Beyoncé Just Covered the Beatles in the Most Authentic Way: By Honoring Black History

The “Blackbird” cover is an ode to Paul McCartney’s true intentions.

Andrew Harnik/AP

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.

Beyoncé’s new genre-defying (but country-forward) album Cowboy Carter dropped overnight. The internet is now poring over track choices, hidden meanings, and symbolism to add to Beyonce Lore.

One such choice is the cover of the Beatles’ iconic song “Blackbird”, from the White Album, as the record’s second track. Trust Beyoncé to reissue a song so redolent with Black history: The song was written about the Black Liberation struggle of the American civil rights movement. Watch:

 

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

A post shared by Mother Jones (@motherjonesmag)

“I was sitting around my acoustic guitar, and I’d heard about the civil rights troubles that were happening in the sixties in Alabama, Mississippi, Little Rock in particular,” McCartney told GQ in 2018. “And I just thought it’d be really good 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.” The name, “Blackbird”, was a play on British slang, “bird” meaning “girl.”

In particular, McCartney was inspired by the Little Rock Nine, a group of Black students who enrolled in Little Rock Central High School in 1957, after Brown v. The Board of Education heralded the start of school desegregation. On the eve of the teenagers’ first day of school, the Arkansas governor, Orval Faubus, sent in the state’s national guard to stop them, sparking a standoff and legal battle that lasted weeks. Eventually President Eisenhower federalized the National Guard and sent troops to protect the teenagers.

Now, Beyoncé has made me think about the incredibly brave little Black girls desegregating the American South: Ruby Bridges, Elizabeth Eckford, and many, many others, who faced hell. That’s who this song was written for, which adds even more significance to Beyoncé’s choice to feature the voices of four Black women on her version of this song—Tanner Adell, Brittney Spencer, Tiera Kennedy, and Reyna Roberts. It’s kind of perfect.

MOTHER JONES NEEDS YOUR HELP

We have about a $200,000 funding gap and less than a week to go in our hugely important First $500,000 fundraising campaign. We urgently need your help, and a lot of help, this week so we can pay for the one-of-a-kind journalism you get from us.

Learn more in “Less Dreading, More Doing,” where we lay out this wild moment and how we can keep charging hard for you. And please help if you can: $5, $50, or $500—every gift from every person truly matters right now.

payment methods

MOTHER JONES NEEDS YOUR HELP

We have about a $200,000 funding gap and less than a week to go in our hugely important First $500,000 fundraising campaign. We urgently need your help, and a lot of help, this week so we can pay for the one-of-a-kind journalism you get from us.

Learn more in “Less Dreading, More Doing,” where we lay out this wild moment and how we can keep charging hard for you. And please help if you can: $5, $50, or $500—every gift from every person truly matters right now.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate