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Blackbird Singing: Poems and Lyrics,…

Blackbird Singing: Poems and Lyrics, 1965-1999

by Paul McCartney

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I always find it interesting when song lyrics are presented as written poems. It is a useful transition to witness. Many songs – rock, pop, blues, folk ballads – have clear antecedents in written poetry even if they go beyond that. Indeed, the written phase of poetry can be seen as an interlude between modern songs and the ancient lyrics of, say, Homer or Sappho. Adrian Mitchell, in his introduction, rightly places song lyrics alongside the melodies of William Blake's 'Tyger, Tyger' or Robert Burns' 'A Red, Red Rose' (pg. xviii). Much of what is now only written down was once sung.

Putting Paul McCartney into this debate is an interesting experiment, and one that largely works. As one-half of the greatest songwriting partnership of the 20th century, his lyrics are as worthy of any as an example of the familial link between poetry and song. 'Blackbird', 'Mull of Kintyre', 'Here Today', 'Hey Jude', 'Yesterday' and 'Eleanor Rigby' all still shine on the page, whilst 'Junk' and 'The Long and Winding Road' in particular are lesser songs that benefit from the transition.

Where Blackbird Singing falters is in its actual poems, as opposed to songs-as-poems. This is not what McCartney is famous for, and rightly so. Some are decent, and none are embarrassing, but they remain unmemorable. McCartney's gift has always been his melody, and it is this what still shines through in his lyrics on the page. But when trying to write more conventional poetry he seems to become a bit more self-conscious, trying hard rather than letting it flow as he might when composing songs. Consequently, these conventional poems often seem to be trying to be obfuscatory and deliberate rather than allowing for the natural talent that leaps from his songs. ( )
  MikeFutcher | Oct 11, 2016 |
This is a book of McCartney's poems, including the words to songs, some which he wrote with John Lennon, and some he completed by himself.

There were some obscure poems that were not easily read. It was interesting to try to read words to some of the popular songs as though they were stand alone poems. In that context, many were difficult to follow.
  Whisper1 | Dec 3, 2015 |
Ok, true confession: I have written poetry, but oddly, have never been much of a fan of reading poetry. Unless it's in music/lyric form. Don't ask me why.

I have always adored Paul McCartney. I think he is a brilliant writer, great singer, and not too hard on the eyes, either. I wanted to really read this book but somehow, it wasn't working out too well, at first. I found it difficult to just *read* words I only knew as a tune, if that makes any sense. Then, I got an idea.

As I paged through, sitting in front of my computer, I enlisted the help of youtube. And through the magic of the internet, I listened to as many of these poems as I could, if they had been recorded (not all had been, of course). One after another, it was a trip down memory lane, watching Paul sing, alone, in live concerts, at the White House, with his various bands, over the years. I even found some great video clips of conversations (for example, with Carl Perkins); yes, I am easily sidetracked but why not?

This was one of the most enjoyable *reads* I've had in a long time! ( )
  jessibud2 | Mar 25, 2014 |
Simple. Clean. Poetry is so subjective. ( )
  NicoleHC | May 16, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0393020495, Hardcover)

It is nearly impossible to scan any of Paul McCartney's lyrics without hearing the Beatles' music in the background, dictating rhythm, pace, and mood. But as Blackbird Singing demonstrates, the effort is worth making. This first collection brings together early and late poems, along with some of Sir Paul's greatest hits (including the words to "Yesterday," "Lady Madonna," "Penny Lane," and "Hey Jude.") In his introduction, editor and fellow Liverpudlian Adrian Mitchell urges readers to "wash out the name and the fame" and examine what's on the page. If you can do this, you're in for a pleasant surprise.

True, some of the lyrics appear trite on paper--"Heart of the Country" and "Mull of Kintyre" are notable offenders. Even "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" seems naked and frail without the rousing brass section. But McCartney's deeper vulnerability comes to the surface in "Dinner Tickets," a poem about his childhood. And "Standing Stone" recounts a gutsy fable about a man using the power of imagination to fend off the enemy: he erects a standing stone, "a weathered finger to the sky" and learns to be "at peace with peace." "Irish Language" boasts a rare streak of irony as the narrator admires the way "those Irish chappies" swill the language around in their mouths and dribble it through their fingers. The song ends with a beautifully timed punch line: "The Beatles were a bunch of Micks." Blackbird Singing closes with poems dedicated to the author's late wife that are tender, sparse, and startlingly honest. --Cherry Smyth

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:32 -0400)

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Brings together the lyrics of his songs, moving elegies to his wife, Linda, and poetry that has never been seen before.

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W.W. Norton

2 editions of this book were published by W.W. Norton.

Editions: 0393020495, 0393324095

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