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From Rolling Stone, May 1, 2016:
Paul McCartney met two of the women who helped inspire the Beatles’ White Album classic “Blackbird” backstage at his Little Rock, Arkansas concert Saturday night.
The women, Thelma Mothershed Wair and Elizabeth Eckford, were two members of the Little Rock Nine, a group of nine black students who faced discrimination and the lasting impact of segregation after enrolling in the all-white Little Rock Central High School in 1957, following the Supreme Court’s historic Brown vs. the Board of Education decision.
After the Little Rock Nine enrolled, Arkansas governor Orval Faubus protested their entrance into the school, which in turn sparked the Little Rock Crisis. It was these events that inspired a young McCartney to pen the song “Blackbird.”
“Incredible to meet two of the Little Rock Nine— pioneers of the civil rights movement and inspiration for Blackbird,” McCartney tweeted.
From paulmccartney.com, December 2016:
At his Little Rock gig in April, Paul met Mrs. Thelma Mothershed Wair and Ms. Elizabeth Eckford of the ‘Little Rock Nine’
Paul: Yeah, that was important, meeting two of the ‘Little Rock Nine’. At the concerts, I had always remembered this story about ‘Blackbird’ and the writing of it, which came from me doing poetry readings. I’d been encouraged by my friend who helped me on that poetry book I did [‘Blackbird Singing’] to tell a story, if I could remember anything about the song and then read the poem. So I did that and I thought, “That’s probably a nice idea for concerts”.
I remembered this story of the Civil Rights thing. How ‘Blackbird’ was really meant to try and communicate with people going through those struggles, and to see if it could help them. “You were only waiting for this moment to arise”. It had a, “We will overcome,” kind of aspect. So, it was like coming full circle going to Little Rock, where we’d only ever heard of as being the sort of place where the first kids went into the school that had previously been segregated. And to meet two of the kids who are now grown ups, and to see how well they’d done, and that it had all worked, was very moving. I was glad to be some tiny part of that. That was a nice evening.
Interview with Zane Lowe, December 21, 2020:
Zane: that must have been an amazing moment for you to perform that song in front of Thelma Mothershed Wair and Elizabeth Eckford who of course were two individuals part of the Little Rock Nine. And I know a few years back you got a chance to perform that and they were in the audience and we haven’t spoken since that so I wonder how that experience was for you.
Paul: It was fantastic, it was beautiful because, as a kid, I’d seen, like you probably, the newsreel where there’s all thePaul McCartney
white supremacists booing these black kids going into school and their teenage girls, you know, the two you’re mentioning. And so I’d always felt annoyed at my race, the whites, could be that crazy and that horrible to people, you know and we didn’t have so much of that in Britain, I must say, it wasn’t like the deep south, it was only when we went down there that you started to realize that it was quite intense. So i’d always heard about Little Rock has been a famous point in civil rights history. So when we were playing Little Rock, I was able to offer tickets to the girls. Someone said they’re still around, but they’re ladies now. They had a great education because they stuck with it, they went to this good school. So i was very proud to sort of talk to them and to play Blackbird, because I introduced Blackbird on the show as being about civil rights. So it was really a warm feeling. I felt very proud to meet these ladies and it’s just great to see a resolution of a story like that. So it was a great moment for me. They were very pleased and so we all had a great time. It was you know again some kind of full circle from when I was a kid, seeing these little black and white movies. Here we were and I was with the two girls I saw in those newsreels, and you know what, they turned out great.
Last updated on December 26, 2020
This was the 1st and only concert played at Verizon Arena.
Setlist for the soundcheck
Little jam at Magic piano
Setlist for the concert