We know the year was 1968 when we first heard “Blackbird,” this hypnotic simple song sung by Paul McCartney on the Beatles White Album. But we had to wait until 2002 to find out definitively what McCartney meant by “you were waiting for this moment to arise…”
In an interview with KCRW’s Chris Douridas in Dallas, Texas, McCartney said,
“I had been doing poetry readings. I had been doing some in the last year or so because I’ve got a poetry book out called Blackbird Singing, and when I would read “Blackbird”, I would always try and think of some explanation to tell the people, ’cause there’s not a lot you can do except just read the poem, you know, you read 10 poems that takes about 10 minutes, almost. It’s like, you’ve got to, just, do a bit more than that. So, I was doing explanations, and I actually just remembered why I’d written “Blackbird”, you know, that I’d been, I was in Scotland playing on my guitar, and I remembered this whole idea of “you were only waiting for this moment to arise” was about, you know, the black people’s struggle in the southern states, and I was using the symbolism of a blackbird. It’s not really about a blackbird whose wings are broken, you know, it’s a bit more symbolic.”
One of the things I like about song lyrics is that there are a lot of interpretations, so the song lives on many levels. This link has the lyrics and about 100 folks give their take away. Makes for some interesting reading.
BTW, the guitar accompaniment for “Blackbird” was inspired by J.S. Bach’s Bourrée in E minor, a well known lute piece, often played on the classical guitar. It’s a complicated piece to play and McCartney says neither he nor George Harrison could master it as a “show piece,” so he took the basic theme and adopted it for opening of “Blackbird” and then carried it thought the song.
“Take those broken wings and learn to fly. All your life…”