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The Meaning Behind The Song: The Beat of Black Wings by Janet Jackson

The Meaning Behind The Song: The Beat of Black Wings by Janet Jackson

As a longtime fan of Janet Jackson, I have always been moved by the depth and emotional resonance of her music. One song that particularly stands out to me is “The Beat of Black Wings,” a powerful and haunting cover of Joni Mitchell’s original. In this article, I will delve into the meaning behind the lyrics and how they reflect the experiences of a Vietnam veteran suffering from PTSD.

The Lyrics

The song opens with the introduction of a young soldier named Killer Kyle, who is depicted as shaken and frightened like a child. Janet Jackson, through her soul-stirring vocals, tells the story of Kyle’s struggles with his traumatic war experiences and the lasting effects they have on him.

In the second verse, Kyle expresses how he was given a gun and a mission for the sake of power and glory. He reveals the war zone that resides within him, where explosions and chaos fill his mind, drowning out any other sound – even music. The line “For the beat of the beat of black wings” captures the relentless pounding of his heart, echoing the beat of dark, haunting wings.

The third verse unveils a heartbreaking revelation about Kyle’s personal life. He shares that his girlfriend terminated their unborn child without showing any signs of remorse. As Kyle places his hands on her belly, hoping to feel their child’s kicks, he realizes the coldness and detachment she has embraced. The line “Oh, the beat of black wings” symbolizes the sorrow and despair that consumes him as he grapples with this loss.

The fourth verse highlights the manipulation of young soldiers by higher authorities. They become pawns in someone else’s game, trained to kill for the vicarious thrill of those who orchestrate wars. The bitter reality that older generations often send the youth to their demise is laid bare in these lines. Janet Jackson’s powerful delivery underscores the heartlessness of this cycle.

In the fifth and final verse, the song takes a poignant turn. The image of a man drawing pictures on the sidewalk with chalk symbolizes fleeting moments of joy and creativity amidst the cruel and relentless rain of life. The line “I’m just a chalk mark in a rainstorm, I’m just the beat of black wings” captures a sense of insignificance in the face of overwhelming circumstances.

The Significance

Janet Jackson’s rendition of “The Beat of Black Wings” carries great significance beyond the beautiful melody and heartfelt lyrics. The song sheds light on the harrowing experiences of Vietnam veterans, particularly those affected by Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It explores the psychological scars left by war, the difficulty in readjusting to civilian life, and the shattered hopes and dreams that often accompany such trauma.

By covering Joni Mitchell’s original song, Jackson amplifies the important narrative of the lasting impact of war on individuals and society. The song acts as a powerful reminder of the need for compassion, understanding, and support for those who have served and continue to serve in conflicts.


“The Beat of Black Wings” by Janet Jackson is a testament to her depth as an artist and her commitment to shedding light on meaningful issues. Through her interpretation of Joni Mitchell’s song, Jackson explores the profound impact of war on individuals, specifically focusing on the experiences of a Vietnam veteran grappling with PTSD. The lyrics and haunting melodies make this song a poignant and emotional journey that prompts us to reflect on the lasting effects of war on the human spirit.

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