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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.
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”.
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!
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.
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.
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”.
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!
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!