick it and sing it’ and that’s it”

However in yet another discussion on the song, he says that it was influenced by the struggle for civil rights in the US, adding that he was first thinking of a black woman-but then he says he switched them so the blackbird would be a symbol for the black woman – which is “less specific” than “black woman living in Little Rock, Arkansas.”

McCartney explained:

“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.’ Take these broken wings’ was very much in my mind, but it wasn’t exactly an ornithological ditty; it was purposely symbolic.”

On the track, there are only three things recorded: McCartney’s voice, his acoustic guitar, and a tapping sound. The sound of birds was dubbed in later. by a person who performed birdcalls professionally.
The tapping is Paul tapping his feet on a piece of wood. It was put there deliberately to accompany the guitar technique McCartney used of “tapping” -where a string is fretted and set into vibration as part of a single motion of being pushed onto the fret-board- sound louder and deeper.

Beatle scholar Alan Pollack commented that composition is a marvel of deceptive simplicity: the raw materials used are both simple in nature and small in number. He adds:

“Yet, they are recombined with a quiet, clever economy that makes them sound quite rich. It also features a surprisingly large amount of free-verse, uneven phrasing.”

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