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A hit song from the 1980s had lyrics similar to The Beatles‘ “Blackbird.” One of the writers of the 1980s song said he was upset by the similarity. In addition, he said The Beatles’ song might be based on a book by a famous author.

"Blackbird" era Beatles in black-and-white
The Beatles | Keystone Features / Stringer

The accidental similarity between The Beatles’ ‘Blackbird’ and Mr. Misters’ ‘Broken Wings’

Richard Page is a member of the band Mr. Mister, most known for the song “Broken Wings” and “Kyrie.” During a 2010 interview with Smashing Interviews Magazine, he named some of his influences. “The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Stevie Wonder, Steely Dan, Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis, Chick Corea, and Keith Jarrett,” he said.

Both Mr. Mister’s “Broken Wings” and The Beatles’ “Blackbird” include the phrase “Take these broken wings and learn to fly.” Page was asked if this was an intentional reference on the part of Mr. Mister. “It was a mindless unintentional reference,” he replied. 

“As a matter of fact, in all honesty, [songwriter] John [Lang] got that from the Kahlil Gibran book called The Broken Wing,” he added. “He actually went to Kahlil Gibran’s estate and asked for permission to use it which made me wonder if that was where Paul McCartney got it, too, but who knows?” For context, Gibran’s book is actually called Broken Wings. In the 1997 book Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now, Paul never cited Gibran as an influence on “Blackbird.”

How Richard Page reacted when he learned he reused a lyric from The Beatles

In the aforementioned interview, Page discussed learning about the similarity between “Blackbird” and “Broken Wings.” “In any case, the sequence of those words is very close to ‘Blackbird’ and I was not even aware of it, believe it or not, until it became a hit,” he recalled. “Somebody pointed it out to me and my heart sank. 

“I just felt like, ‘Oh wow, we shouldn’t have done that,'” he continued. “But it was no big deal because legally it’s not a copyright infringement so it’s all good. Actually, I hung out with Paul not too long ago in New York with Ringo.”


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How ‘Blackbird’ and ‘Broken Wings’ performed on the pop charts in the United States

The Beatles’ “Blackbird” was not a single, so it did not chart on the Billboard Hot 100. It appeared on The White Album, which topped the Billboard 200 for nine of its 215 weeks on the chart.

On the other hand, “Broken Wings” was a massive hit. It topped the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks, staying on the chart for 22 weeks in total. It became the biggest hit of the band’s career. The tune appeared on the album Welcome to the Real World, which reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 for a single week and lasted on the chart for a total of 58 weeks. None of Mr. Mister’s other albums came close to that level of prominence. 

“Broken Wings” was a huge hit even if it bears a passing resemblance to a Beatles tune.