21st Century Schizoid Man

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
"21st Century Schizoid Man"
Song by King Crimson from the album In the Court of the Crimson King
Released October 12, 1969
Recorded August 1 & 20–21, 1969
Genre Progressive rock, jazz fusion, heavy metal[1][2]
Length 7:20
Label Atlantic Records
Writer Peter Sinfield
Composer Robert Fripp, Ian McDonald, Greg Lake, Michael Giles
Producer King Crimson
In the Court of the Crimson King track listing
  1. "21st Century Schizoid Man"
  2. "I Talk to the Wind"
  3. "Epitaph"
  4. "Moonchild"
  5. "The Court of the Crimson King"
King Crimson singles chronology
"The Night Watch"
"Epitaph" / "21st Century Schizoid Man"
"Matte Kudasai"

"21st Century Schizoid Man" is a song by progressive rock band King Crimson from their debut album In the Court of the Crimson King.


Lyrical content[edit]

The lyrics of "21st Century Schizoid Man" were written by Peter Sinfield and consist chiefly of disconnected phrases which present a series of images. All three verses follow a set pattern in presenting these images. The first line of each verse presents two relatively vague images (e.g."iron claw", "death seed"). The second line is a single image, often more specific than the first two, and the third line approaches an actual sentence. The fourth and final line of every verse is "21st century schizoid man".

The song makes reference to the Vietnam War as exemplified in the lyric "innocents raped with napalm fire" and "politicians' funeral pyre". Before a live performance of the song on December 14, 1969 (as shown in the live album Epitaph), Fripp remarked that the song was dedicated to "an American political personality whom we all know and love dearly. His name is Spiro Agnew."

Musical structure[edit]

Clocking at nearly seven and a half minutes, the song is notable for its heavily distorted vocals sung by Greg Lake, a driving mechanical rhythm and piercingly loud saxophone and guitar, along with its instrumental middle section, called "Mirrors". Most of the song is in either 4/4 or 6/8 time, save for the end of the song, which is in free time.


King Crimson continued to perform it in their live act after Greg Lake left King Crimson in 1970 to form Emerson, Lake & Palmer. It appeared on four live albums from different versions of the band, first sung by Lake on Epitaph, then by Boz Burrell on Earthbound (1972), by John Wetton, on USA (1974), and by Adrian Belew on Vrooom Vrooom (2001, recorded in 1996). In 1993, Emerson, Lake & Palmer recorded a version for their 1993 box set The Return of the Manticore. In 2013, John Wetton, touring with Chicago band District 97 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the album Larks' Tongues in Aspic, performed the song, omitting the guitar solo from the "Mirrors" segment.



  • Buckley, Peter (2003). The Rough Guide to Rock. London: Rough Guides. ISBN 1-85828-201-2. 


  1. ^ Fricke, David. "King Crimson: The Power To Believe : Music Reviews : Rolling Stone" at the Wayback Machine (archived April 25, 2009). web.archive.org. Archived from the original.
  2. ^ Buckley 2003, p. 477, "Opening with the cataclysmic heavy-metal of '21st Century Schizoid Man', and closing with the cathedral-sized title track,"
  3. ^ AllMusic. "April Wine - Harder...Faster : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2012-09-26. 
  4. ^ AllMusic. "Voivod - Phobos : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2012-10-28. 
  5. ^ AllMusic. "Crimson Jazz Trio - King Crimson Songbook, Vol. 1 : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2012-09-26. 
  6. ^ By Daniel Kreps (2010-05-28). "Kanye West Samples King Crimson on Raging New Track Power | Music News". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2012-06-29.