*A quote from Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jr on “Blackbird”
“Blackbird, fly … even when the bodies of our babies are shot down or choked to death … their spirits continue to fight to equality. Those of us that are still here in the nest of life will continue this peaceful war for justice. Over the front of the Supreme Court, is carved in marble: Equality For All. Our question is, do we have it? Since we don’t, when do we get it? Just the two of us have been waiting over 70 years. It’s time … past time, for us to turn this around and realize that Civil Rights are Human Rights. We thank Questlove, EE1, BMG and our Producer, Nic Mendoza, for giving us a platform at this age, to use our artistry as part of the activism we’ve always practiced. When we began working on Blackbird, we were deeply concerned about what was happening in our country. It felt as though we were moving backwards, versus marching to progress. When we began singing as individual artists, and during our Original 5th Dimension days, we were in the heat of the Civil Rights Movement. We lived through the usual indignities … an 8’ x 8’ cross burner on our lawn … police pulling a gun on Billy thinking he was robbing a home we owned … we had the memories of Emmett Till … the assassinations of Dr. King … Malcolm X … and so many other people … but today, we are particularly heartbroken and focused on our blackbirds being slaughtered and shot, so that our babies cannot return to the nest of home. During the Chauvin Trial, over the horror of what happened to George Floyd … while that’s going on, a few blocks away, a 20-year-old father named Daunte Wright is shot by a policewoman with 26 years of experience, who says she don’t know her gun from her taser. Shocked. Today, we see video of a 13-year-old baby blackbird, Adam Toledo, shot while running away from “peace” officers? How and what can we say to these families? We have a grown son, Steven, so we fear this reality. Only God and action can help us now.
We must never forget that Blackbird was written following the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama being bombed … which killed four babies, Cynthia, Addie Mae, Carole and Carol Denise. The song, and the entire album, is about Civil Rights, which are human rights. We needed to use our art as activism and let everyone know: we can all be blackbirds for each other, and wage a peaceful war for every human being to be treated with fairness, dignity, and the right to live without a daily fear of harassment and even death. Blackbird is an expression of the reality we are living today. Look at what’s happening this very week. The killings continue. When a blackbird leaves our mother’s nest, one day, it will not return. In 2021, mothers throughout our country live in the fear that our blackbirds may prematurely not be able to return to the nest of home, because of bigotry and violence… Blackbird, is dedicated to the life and humanity of every blackbird, whether living now or lost in battle,” said Marilyn & Billy.
“Billy is a Black man, it doesn’t matter where we live or what we’ve done, until Billy gets home, my heart is in my throat,” said Marilyn.