Back in 1957, nine black students enrolled in the then white-only Little Rock Central High School despite staunch segregationist backlash from the Arkansas government and the LRCHS student body itself. 11 years later, Paul McCartney used that historic moment as the basis for “Blackbird” from The Beatles’ 1968 self-titled record (aka The White Album). Fast forward another 48 years, and Macca finally got to meet some of the women who inspired his song.
McCartney’s meeting with Thelma Mothershed Wair and Elizabeth Eckford, two members of the Little Rock Nine, occurred backstage at the rock icon’s concert in Little Rock on Saturday evening. He tweeted a photo of himself with the two women, writing as a caption, “Incredible to meet two of the Little Rock Nine— pioneers of the civil rights movement and inspiration for Blackbird.”
Of course, McCartney had to play “Blackbird” during the set that night. He introduced the song by telling the crowd, “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 this is, to me, where civil rights started. 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.”
Watch that extra special acoustic rendition of “Blackbird” below.