21st Century Schizoid Man

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"21st Century Schizoid Man"
In the Court of the Crimson King - 40th Anniversary Box Set - Front cover.jpeg
"21st Century Schizoid Man" cover
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] hard rock
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, and 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. Fripp explained his guitar solo to Guitar Player magazine in 1974: "It's all picked down-up. The basis of the picking technique is to strike down on the on-beat and up on the off-beat. Then one must learn to reverse that. I'll generally use a downstroke on the down-beat except where I wish to accent a phrase in a particular way or create a certain kind of tension by confusing accents, in which case I might begin a run on the upstroke."[3] The solo was rated number 82 in Guitar World's list of the Top 100 Greatest Guitar Solos in 2008.[4] British Prime Minister Tony Blair praised the song and especially the guitar solo.[3]


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.


Other appearances[edit]


  • 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. ^ a b http://www.theguardian.com/music/2003/may/07/artsfeatures.popandrock1
  4. ^ http://www.guitarworld.com/100-greatest-guitar-solos-51-100?page=0,3
  5. ^ Daniel Kreps (2010-05-28). "Kanye West Samples King Crimson on Raging New Track Power | Music News". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2012-06-29.