Paul McCartney Wrote His 1968 Solo Masterpiece “Blackbird” About Race Tensions In the US
The Beatles’ “Blackbird,” released in 1968, was written by Paul McCartney in response to the turbulent race relations happening in the United States at the time.
Published on The Beatles’ famous “White Album,” the song was recorded with Paul McCartney singing solo with just his guitar and a metronome for timing. Its simplicity is part of the beauty of the song, which seeps into your heart and sticks with you long after you hear it.
The guitar accompaniment for “Blackbird” was inspired by Johann Sebastian Bach’s Bourrée in E minor, a well-known lute piece often played on the classical guitar. As teenagers, McCartney and George Harrison tried to learn Bourrée as a “show off” piece. The music was ingrained in his subconscious, therefore, just waiting for the moment to arrive.
Paul McCartney wrote this about the civil rights struggle for African Americans after reading about race riots in the US. He penned it in his kitchen in Scotland not long after an incident in Little Rock, Arkansas, when the federal courts forced the racial desegregation of the Arkansas capital’s school system.
“I was sitting around with my acoustic guitar and I’d heard about the civil rights troubles that were happening in the ’60s in Alabama, Mississippi, Little Rock in particular,” he said. “I just thought it would be really good if I could write something that if it ever reached any of the people going through those problems, it might give them a little bit of hope. So, I wrote ‘Blackbird.'”