How The Beatles Used ‘Blackbird’ As A Weapon Against Racism
via Just a Beatles fan/YouTube
A Solo Performance
In 2016, Paul McCartney met Elizabeth Eckford and Thelma Mothershed Wair – two women who were members of The Little Rock Nine, the group that inspired The Beatles classic hit “Blackbird”. He introduced the song at the Little Rock concert by saying, “Way back in the Sixties, there was a lot of trouble going on over civil rights, particularly in Little Rock. We would notice this on the news back in England, so it’s a really important place for us, because to me, this is where civil rights started. We would see what was going on and sympathize with the people going through those troubles, and it made me want to write a song that, if it ever got back to the people going through those troubles, it might just help them a little bit, and that’s this next one.”
Featured on the White Album, this was a solo performance by McCartney.
Written by Macca in his Scotland farm, he later performed it to fans who were waiting outside the gates. The lyrics were inspired by the civil rights movement in the US particularly in 1957 when nine black students faced discrimination after they enrolled in the all-white Little Rock Central High School. Arkansas governor Orval Faubus was against their entrance and even protested it thereby sparking what would be known as the Little Rock Crisis.
McCartney recalled, “I had in mind a black woman, rather than a bird. Those were the days of the civil rights movement, which all of us cared passionately about, so this was really a song from me to a black woman, experiencing these problems in the States: ‘Let me encourage you to keep trying, to keep your faith, there is hope.’ As is often the case with my things, a veiling took place so, rather than say ‘Black woman living in Little Rock’ and be very specific, she became a bird, became symbolic, so you could apply it to your particular problem.”
With only a guitar accompaniment, McCartney recorded it alone.
He explained to KCRW DJ Chris Douridas in 2005, “So, I was doing explanations, and I actually just remembered why I’d written “Blackbird”, you know, that I’d been, I was in Scotland playing on my guitar, and I remembered this whole idea of “you were only waiting for this moment to arise” was about, you know, the black people’s struggle in the southern states, and I was using the symbolism of a blackbird. It’s not really about a blackbird whose wings are broken, you know, it’s a bit more symbolic.”