The Beatles’ Paul McCartney wrote the song “Blackbird” to acknowledge what he witnessed during a visit to America and watched on television in his home country of England.
Paul McCartney was visiting America when it is said that he heard a woman screaming. He looked out to see a Black woman surrounded by policemen. They had her handcuffed and were beating her. McCartney thought that the woman must have committed a terrible crime. He later found out “her crime” was sitting in a section on the bus reserved for whites.
McCartney was shocked, there was no segregation in England. But, this is how Blacks were treated in America, the land of freedom. After McCartney and the Beatles returned to England, he remembered what he saw, how he felt, and the unfairness of it all.
In England, much of the televised news from America was of racial chaos. What was happening in Little Rock, Arkansas, and across the South during the Civil Rights movement.
McCartney saw the news coverage of 15-year-old Elizabeth Eckford attempting to attend classes at Little Rock Central High School as an angry mob followed her, yelling, “Drag her over this tree! Let’s take care of that n**ger!'” and “Lynch her! Lynch her!” “No n**ger b*tch is going to get in our school!”
McCartney couldn’t believe this was happening in America. He realized that these girls were being mistreated, simply because of the color of their skin. He sat down and started writing.
At a concert in 20xx, McCartney met two of the women who inspired him to write one of his most memorable songs, Thelma Mothershed Wair and Elizabeth Eckford, members of the Little Rock Nine. To McCartney, they were stars.
During his performance, McCartney share with the audience how he was inspired by the courage of these women from the other side of the continent.
“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 it’s (Blackbird) this next one.”
He explained that when he started writing the song, it was to acknowledge the mistreatment of Black girls and woman who endured injustices during the civil rights era in the late 1950s. In England, girls were referred to as “birds.” His desire was to write something that recognized Black girls and women. The song “Blackbird” was written in 1968 to acknowledge the mistreatment of Black girls in America during the Civil Rights era. The music was adapted from a classical piece by Boch. The lyrics are:
“Blackbird singing in the dead of night,
Take these broken wings and learn to fly.
All your life,
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.
Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see.
All your life,
You were only waiting for this moment to be free.
Blackbird fly, Blackbird fly
into the light of the dark night.”
Watch Paul McCartney perform Blackbird here. McCartney said that he and the Beatles cared passionately about the Civil Rights movement, “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.”