Thursday, December 3, 2009

learn to fly.

          “Blackbird singing in the dead of night. Take these broken wings and learn to fly.” Those are two lines from the song “Blackbird” performed by The Beatles in 1968. The song was written by Paul McCartney but credited as Lennon/McCartney as were most of their songs. However, it was performed entirely by Paul McCartney alone. The song was recorded on June 11 1968 in Abby Road Studio in London. It was featured on The Beatles self titled album otherwise known as The White Album, their only original double album. This album was the first record released on The Beatles record label Apple after the death of their manager Brian Epstein. It was at this time that the band was beginning to fall apart. It has been said that this album was a combination of four individual talents who were often at odds with each other. 1970, just two years after the album’s release, would mark the end of The Beatles.

            The guitar accompaniment for “Blackbird” is an arrangement of Bach’s Bourree in E minor, a piece written for classical guitar.  Paul McCartney has said that when he and George Harrison were in their youth they would use that work as a show off piece as it has a prominent melody throughout. McCartney adapted a segment of it and used it in the introduction of the song and all throughout the piece.
The actual structure and flow of the song is inconsistent and uneven. It is played in the key of G on an acoustic guitar in a sort of finger picking manner. The timing varies from time meters 3/4, 4/4 and 2/4 with a chromatic bass line on the downbeat all throughout. A tapping can he heard all through the song. During recording of the song McCartney played along a miked metronome. In the mixing process the metronome was kept in the recording. The sound of birds chirping was also added to the song.

Paul McCartney has said that his inspiration for the song was the Civil Rights movement happening in America during the 1960’s. The word “bird” is British slang for woman. Thus we can assume that “Blackbird” refers to a black woman. In 2008 McCartney performed this song with an introduction stating how pleased he was with the progress in civil rights today. He also stated that he was glad that America now has a black president, showing just how many issues have been overcome in 40 years.
The lyrics are extremely symbolic, especially when paralleled with the civil rights movement of the time. Black people were suffering a great deal at this time. In this song McCartney writes “Take these broken wings and learn to fly,” which could easily represent the hurt and persecution the black people were going through. They were absolutely broken. McCartney also writes “you were only waiting for this moment to be free.” The civil rights movement was entirely about gaining freedom. These people were righting for their rights and couldn’t wait to “learn to fly.” This song has a very deep and political meaning.

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