“Before we say anything, we have to acknowledge Questlove and the impact his genius is having on our career and lives. For his movie, Summer of Soul (… Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised),
which of course, took the two biggest prizes at Sundance, and now is coming out from Searchlight and Hulu. Everything Questlove is doing is incredible. Questlove unlocked the vaults of our history and let sunshine in on our music from the past, and us today. Questlove knew we were working on Blackbird: Lennon McCartney Icons
, and that combination gave us a whole new Renaissance … even with kids who had heard our older songs, but didn’t know our names. You know what? It’s funny … they’re starting to know us now! It’s ironic too, because our Producer, Nic Mendoza, was with Questlove at the Santa Barbara Bowl at a concert ten years ago, and the picture of them together … Nic is just barely out of his teens, if that! 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,” say McCoo and Davis.
“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. 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,” adds the couple, who in their sixty-plus-year career of performing have broken countless racial and cultural barriers. Culturally known as The First Couple of Pop & Soul, Marilyn & Billy are credited in the media as “the originators of the blueprint followed by Jay Z and Beyoncé for a blend of talent, romance, marriage, and commerce.” Their variety television series on CBS was a first for a Black couple.
On releasing “Ticket To Ride” ahead of Mother’s Day, says the couple, “Ticket To Ride is our tribute to the Mother of the Civil Rights Movement, Rosa Parks. One thing people have to realize is that Mrs. Parks was arrested December 1st, 1955, because she refused to give up her seat to a White man. There were seats in what was called the colored section … for you young people, that was a little phrase that was used about us before we figured out that Black and African American would be a whole lot better. Mrs. Parks was not the first person to be arrested for this. That happened to a young girl who was only 15 years old! That baby’s name was Claudette Colvin. This crisis made Mrs. Parks and Dr. King famous all over the country and parts of the world.”
“Mrs. Parks was a seamstress who did secretarial work for the NAACP
, so she got dressed knowing when she bought her ticket that day, that she was going to go to jail, because she had told Dr. King that she was not going to give up her seat. She said, “I’m just tired of this. It has to stop.” Mrs. Parks was taking her life into her hands. There was no way of knowing, once she went to that jail, if she would come out alive. Especially in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955. She didn’t care that she was going to jail, when she bought her ticket on that bus! What was keeping her down, was segregation … the klan … the scourge of racism,” says Marilyn McCoo.
“There are many names that are on the Blackbird Lennon McCartney Icons album cover, and there is a reference to “Unknown” … as in, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery. It’s ironic that although the first man killed in the American Revolutionary War, Crispus Atticus, was a Black man … we just assume that whoever’s in that tomb is a White man. When Harper Lee wrote To Kill A Mockingbird, the central character is named Atticus, in honor of Crispus Atticus. This is a tribute to all those that we don’t know. Now, Rosa Parks we thank God that we do know, however, her husband, Raymond Parks, is one of the great unknown heroes of the Civil Rights Movement. Imagine his terror when his wife was arrested … as a Black woman in segregated Alabama, 1955. So, when Marilyn and I sang “Ticket To Ride” … I’ve done some acting on stage, and my music comes from the heart … every lyric was true to the actual story. When I sing, ‘She said that being with me was keeping her down,’ that ‘She could never be free, when I was around,’ I was thinking about the Klan, and people like George Wallace, the then Governor of Alabama who famously said ‘Segregation now! Segregation tomorrow! Segregation forever!’ So I’m really singing the song from two perspectives … first the segregationists, and the ad lib is my personal tribute to Raymond Parks, who along with Dr. King, is one of the fathers of freedom … a true blackbird!” says Billy Davis Jr.
Blackbird: Lennon-McCartney Icons
marks Marilyn & Billy’s first album with Encore Endeavor 1 (EE1), a subsidiary of kathy ireland® Worldwide (kiWW®)
, which has a multi-recording agreement with music giant, BMG
. This project also marks kiWW’s second collaboration with BMG – the first made music history, after Janet Jackson’s Unbreakable
skyrocketed to Billboard’s top spot on the album chart.