Ebony and Ivory explained

Ebony and Ivory
Artist:Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder
From Album:Tug of War
B-Side:"Rainclouds"
Released:29 March 1982
Format:7"
Recorded:1981
Genre:Pop/R&B
Length:3:42
Label:Parlophone/EMI (UK)
Columbia (U.S.)
Producer:George Martin

"Ebony and Ivory" is a 1982 number-one single by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder. It was released on March 29 of that year. The song is featured on McCartney's album Tug of War. The song reached number one on both the UK and the U.S. charts.[1] [2] It reappears on McCartney's All the Best! in 1987.

Background

At the simplest level, the song is about the ebony (black) and ivory (white) keys on a piano, but also deals with integration and racial harmony on a deeper level. The title was inspired by McCartney hearing Spike Milligan say "black notes, white notes, and you need to play the two to make harmony, folks!".[3] The figure is much older. It was popularised by James Aggrey in the 1920s, inspiring the title of the pan-African journal The Keys, but was in use from at least the 1840s.[4]

Written by McCartney alone, the song was performed live in the studio by both McCartney and Wonder, though due to conflicting work schedules, both recorded their parts for the song's music video separately (as explained by McCartney in his commentary for The McCartney Years 3-DVD boxed set).

Chart rankings

"Ebony and Ivory" spent seven weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, and was the fourth-biggest hit of 1982.[5] For McCartney, the song's run atop the chart was the longest of any of his post-Beatles works, and second longest career-wise (behind "Hey Jude" with The Beatles); for Wonder, it was his longest-running chart-topper.[6] It marked the first time that any single released by any member of the Beatles hit the Billboard R&B chart.

In 2008, the song was ranked at #59 on Billboards Greatest Songs of all time.[7]

Critical reception

Following the song's huge chart success, it was derided as "saccharine" and was later named as the tenth worst song of all time by Blender magazine.[8] On October 2007, it was named the worst duet in history by BBC 6 Music listeners.[9] (In September 2010, Matthew Wilkening of AOL Radio ranked the song at #9 on the list of the 100 Worst Songs Ever, stating that the song was "[d]one much better by Joe Piscopo and Eddie Murphy [in ''[[Saturday Night Live]]]. Everybody: 'You are blind as a bat and I have sight...'"[10]) However, the song's title was picked up by a journalist reporting on two stroke victims — one black, one white — who played a duo, one hand each.[11]

This song has been parodied in many U.S. television shows, such as The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Father Ted, Everybody Hates Chris, Arrested Development and Saturday Night Live, as well as movies such as Undercover Brother and Guess Who. The phrase, "Keyboard, Oh Lord! Why Don't We?" was used for the title of the third album by Norwegian stoner rock band Thulsa Doom. The song and video were parodied in a commercial for the 2008 season of the USA Network show Psych.[12]

"Ebony and Ivory" was banned for a while in South Africa during the Apartheid era.[13]

Track listings

7" single
  1. "Ebony and Ivory" (with Stevie Wonder)
  2. "Rainclouds"
12" single
  1. "Ebony and Ivory" (with Stevie Wonder)
  2. "Rainclouds"
  3. "Ebony and Ivory" (solo version)
  4. "Ebony and Shaft" (Funky version)

Personnel

Bass, guitar, synthesisers, vocoder, percussion, piano and vocals

Electric piano, synthesisers, drums, percussion and vocals

Back up vocals

Chart positions

Chart (1982)Peak
position
Australian Kent Music Report2
Austrian Singles Chart3
Canadian RPM Top Singles[14] 1
German Media Control Singles Chart1
Japanese Oricon Singles Chart[15] 26
Japanese Oricon International Chart[16] 1
Norwegian VG-lista Singles Chart[17] 1
Swedish Singles Chart[18] 2
Swiss Singles Chart2
UK Singles Chart[19] 1
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[20] 1
U.S. Billboard Adult Contemporary1

See also

Notes and References

  1. Web site: Paul McCartney Charts and Awards. allmusic. 2011-10-13.
  2. Web site: Official Charts: Paul McCartney. The Official UK Charts Company. 2011-10-13.
  3. Martin, George (editor): Making Music, page 62. Pan Books, 1983. ISBN 0-330-26945-3
  4. 'Master and mistress, and neighbors, and negroes assemble, and black and white are seen strung along the great table, like the keys of a piano, and, like the aforesaid instrument, the black keys make fully as much noise as the white; all mingle for a while in the utmost harmony and good feeling....' Rev C F Sturgis, 'Duties of Christian Masters to their Slaves' (1849) quoted in Breedon, James O (editor), Advice among Masters: The Ideal in Slave Management in the Old South (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1980), p262.
  5. http://www.billboard.com/bbcom/charts/yearend_chart_display.jsp?f=The+Billboard+Hot+100&g=Year-end+Singles&year=1982 Billboard Year-End Hot 100 Singles - 1982
  6. Whitburn, Joel, "Top Pop Singles: 1955-2006," 2007.
  7. Web site: The Billboard Hot 100 All-Time Top Songs (60-51). 2009-08-30.
  8. Web site: Run for Your Life! It’s the 50 Worst Songs Ever!. Blender.
  9. Web site: Ebony and Ivory voted worst duet. 2007-10-06. 2007-10-08. BBC News.
  10. Web site: 100 Worst Songs Ever -- Part Five of Five. Wilkening, Matthew. September 11, 2010. AOL Radio. December 25, 2010.
  11. Bard Lindeman. "Musicians and victims of strokes find a way to play some very inspiring Chopin" Park City Daily News, Bowling Green, Kentucky (May 9, 1988) page 7. Retrieved 2010-02-18
  12. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZvM3RHLyzOo PSYCH Sing-Along "Ebony & Ivory" - YouTube
  13. Web site: Mandela: South Africa's Star Attractor. 1998-07-25. 2012-02-11. The Washington Post.
  14. Lwin, Nanda (2000). Top 40 Hits: The Essential Chart Guide.
  15. Web site: Paul McCartney Japanese Singles Chart listings. Original Confidence. 2008-07-16.
  16. Web site: Japan #1 IMPORT DISKS. 2009-08-30.
  17. Web site: Paul McCartney & Stevie Wonder - Ebony & Ivory. norwegiancharts.com / VG-lista. 2008-08-06.
  18. Web site: Paul McCartney - Ebony & Ivory. swedishcharts.com. 2008-08-06.
  19. Web site: Chart Stats - Paul McCartney And Stevie Wonder - Ebony And Ivory. BPI. 2008-08-06.
  20. Web site: [{{Allmusic|class=album|id=r12656/charts-awards/billboard-single|pure_url=yes}} Tug of War > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles]. allmusic. 2008-07-16.