21st Century Schizoid Man

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"21st Century Schizoid Man"
21st Century Schizoid Man.jpg
Single by King Crimson
from the album In the Court of the Crimson King
Released12 October 1969 (1969-10-12)
Recorded1 & 20–21 August 1969
Lyricist(s)Peter Sinfield
Producer(s)King Crimson
King Crimson singles chronology
"The Night Watch"
"21st Century Schizoid Man"
"Matte Kudasai"
In the Court of the Crimson King track listing
5 tracks
Side one
  1. "21st Century Schizoid Man"
  2. "I Talk to the Wind"
  3. "Epitaph"
Side two
  1. "Moonchild"
  2. "The Court of the Crimson King"

"21st Century Schizoid Man" is a song by the progressive rock band King Crimson from their 1969 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 last line of each verse is the song's title.

The song makes reference to the Vietnam War with the lyrics "Politicians' funeral pyre/Innocence raped with napalm fire". Before a live performance of the song on 14 December 1969, heard on the live album Epitaph, Robert 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."[1] The song encompasses the heavy metal,[2][3] jazz-rock and progressive rock genres,[4] and is considered to be an influence on the development of progressive metal.[5] The dissonant and almost atonal solo,[6] was rated number 82 in Guitar World's list of the Top 100 Greatest Guitar Solos in 2008.[7] Louder Sound ranked the solo at No. 56 in its "100 greatest guitar solos in rock" poll.[8]



Rock band April Wine released a version of the song on their 1979 album Harder ... Faster.

Canadian rock band Voivod released a version of the song on their 1997 album Phobos.

Belgian trash metal band Jason Rawhead released a version of the song on their 2002 album Time.Stopped.Dead.

Rock artist Ozzy Osbourne released a version of the song on his 2005 album Under Cover.[9]

Norwegian rock band Shining released a version of the song on their 2010 studio album Blackjazz.

British rock band Black Midi released a version of the song as a bonus track available in specific releases of their 2021 studio album Cavalcade.

Punk band Bad Religion paid homage by incorporating most of the song's first verse in the outro of their similarly-titled track "21st Century (Digital Boy)."

Rock band Fuzz released a version of the song as a B-side to their 2013 single "Sunderberry Dream".



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


  1. ^ Stuart Jeffries (7 May 2003). "Rock on, Tony". the Guardian.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ Buckley 2003, p. 477, "Opening with the cataclysmic heavy-metal of '21st Century Schizoid Man', and closing with the cathedral-sized title track..."
  4. ^ Unterberger, Richie. "I Talk to the Wind - King Crimson | Song Info". AllMusic. Retrieved March 2, 2019. Coming right after the assaultive jazz-prog rock of '21st Century Schizoid Man,'
  5. ^ Rivadavia, Eduardo (June 6, 2018). "The Roots of Progressive Metal in 11 Songs". Loudwire. Retrieved March 2, 2019.
  6. ^ Huey, Steve. "King Crimson - 21st Century Schizoid Man/Mirrors". Allmusic. Retrieved 10 Sep 2021. There follows an extended solo by guitarist Robert Fripp, who uses different amplification effects and plays sharply angled, almost atonal melody lines, creating dissonance and texture instead of simply displaying his technique.
  7. ^ "100 Greatest Guitar Solos: 51-100". Guitar World.
  8. ^ "The 100 greatest guitar solos in rock". Louder Sound. 28 September 2018. Retrieved 19 November 2018.
  9. ^ Under Cover - Ozzy Osbourne | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic, retrieved 2021-03-15
  10. ^ Daniel Kreps (May 28, 2010). "Kanye West Samples King Crimson on Raging New Track Power | Music News". Rolling Stone. Retrieved June 29, 2012.