It’s been a while, so let’s check in with our heroes real quick.

John and George were still at the ashram in Rishikesh, but their time there was just about up. They may not have known it yet; I’m under the impression that once the accusations were made against the Maharishi, things moved fairly quickly. So at this point they may still have been under the impression that they’d be there for another month.

Not much information seems to exist about Paul and Ringo’s activities during this period. Ringo, as we have seen, had an ever-evolving set of hobbies to keep him occupied. Paul, being Paul, was mostly likely writing songs. It’s not clear which ones but “Blackbird” probably dates from somewhere in this period. According to Steve Turner’s A Hard Day’s Write,

There are a number of stories surrounding the creation of “Blackbird.” One has it that Paul woke up early one morning in Rishikesh to hear a blackbird singing, picked up his guitar to transcribe the bird song, and came up with the music. Another suggests that he was inspired by news reports of race riots in America and translated the plight of oppressed racial minorities beginning to flex their muscles into the image of a bird with broken wings struggling to fly….

Paul has said that the tune was inspired, not by a blackbird’s singing, but by his memory of Bach’s Bourrée in E minor (from the lute suite BWV 996) that he had learned as a teenager from a guitar manual. He was partly thinking of the racial situation in America and wrote it as if offering encouragement to the typical black woman facing oppression.

It’s likely that he started the music in India, influenced by Donovan, and completed it between his return on March 26 and the demo recordings at George’s house late in May. This makes it more likely that the lyric was written in the aftermath of Martin Luther King’s death on April 4.

If that’s the case “Blackbird” is an oddly tranquil piece of music to be inspired by a fraught and fast-moving situation; but of course Paul’s physical distance from the U.S. and position of privilege made it seem a tad less urgent than it might have felt to, say, an auto worker in Detroit. His heart was in the right place, certainly.

Even so, “Blackbird’s” gentleness didn’t stop Charlie Manson from interpreting it as an incitement to race war. Charlie was a crazy person, of course, and no authority on anything; but in a strange way his idea of “Blackbird” was more appropriate to the moment at hand than Paul’s sweet, naive, well-intentioned message.

And there I go again, getting ahead of myself. There will be plenty of time for consideration of these matters in the weeks and months to come. Over and out for now.

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