Beyoncé Used Original Beatles Backing Track for ‘Blackbird’ on New ‘Cowboy Carter’ Version, With Paul McCartney’s Blessing

If the backing track on Beyoncé’s new recording of the Beatles’ “Blackbird” sounds especially familiar, there’s good reason for that. It turns out that the cover version she recorded for her “Cowboy Carter” album uses instrumental elements — McCartney’s acoustic guitar and foot tapping — taken from the Beatles’ original master recording, released in 1968. McCartney confirmed their FaceTime meetup recently online.

That information was confirmed to Variety by a rep for McCartney, who cited Beyonce’s team, and other sources.

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The still-gradually-expanding credits for “Cowboy Carter” don’t make mention of the backing track being borrowed from the Beatles’ 56-year-old original. While McCartney is listed as playing guitar on the song in the credits (which have been unveiled gradually since the album’s release last Friday and still appear incomplete), and is also listed as one of the new track’s producers, there is no indication in the wording that his work on the track was not newly recorded.

McCartney wrote and recorded the song by himself in 1968 for the Beatles’ self-titled double-LP, aka the White Album, letting the other members of the group sit it out as he accompanied himself on acoustic guitar and percussive foot-tapping. That’s exactly what is heard on Beyoncé’s fresh rendition, which has been retitled “Blackbiird,” in a spelling alteration similar to others on the album to reflect its “Act II” theme. Although the song is also credited to John Lennon, like a majority of latter-day Lennon-McCartney songs, it was written entirely by just one of them — and, in this rare instance, recorded by just one member as well.

McCartney has not yet commented on Beyoncé’s cover version of one of his signature ballads, although it can be assumed he’s greatly supportive, given how well the context of this new recording befits his stated original intent.

McCartney has said that he wrote “Blackbird” in response to the civil rights movement that was at a fever peak in America at the time, associating it with Black women especially (hence the play on the British slang “bird,” for girl”). Extending that theme, the Beyoncé version gives featured credit for additional harmony vocals to four Black women who are in the arena of country music — Tanner Adell, Tiera Kennedy, Reyna Roberts and Brittney Spencer.

This is not the first time McCartney and other rights-holders have allowed the use of “Blackbird” tracks in another artist’s recording. Previously, in 2019, with McCartney’s permission, Rachel Fuller took the original Beatles track and added lush new parts by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Chamber Choir of London.

Beyoncé’s version also adds some strings and a violin and bass part, all credited to Khirye Tyler, who is credited as co-producer alongside McCartney and Beyoncé. But as for not just the guitar but the tapping (sometimes mistaken in the past for a metronome), that’s 100% Paul, recorded on Jun 11, 1968, exactly a week before he turned 26.

The new track is missing just one thing that appeared on the White Album version: bird noises. No word on whether the audio technology Peter Jackson’s team developed to separate audio elements for the “Get Back” documentary was necessary to de-bird “Blackbird.”

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