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Blackbird Singing: Poems and Lyrics, 1965-1999 Hardcover – April 17, 2001

4.4 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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

From Publishers Weekly

Sir Paul McCartney painter, composer and songwriter (even the Queen taps her feet to "Penny Lane") has been steadily writing poetry along with the lyrics memorized by much of the world. British political poet and satirist Adrian Mitchell (who is well-known over there, and best represented by Heart on the Left: Selected Poems 1953-1984 over here) worked as a Daily Mail pop critic in 1963 and published the first national interview with the Beatles, remaining friends with McCartney since. In consultation with Sir Paul, he has selected from among McCartney's works. There are the grand and expected songs, such as "Hey Jude," "Yesterday" and "Eleanor Rigby"; ditties like "Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da" and surreal oddities like "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window"; elegies for McCartney's wife, Linda Eastman McCartney, and for friend Ivan Vaughan; and a variety of verse, such as "To Find the Joy": "Seagulls spiral whirl/ Against the sullen oak/ No scientific thought informs/ Their madcap tribal swirl." As Mitchell writes: "Clean out your head. Wash out the name and the fame. Read these clear words and listen to them decide for yourself." (Apr. 23) Forecast: While McCartney is of a completely different cast than Bob Dylan, his appeal may be even greater than that of the latter great poet/songwriter. Expect strong and steady sales after a solid showing on bestseller lists. Mitchell's latest collection, All Shook Up: Poems 1997-2000, is due this month and includes "Gourmet Architecture, Troy, New York": "It might take a year or two/ But, with its cherry-red perfect bricks/ United by vanilla ice cement/ I could eat the Marine Midland Bank." (Bloodaxe [Dufour, dist.], $19.95 paper 128p ISBN 1-85224-513-1.
-, $19.95 paper 128p ISBN 1-85224-513-1)
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 185 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1st edition (April 17, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393020495
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393020496
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 0.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #532,223 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on April 16, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Paul McCartney writes the best melodies since Schubert. But I've always liked his words. There are striking little images everywhere--"like being caught in a tape loop in a big dance hall," "long live all of us crazy soldiers who were born under calico skies," "the rain exploded with a mighty crash as we fell into the sun," etc., etc. I'm usually so caught up in the music I don't pay attention to the words. It's nice to have them in front of so I can catch the clever and unique twists McCartney gives to words. He's sort of a combination of Blake, Lewis Carroll, and e. e. cummings. But even after I read his magical, mysterious words, I want to go put on one of his albums so I can hear the music that goes along with them.
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Format: Paperback
This book looks like very little on the surface, especially if you know by heart (or own) the lyrics to many Beatles/McCartney songs. But this anthology is more than just lyrics, because the short selection of lyrics that were edited into this are ones that look and sound like poems. Actually there are many new (and many ones I had never read) poems in here, and most are not even songs ("Mother Nature's Son", "Here, There, and Everywhere", "For No One", and "Helter Skelter" aren't to be found in this). Therefore, it is a moving collection of poignant, amusing, and insightful poetry by a master lyricist with feeling. Although Lennon may have written the most notorious Beatles compositions, McCartney proves that he was the Beatle with the gift of both words and emotion.
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By A Customer on April 21, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I must say, I wasn't expecting much, but Paul McCartney actually writes some excellent poetry. Of course the song lyrics are fun. But the poetry really reads like quality contemporary poetry that you might read in the PARIS REVIEW, or THE NEW YORKER. His paintings were so bad in his book of paintings last year, my expectations were low for this foray into poetry. But he did a good job. My hat is off to Sir Paul.
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Format: Hardcover
Paul McCartney has been my favorite musician for a long time now. His music has filled moments of my life with joy, anticipation, and wonder--al of the good things that we live for. I've had his tunes stuck in my head as I've walked through spring fields after it's been winter for a seemingly endless time. I've listened to his albums while going for drives on sunny mornings and felt the warm sunlight refracted through the windshield on my face.
Paul's music is also good for a rainy day when you can smell the wet dirt, or a foggy morning when your imagination starts to wander. Paul's music is wonderful. I always probably would have said that it's his sense of melody and chord structure that I really like.
But reading Paul's lyrics naked here, without the clothing of the music, I realize that I also really love the playfulness of the words themselves. This is a great book if you're a Beatles fan or a McCartney fan, because it'll make you come to the songs in a new way. You can see how inventive McCartney really is, not just musically, but also lyrically.
He paints with his words in much the same way that he paints with his music: in a colorful way, and when his mind is wandering, there he will go...
Great fun for any fan of music or poetry. If you like this book, you should also check out McCartney's recent book of his paintings. That one's really good, too.
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By A Customer on April 26, 2001
Format: Hardcover
For those of you who've read Jim Morrison's poetry and gagged like me (and I'm actually a big Morrison fan), you might expect the same tripe from McCartney. Morrison was a bigger student of poetry, but Paul's the better Poet. Granted, Paul has had more decades to his life to read and write poetry, which cetainly is relevant. But Paul's actually a decent poet. I just read a line of Paul's "The critics don't like this poetry." I haven't read any of the criticism. But I think it's decent poetry. Yes, in a perfect world you'd be buying a volume of a starving young (or old) poet, instead of this one. But, if you're going to blow money on a celebrity vanity project, you could do worse than BLACKBIRD singing.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My take on this book of poems is simple: he's been writing poetry since Yesterday ("Oh, yesterday came suddenly"), so it is not at all surprising that someone should have drawn his attention to this fact, and convinced him to release his first collection of poems. Many of his song lyrics are full of poetry, and on the occasion of the death of his friend Ivan Vaughn (who took him to the church fete at Woolton in 1957 where he met John Lennon) he found himself writing a poem with no thought of attaching a melody. More poems followed, as well as more lyrics. Poetry does not occur in large dollops usually, but in a line, a phrase, a couplet, sometimes a whole sonnet. McCartney's song lyrics are full of lines, phrases, couplets, and whole songs which are real poetry: compressed, fresh language that changes our perceptions, catches our hearts, imbeds itself in our brains before we know what's happened, just as his melodies do. His poetry has the same qualities that his lyrics do: an irrepressible sense of play and of wonderment; an enormous warmth that never gets sloppy, wit, curiosity, and great economy of means. He covers a wide range of experience in this volume: from the depths of grief to the pleasures of being married to your best friend to little jokes about Tchaikovsky. He will alternately move you, amuse you, and make you think, as he always has.
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