20 June 2013
The lyrics of The Beatles’ Blackbird song used to puzzle to me. What blackbird sings in the dead of night? In eastern North America I didn’t know of any blackbirds that did that.
My worldview was too small. North American blackbirds are icterids: Red-winged, rusty, Brewer’s, tri-colored, yellow-headed. In England blackbirds are in the thrush family, a single species Turdus merula very similar to the American robin.
The Eurasian blackbird rivals the wood thrush for virtuosity and grace notes with his own complex, varied and beautiful song. His syrinx allows him to sing two songs simultaneously and even harmonize with himself. Listen to one singing at 8:30pm in Norfolk, England.
In the video above a blackbird starts singing loudly on a perch, then drops to the ground to whisper-sing just like an American robin. Also like our robin he sings at night.
The Beatles recorded Blackbird almost 50 years ago this month in June 1968. Though a blackbird sings on the soundtrack the song is not really about a bird. According to Wikipedia, “Since composing “Blackbird” in 1968, McCartney has given various statements regarding both his inspiration for the song and its meaning. In one of these scenarios, he said he was inspired by hearing the call of a blackbird one morning in India. In others, he recalls writing it in Scotland as a response to racial tensions escalating in the United States during the spring of 1968.“
(video from YouTube)