The song “Blackbird,” off of The Beatles’ infamous 1968 self-titled album is a classic that encapsulates the mood felt by many during the Civil Rights movement of 1960’s America. On Saturday, Sir Paul McCartney had the opportunity to meet the women who inspired this song.
According to Entertainment Weekly, McCartney met Thelma Mothershed Wair and Elizabeth Eckford backstage during his concert in Little Rock, Arkansas. The women were part of the Little Rock Nine, a group comprised of nine black students who in 1957, enrolled in Little Rock Central High School, which at the time was all-white. This came after the Brown v. Board of Education ruling in the Supreme Court that made segregation in public schools unconstitutional.
After the students were enrolled, Arkansas’ governor Orval Faubus protested their entrance to the school, which resulted in the Little Rock Crisis, according to Rolling Stone.
Both Wair and Eckford would later end up attending and graduating from universities in Illinois and have long careers in education and public works, according to the Little Rock Nine’s official website.
McCartney, shared a photo of him with Wair and Eckford, in a social media post.
Incredible to meet two of the Little Rock Nine--pioneers of the civil rights movement and inspiration for Blackbird. pic.twitter.com/QrnOQnqrFX— Paul McCartney (@PaulMcCartney) May 1, 2016
As reported by KSDK, Paul McCartney then took the stage at the sold-out show in Little Rock’s Verizon Arena to explain the meaning and inspiration of “Blackbird” to a crowd of 15,000.
“Way back in the Sixties, there was a lot of trouble going on over civil rights, particularly in Little Rock. We would notice this on the news back in England, so it’s a really important place for us, because to me, this is where civil rights started,” said McCartney, who felt inspired to write “Blackbird” in reference to the events of the Little Rock Nine.
“We would see what was going on and sympathize with the people going through those troubles, and it made me want to write a song that, if it ever got back to the people going through those troubles, it might just help them a little bit, and that’s this next one.”
The crowd was reported to be completely silent during the ex-Beatle’s speech and he was met with a roaring applause.
Fans took to social media to share this very special meeting between a music legend and two women who made history.
Phillip C. Hayes, a self-proclaimed Beatles fan, said that he initially didn’t know that “Blackbird” was “about Ernest Green and the rest of the Little Rock Nine.”
“Guess the old adage is true. You learn something new every day,” said Hayes, in a Facebook post. “Kudos to Paul McCartney for giving a show in my home town AND meeting with 2 of the LR9.”
“It was a moment etched in my soul,” said Michelle Reyes, after seeing McCartney’s concert. “No recording could replace the experience itself.”
Jack W. Hill, a writer for Arkansas Online, reviewed Paul McCartney’s nearly three hour show on Saturday and said he treated his fans “to a show of massive proportions.”
McCartney’s set-list included fan favorites like “Let it Be” and “Hey Jude,” but also included “In Spite of All the Danger,” by The Quarrymen (pre-Beatles) and “A Hard Day’s Night,” which he has never played during a solo concert.
“He even found time to bring some fans on the stage and comment on their signs and supervise a marriage proposal involving two Japanese fans,” said Hill.
Despite his busy schedule, Paul McCartney took time to remember his late wife, Linda, and celebrate the 25th anniversary of the brand of vegetarian foods they launched in 1991, simply called “Linda McCartney’s.”
“Linda was the inspiration for us becoming vegetarians. It is so exciting to be celebrating 25 years of her foodie legacy and see Linda’s wonderful pioneering vision of meat free eating and products go from strength to strength,” said McCartney in a statement.
[Photo by Steve Jennings/Getty Images]