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meaning of blackbird song


Beyoncé’s cover of ‘Blackbird’ has fans praising Paul McCartney after learning its true meaning

"I already loved Blackbird, and this cover, but knowing this history makes it so much more meaningful."

Beyoncé photo by Blair Caldwell via Beyoncé Press/Paul McCartney by Melissa Lopes via Flickr

Beyoncé covers "Blackbird' and fans are praising Paul McCartney

Beyoncé released a new album recently and unless you've been asleep for the past few weeks, you've likely heard about it. While everyone knew she was going to make a more significant splash into the country music genre, the details of the album were scarce until it's release. To many people's surprise it wasn't simply a country album, it was a genre bender that somehow seamlessly transitioned country, pop, R&B and rap all in one album, Cowboy Carter.

Country music legends like Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton made an appearance, with Parton introducing Beyoncé's cover of her infamous song "Jolene." While the spin on that country classic has the internet abuzz over the lyric changes that take the singer from begging to assertively telling Jolene to stay away, it's "Blackbird" that many can't get enough of.

"Blackbird" was originally written by Paul McCartney and sung by a little band he was in named The Beatles. Maybe you've heard of them. The song topped the charts in the 60s and will likely make its way to the charts again with Queen Bey's cover of it. But it's the meaning behind the song that has people talking.

The song was written at the height of the civil rights movement, and that 60s boy band from Britain never shied away from tackling social movements in their music. Fans of Bey's version of "Blackbird" are just becoming aware of McCartney's reason for writing the song in resurfaced interviews. The retired Beatle explains he wrote the song about seeing Black girls desegregate schools in the south, and more specifically, The Little Rock 9, a group of Black students that desegregated Little Rock Central High School.

The children brave enough to desegregate all white schools were met with verbal and physical violence. Ruby Bridges speaks about parents pulling their children from the classroom, leaving just her and the only teacher that would teach her.

McCartney reveals in the book, Many Years From Now, by Barry Miles, "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."

Elizabeth Eckford entering Little Rock Central High School

Associated Press 1957 via Wikimedia Commons

The revelation of the reason behind the song is evoking emotion and think pieces from Beyoncé fans. One woman shared a clip of the song along with the caption, "Beyonce does everything with such intention. Finding out that Paul McCartney wrote Blackbird to show support to Black women during the Civil Rights movement and Beyoncé decided to add Black country women to feature on the song."

"I already loved Blackbird, and this cover, but knowing this history makes it so much more meaningful, another user captioned her video.

One person wrote in the comments praises, "The Beatles get a lot of hate but they always stood on business! They refused to play segregated shows."

Another commenter marvels, "Then to have 4 black female country singers trying to integrate into country music and also waiting for their moment to arise as to sing with her, layers on layers."

Garrison Hayes gives a succinct breakdown of the song, the imagery and the civil rights movement all in one video, which you can watch below. If you were unaware of the original meaning of the song, now you know. One bonus that people continue to note is that it sounds like Beyoncé is singing over the original Beatles track.


Oh, an excuse to talk about Beyoncé AND Black history?? Count me in. Paul McCartney’s inspiration for the song Blackbird was actually the images of “black girls” integrating schools across the American south during the civil rights era. More specifically, he was inspired by the images of the Little Rock 9 in Arkansas, being assaulted and jeered by an angry mob. Beyoncé’s rendition takes this idea of Black girls being free and pushes it to the next level.