Wooden Ships

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Not to be confused with Wooden Shjips.
"Wooden Ships"
Song by Crosby, Stills & Nash from the album Crosby, Stills & Nash
Released 1969
Genre Rock
Length 5:29
Label Atlantic
Writer David Crosby
Paul Kantner
Stephen Stills
Composer David Crosby
Producer Bill Halverson
David Crosby
Graham Nash
Stephen Stills
Crosby, Stills & Nash track listing
Pre-Road Downs
(5)
"Wooden Ships"
(6)
Lady of the Island
(7)
"Wooden Ships"
Song by Jefferson Airplane from the album Volunteers
Released 1969
Genre Psychedelic rock
Length 6:24
Label RCA Records
Writer David Crosby
Paul Kantner
Stephen Stills
Composer David Crosby
Producer Al Schmitt
Volunteers track listing
Turn My Life Down
(5)
"Wooden Ships"
(6)
Eskimo Blue Day
(7)

"Wooden Ships" is a song written by David Crosby, Paul Kantner and Stephen Stills and recorded by Crosby, Stills & Nash and Jefferson Airplane. It was written in 1968 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on a boat named "Mayan" owned by Crosby, who composed the music, while Kantner and Stills wrote most of the lyrics.[1]

Background[edit]

Kantner could not be officially credited as one of the joint authors-composers of "Wooden Ships" on the original release of Crosby, Stills & Nash (1969) due to legal issues.[1] Crosby said, "Paul called me up and said that he was having this major duke-out with this horrible guy who was managing the band, and he was freezing everything their names were on. ‘He might injunct the release of your record,’ he told me. So we didn’t put Paul’s name on it for a while. In later versions, we made it very certain that he wrote it with us. Of course, we evened things up with him with a whole mess of cash when the record went huge."[2] The song was released the same year by Kantner's band Jefferson Airplane, on the album Volunteers. Both versions are considered to be original versions of the song, although they differ slightly in wording and melody.

Crosby recorded a solo demo in March 1968 with the melody but no lyrics. Stills recorded his own demo the following month with most of the lyrics in place.

Both Jefferson Airplane and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young performed the song in their respective sets at the 1969 Woodstock Festival. However, the CSNY performance is better-known, as it was included in the film and first album from the festival. Jefferson Airplane's performance – over 21 minutes in length, including several extended jam sections – remained unreleased until the 2009 Woodstock Experience set.

Interpretations[edit]

"Wooden Ships" was written at the height of the Vietnam War, a time of great tension between the United States and the Soviet Union, nuclear-armed rivals in the Cold War. Like Tom Lehrer's "We Will All Go Together When We Go" and Barry McGuire's "Eve of Destruction," the song describes the consequences of an apocalyptic nuclear war.[1] In this interpretation, the words of the song depict the horrors confronting the survivors of a nuclear holocaust in which the two sides have annihilated each other. A man from one side stumbles upon a man (or woman, as in Jefferson Airplane's version) from the other side and asks him/her, "Can you tell me, please, who won?" Since the question has no real meaning in the circumstances (or even at all), it is left unanswered. To stay alive, they share purple berries that have presumably not been poisoned by radiation. The lyrics beg "silver people on the shoreline" (described by David Crosby as "guys in radiation suits") to "let us be".[1] As wooden ships are carrying the survivors away, radiation poisoning kills those who have not made it aboard:[citation needed]

Horror grips us as we watch you die
All we can do is echo your anguished cries
Stare as all human feelings die

See also[edit]

References[edit]