Beyoncé’s Rendition Of ‘Blackbird’ Is An Ode To The Civil Rights Movement

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Beyoncé’s latest album, “Cowboy Carter,” released as the second act of her three-part project, has garnered significant attention since its release last Friday. On the album, country music legends Linda Martell and Willie Nelson appear, as well as duets with Miley Cyrus and Post Malone and a cover of Dolly Parton’s famed song “Jolene.”

In addition, Beyonce’s eighth studio album includes a soulful cover of the Beatles’ classic “Blackbird.” This rendition, titled “Blackbiird” on the album to align with its act ii theme, features a quartet of Black women country singers: Tanner Adell, Tiera Kennedy, Brittney Spencer and Reyna Roberts

The song, which was written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon and appeared on the Beatles’ 1968 self-titled album, is about finding hope and survival. According to McCartney, the song’s inspiration was the American Civil Rights Movement and specifically the experiences of the Little Rock Nine, a group of Black students who integrated a previously all-white high school in 1957 following their desegregation due to the Brown v. Board of Education ruling.

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The resistance to integration was so strong that federal troops had to escort the students, who were between 15 and 17 years old at the time, to their classes. They also faced verbal and physical attacks from some of their white classmates throughout the school year.

During a 2018 interview with GQ, McCartney explained that he wrote “Blackbird” to offer hope and encouragement to Black women during the civil rights movement. The fact that Beyoncé chose an all-Black female lineup of country artists to cover the song adds a further layer of significance to the cover the song. 

“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, and Little Rock in particular. So that was in my mind, and I just thought, ‘It’d be really good t if I could write something that if it ever reached any of the people going through those problems, it might kind of give them a little bit of hope,’ so I wrote ‘Blackbird”, 

McCartney explained that he wrote the song specifically with Black women in mind, which makes Beyoncé’s decision to cover it especially poignant.

“In England, a bird is a girl, so I was thinking of a Black girl going through this—you know, now’s your time to arise, set yourself free, and take these broken wings. One of the nice things about music is that you know a lot of people listening to you are going to take seriously what you’re saying in the song. So I’m very proud of the fact that the Beatles output is always really pretty positive,” he said.

Nearly 60 years after “Blackbird” was released, McCartney met two Little Rock Nine members, Thelma Mothershed Wair, and Elizabeth Eckford, while performing a concert in North Little Rock, Arkansas, in 2016. 

“It’s a really important place for us because this is, to me, where civil rights started,” McCartney said during the concert. “We would see what was going on and sympathize with the people going through those struggles, and it made me want to write a song that if it ever got back to the people going through those struggles, it might just help them a little.”

Beyoncé’s cover of “Blackbird” with an all-Black female ensemble pays homage to McCartney’s original intent while also highlighting the ongoing fight for representation in the music industry, particularly within the country genre. By featuring Black women artists in this rendition, Beyoncé underscores their resilience and significance in the racial justice movement.

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