Blackbird - Reviews

Quoted from Many Years From Now:

p. 485: Paul wrote 'Blackbird' at his farm in Scotland. Shortly afterwards, on a warm summer night back in London, he sat next to the open window of his top-floor music room and sang the song, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. For the fans gathered in the darkness beyond his gates this unwitting free concert was the sort of magical moment that made their vigil worthwhile.

PAUL: The original inspiration was from a well-known piece by Bach, which I never know the title of, which George and I had learned to play at early age; he better than me actually. Part of its structure is a particular harmonic thing between the melody and the bass line which intrigued me. Bach was always one of our favourite composers; we felt we had a lot in common with him. For some reason we thought his music was very similar to ours and we latched on to him amazingly quickly. We also liked the stories of him being the church organist and wopping this stuff out weekly, which was rather similar to what we were doing. We were very pleased to hear that.

I developed the melody on guitar based on the Bach piece and took it somewhere else, took it to another level, then I just fitted the words to it. 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.

This is one of my themes: take a sad song and make it better, let this song help you. 'Empowerment' is a good word for it. Through the years I have had lots of wonderful letters from people saying, 'That song really helped me through a terrible period.' I think that the single greatest joy of having been a musician, and been in the Beatles, is when those letters come back to you and you find that you've really helped people. That's the magic of it all, that's the wonder, because I wrote them with half an idea that they might help, but it really makes me feel very proud when I realise that they have been of actual help to people.

The blackbird itself was taken from an ornithological record in the EMI sound archives. Paul: 'He did a very good job, I thought. He sings very well on that.'

Posted: 20 sep 2009

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