Paul McCartney’s ‘Blackbird’ Actually Has A Sequel (Of Sorts)

The finger-picking pattern recurs in his work...

Paul McCartney has written numerous classic songs, working in a range of genres. Whether it’s The Beatles’ mop-top hits, Wings’ trip to Nigeria, or his own solo electronic diversions – we’re looking at you, ‘Temporary Secretary’ – the Liverpool-born songwriter has a near unrivalled catalogue.

Recently, his song ‘Blackbird’ has re-entered the public consciousness. Covered by Beyonce on her album ‘Cowboy Carter’, the Texas-born star reinvents the song, claiming its central narrative of Black feminine power as her own.

Famously written as an ode to the women of the Civil Rights movement in the United States, ‘Blackbird’ has become a go-to for anyone looking to learn finger-picking on the guitar – beautiful in its simplicity, it boils down some effective techniques into something that is incredibly contagious.

Initially released on ‘The White Album’, the song came as The Beatles experimented with different modes of songwriting. This one seems to have stuck, however, with Paul McCartney later returning to it, and penning a sequel – of sorts.

2005 song ‘Jenny Wren’ was released on his internationally successful solo album ‘Chaos And Creation In The Backyard’, and its tale of yearning echoes McCartney’s earlier work. Simple and relatively unadorned, it immediately earned comparisons with ‘Blackbird’ – comparisons the songwriter himself has encouraged.

In The Lyrics he recalls: “I think that when you’re sitting down with an acoustic guitar, there are a few ways you can go. With ‘Blackbird’, it’s a guitar part that you sing against, rather than strumming chords, and I think ‘Jenny Wren’ has the same idea. I think I was probably writing another ‘Blackbird’, and intentionally so”.

The lyrics reference the Charles Dickens character Jenny Wren, introduced in his novel Our Mutual Friend. At the time, Paul McCartney said: “A wren is one of my favourite birds, little English bird, it’s the smallest English bird and I always feel very privileged to see a wren because they’re very shy and it’s just, Ah! So a combination of all of that. It’s a favourite bird for me, and then instead of making it a bird, again like ‘Blackbird,’ only more definitely this time I made it a woman, you know, a girl.”

Re-visit ‘Jenny Wren’ below.

Related: Paul McCartney Interviewed

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