Blackbird, by Paul McCartney (Lennon–McCartney)
I love this song and its sombre yet hopeful tone seems right for this bizarre time in which we find ourselves. Paul has given various stories about his inspiration, one being the US civil rights movement. But today, as some of us sit in isolation, others work in dangerous environments, and still others struggle to survive, it seems we’re living with broken wings and sunken eyes. May we learn to fly again soon.
My history with this song
I was 12 years old when The White Album was released. My dad brought home a copy and we sat on the floor in the living room and listened to it on the “Hi-Fi”. I spent the next week wearing out the grooves on Blackbird learning to play it on my guitar. 52 years later, when I was considering this recording, I saw an interview with Paul McCartney where he said “everyone plays Blackbird wrong,” with no further explanation. So I loaded a copy of the track into Logic and played along, realizing just how wrong I’d been playing it all these years. Carefully isolating each bar in the song, I learned the correct fingering and laid down a solid guitar track. I decided to sing in my natural baritone rather than stretching for 25-yo Paul’s high tenor (I can do it but it sounds horrid).
Notes on this guitar
I was going to record this on my Martin D-18 (Paul used a D-28) but the open G was buzzing due to a worn groove in the nut (this song has an open G drone throughout, so that was a non-starter). Being in the middle of a global pandemic, I was not able to quickly get a new bone nut for the Martin so I decided to try the song on an electric. I like how it came out.
This guitar is one I built for myself. The body and neck are from Warmoth Custom Guitar Parts, the pickups are Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates, and the tuning machines are Steinberger Gearless Tuners (incredibly accurate and stable). It has a Wilkinson bridge and LSR Roller nut for added precision and stability. This has become my go-to guitar for many uses — it’s remarkably flexible and plays beautifully.
As always, Love is all you need.