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“Amsel” – Übersetzgesungen brings you a German take on The Beatles’ “Blackbird” Posted by on Mar 26, 2014 in Language, Music

Hallo Freunde!

After receiving a few requests to do something by the Beatles, I decided to give “Blackbird” a try for this week’s episode of Übersetzgesungen. The Beatles are no strangers to Germany or the German language. When the band started, they performed sets in Hamburg almost every night for a span of about two years. They even went on to release singles auf Deutsch

Translating “Blackbird” into “Amsel” once again gave me a new perspective on a song I thought I had already known pretty well. Until now, I hadn’t really thought of the song as actually being sung to a bird. It’s almost as if Paul is being kept up by a bird chirping all night and wrote this song to encourage the bird to go away so he could get some sleep. In my early version of “Amsel”, I actually began by singing “An die Amsel, die singt, mitten in der Nacht:”as though it were a letter written to the bird.

Fun fact! Amsel is one of the first words I learned upon arriving in Germany. It’s my friend Carl’s favorite kind of bird.

  • “Blackbird singing in the dead of night” – “Amsel, die da singt, mitten in der Nacht”

It was hard for me to alter the rhythm of one of the most famous opening lines to any song, but I had to do it in order to fit ten syllables into the place of nine. After practicing it, however, I kind of like how the Am- of Amsel is pushed in front of the guitar. I’m not sure how well it works when I change the emphasis of the word, though. I also opted for “middle of the night” instead of “dead of night”, not having found a good translation for “dead of night”.

  • “Take these broken wings and learn to fly” – “Nimm diese gebrochnen Flügel, lern zu fliegen”

This line was fairly easy to directly translate. Flügel is a pretty good word, isn’t it? Also, you may have noticed that “gebrochnen” is missing an e. Sometimes in poetry you just have to squish words together to get them to work!

  • “All your life” – “Dein Leben lang

A more direct translation would have been “Alle dein Leben”, but that didn’t sound as nice to me as “Dein Leben lang”, which literally means “Your life long”, but sounds less clunky in German.

  • “You were only waiting for this moment to arrive” – “Hast du drauf gewartet, dass dieser Moment kommt”

Here I decided to omit Sir Paul’s “only” in order to fit with the rhythm. Otherwise this translated smoothly. Of course there’s a comma in the German translation, as pretty much any time a second verb comes into play, the grammar of the sentence needs to get more complex. Note that this line finishes the sentence started by the preceding lyric, just like in the original.

  • “Take these sunken eyes and learn to see” – “Nimm diese versunkenen Augen, lern zu sehen”

Again this sentence translated nicely. I just needed to bump up the word “Nimm” to place “diese” on the beat where Sir Paul sings “Take”.

  • “You were only waiting for this moment to be free” – “Hast du drauf gewartet, endlich frei zu sein”

Here I added the word “endlich”which means “finally”. My translation literally means “You waited to finally be free.” Unfortunately I had to get rid of any mention of “this moment” in order to keep with the rhythm. I think it still works though!

  • “Blackbird, fly” – “Amsel, flieg”
  • “Into the light of the dark black night” – “In das licht der dunklen schwarzen Nacht”

Surprisingly, this line translated smoothly with the cunning use of the genative case. In case you’re unfamiliar with the Genativ, that “der” actually indicates possession, allowing the “licht” to belong to the “Nacht”, which is, of course, “dunkel” and “schwarz”.

Danke und auf Wiedersingen!


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About the Author:mickeymickey

Mickey was born in 1987 in Chicago, IL. He plays the oboe and loves Calvin & Hobbes. His favorite Beatles song is "Something", but his favorite Beatles album is A Hard Day's Night.


  1. Charles Lastre:

    This struck me as right beautiful, and a good translation of one of the Beatles’ best.

  2. David Sherman:

    Appropriate, as the harmonic sequence of this song is very Schubertian. Would work better on the piano, where it would sound like an authentic Schubert Lied.