The Real Story Of The Beatles’ “Blackbird”

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The Beatles classic song “Blackbird” is not about an actually blackbird. No, it’s much deeper than that.

Paul McCartney
Paul McCartney (photo via Beatles Music History)

On the official recording of “Blackbird,” which first appeared on White Album, it’s just Paul McCartney on guitar and vocals.

He wrote this song on his farm in Scotland, according to The Beatles Bible. And the first time her performed it was at the gates of his house in front of fans waiting outside.

Margo Stevens was one of those fans outside of his house.

“We had the feeling something was going to happen,” she said. “Paul didn’t take the Mini inside the way he usually did – he parked it on the road and he and Linda walked right past us. They went inside and we stood there, watching different lights in the house go on and off.”

McCartney made his way upstairs and opened the window.

Paul McCartney
photo via Beatles By Day

“Are you still down there?” he said to the small crowd.

They were.

“He must have been really happy that night,” Stevens remembers. “He sat on the window sill with his acoustic guitar and sang Blackbird to us as we stood down there in the dark.”

When McCartney wrote the lyrics, he was pulling from the Civil Rights Movement happening in the United States. The “blackbird” in the song represented the average black woman of that era.

“I had in mind a black woman, rather than a bird,” McCartney said. “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.'”

When McCartney recorded the song on June 11, 1968, he was alone with just a guitar. He recorded it in Abbey Road’s studio two (at the same time John Lennon was recording Revolution 9 in studio three).

Out of the 32 takes of “Blackbird” he recorded, just 11 were complete from beginning to end. But it was the final take that ended up on the recording.

Below you can hear one of the many unused takes:

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Caleb Murphy is a musician who writes about music. His writing appears in Consequence Of Sound, Pittsburgh City Paper, and some other cool places. He blogs about music at calebjmurphy.com.
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