"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. In 2013, Billboard Magazine ranked the song as the 69th biggest hit of all-time on the Billboard Hot 100 charts.[3]


 [hide*1 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, human 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!".[4] 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.[5]

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).

The b-side of the single, the song "Rainclouds", is written by Paul McCartney and Denny Laine, though on early pressings of the single the song was credited only to McCartney.[6]

Chart rankings[edit]Edit

"Ebony and Ivory" spent seven weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, and was the fourth-biggest hit of 1982.[7] 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.[8] It marked the first time that any single released by any member of the Beatles hit the Billboard R&B chart. It was McCartney's record 28th song to hit number one on the Billboard 100.[9]

In 2008, the song was ranked at #59 on Billboard's Greatest Songs of all time.[10] In 2013, it was ranked #69 on the Billboard list of the Hot 100 songs of all-time.[11]

Critical reception[edit]Edit

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.[12] On October 2007, it was named the worst duet in history by BBC 6 Music listeners.[13] (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 byJoe Piscopo and Eddie Murphy [in Saturday Night Live]. Everybody: 'You are blind as a bat and I have sight...'"[14]) 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.[15]

This song has been parodied in many television shows, such as The Fresh Prince of Bel AirFather TedEverybody Hates ChrisArrested DevelopmentLate Night with Jimmy Fallon (and its successorThe Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon), and Saturday Night Live, as well as movies such as Undercover Brother and Guess Who.[citation needed] 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.[16]

"Ebony and Ivory" was banned for a while in South Africa during the Apartheid era, making it the only song McCartney released in his solo career to receive such a ban (music by the group for which he is well known, The Beatles, was also banned in South Africa for a while; it was under similar circumstances). The official reason for the song's ban was on the part of his duet partner, Wonder, because he dedicated his 1984 Academy Award for Best Original Song to Nelson Mandela.[17] An abbreviated version of the song was performed on an episode of Diff'rent Strokes by Todd BridgesDana Plato and Janet Jackson playing their characters.

Live Versions[edit]Edit

McCartney performed the song of his "The Paul McCartney World Tour" with Hamish Stuart taking over Wonder's original parts. McCartney did not play the song live again until 2010 when he played it at the White House with Wonder on his original lead parts.

Wonder played the song live following its release on his 1985 tour, however he never played it live again until 2010 with McCartney.

Track listings[edit]Edit

7" single (R 6054)
  1. "Ebony and Ivory" - 3:41
    • With additional vocals by Stevie Wonder
  2. "Rainclouds" - 3:47
12" single (12R 6054)
  1. "Ebony and Ivory" - 3:41
    • With additional vocals by Stevie Wonder
  2. "Rainclouds" - 3:47
  3. "Ebony and Ivory" (Solo Version) - 3:41


Chart positions[edit]Edit

Chart (1982) Peak


Australian Kent Music Report 2
Austrian Singles Chart[18] 3
Canadian CBC Top Singles[19] 1
German Media Control Singles Chart 1
Japanese Oricon Singles Chart[20] 26
Japanese Oricon International Chart[21] 1
Norwegian VG-lista Singles Chart[18] 1
Swedish Singles Chart[22] 2
Swiss Singles Chart[18] 2
UK Singles Chart[23] 1
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[24] 1
U.S. BillboardAdult Contemporary[24] 1

All-time charts[edit]Edit

Chart Position
US Billboard Hot 100[25] 69
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