lackbird is one of Paul McCartney’s many little masterpieces. Sparse and efficient, like Yesterday, it is one of those “just right” moments The Beatles managed to hit so many times.
Over the past fifty years Blackbird’s guitar accompaniment has become one of a relatively small handful of influential guitar pieces – like Classical Gas, Stairway to Heaven, Windy and Warm and their ilk – that “everyone” seems to either be able to identify or has actually taken a stab at while learning to play guitar.
Interestingly, the inspiration for Blackbird’s guitar part was found in yet another well-known guitar piece, J.S. Bach’s Bouree in E minor. More recently, Sir Paul has explained how he and George used to play a bastardized version of Bouree as a party piece to impress people with how musically worldly they were.
As you can hear, and as Sir Paul acknowledges, they got it wrong – real wrong. But part of The Beatles’ genius was being able to take little seeds like that and turn them into brilliant music of their own. McCartney did just that in this case, using some of the fingering from their twisted version of Bouree as the seed for what became the guitar part for Blackbird.
With my penchant for arranging Beatles tunes this is one song I couldn’t ignore. Usually when arranging The Beatles for solo guitar it is an issue of compressing the full sound of a band down onto six strings. Given Blackbird features just a single guitar and voice, one might assume that made it much easier to arrange for solo guitar. Paradoxically, not so. But that is a story for another time.
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I‘m just sitting here today looking at the scene outside my window: a blanket of snow on the trees and ground all wrapped in a crisp temperature of -27C temperature (-39C wind chill). As I look out I think to myself, “Could there be anything more delightfully Christmassy than this?”.
OF COURSE THERE COULD! I’m not an idiot. There are many, many nicer things to conjure up thoughts of Christmas. But these are the cards I’ve been dealt with today, so I’m trying to make lemonade out of the frozen lemons I’ve been handed.
When I was much younger we used go carolling at this time of the year. But even in spite of our youthful invincibility, I’m pretty sure we didn’t do it when it was this cold. That was a different time when a band of 20 or so teenagers showing up at night on the front lawn of a house laughing and falling all over each other didn’t elicit a defensive response of hitting 911 on the speed dial by the residents within the house. People would often open their door, and some actually stand out on the front step, to listen as we worked our way through a brief recital of a few of the seasonal chestnuts; stumbling over the lesser known verses (eternally grateful for the sing along sheets the Leader-Post provided each year) but usually delivering the melodies in a more or less recognizable form.
“Hark! It’s Harold’s Angels! Oh Joy” is a medley of two of the carols we would sing. Of course, they’re more commonly known as Hark The Herald Angels and Joy to the World. The titles are slightly twisted because I like doing slightly tongue-in-cheek arrangements and they’re usually instrumentals because it’s easier than trying to sing with your tongue in your cheek.
For the guitaristically inclined, there is a transcription available that you can tackle whilst procrastinating getting the Christmas shopping done, decorating the tree, or just writing those pesky Christmas cards.