Southern Cross (Crosby, Stills and Nash song)
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|Single by Crosby, Stills & Nash|
|from the album Daylight Again|
|B-side||"Into the Darkness"|
|Producer(s)||Crosby, Stills and Nash|
"Southern Cross" is a song written by Stephen Stills, Rick Curtis, and Michael Curtis and performed by the rock band Crosby, Stills & Nash. It was featured on the band's Daylight Again album and was released as a single in September 1982. Stephen Stills sings lead vocals throughout, with Graham Nash joining the second verse. Because David Crosby did not rejoin the band until the album was already underway, his vocals are not featured on the album version of the song, although he did appear in the video and subsequently sang the song with the group in live performances. The single was a respectable success on the charts, reaching #18 on the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks in late November and early December 1982.
Lyrics and composition
The song's lyrics are about a man who sails the Pacific following a failed love affair. During the voyage, the singer takes comfort in sailing ("We got eighty feet of the waterline / Nicely making way"), in the beauty of the sea, and particularly in the Southern Cross, a constellation by which sailors in the Southern Hemisphere have traditionally navigated. (The Southern Cross is not visible from most of the Northern hemisphere, the more tropical latitudes being the exception.) But his final consolation is music. ("I have my ship / And all her flags are a-flyin' / She is all that I have left / And music is her name.") The last lyric is filled with sad irony as he tries to convince himself that he will eventually forget his former lover, although he knows this will never happen any more than he can forget the beauty of the Southern Cross. ("Somebody fine will come along and make me forget about loving you / And the Southern Cross.")
Composition and music
"Southern Cross" is based on the song "Seven League Boots" by Rick and Michael Curtis. Stills explained, "The Curtis Brothers brought a wonderful song called 'Seven League Boots,' but it drifted around too much. I rewrote a new set of words and added a different chorus, a story about a long boat trip I took after my divorce. It's about using the power of the universe to heal your wounds. Once again, I was given somebody's gem and cut and polished it."
The video for the song, which got heavy play during the early years of the MTV and VH1 cable networks, featured Stephen Stills sailing a large boat (called Southern Cross), intercut with images of the band singing.
- Stephen Stills - lead vocals and acoustic guitar, co-writer
- Graham Nash - vocals
- Michael Finnigan - keyboards and additional vocals
- Michael Stergis - acoustic guitar
- George "Chocolate" Perry - bass
- Joe Lala - percussion
- Joe Vitale - drums
- Timothy B. Schmit - backing vocals
- Art Garfunkel - backing vocals
- Richard Curtis - co-writer
- Michael Curtis - co-writer
"Southern Cross" has also been covered by:
- Jimmy Buffett, whose version first appeared on the Live album, Buffett Live: Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays; the song became a staple at many of Buffett's concerts and corresponding "Live" releases
- British artist Dave Mason
- Pat McGee, on his debut album From the Wood
- Sludge metal band Weedeater, on their debut album ...And Justice for Y'all
The song mentions a number of locations that one may visit on a sailing voyage from Southern California to the South Pacific, following the "Coconut Milk Run." In order of appearance in the song (and in reverse order of the narrating sailor's southwestward journey), they are:
- Southern islands - referring to Polynesia,
- Papeete - the capital of French Polynesia on the island of Tahiti,
- Marquesas - a group of volcanic islands in French Polynesia, northeast of Tahiti
- Avalon - Avalon, California, an island city on Santa Catalina Island, California.
- In concerts, this is sometimes sung "She might be all that I have left."
- Stills, Stephen; Curtis, Richard; Curtis, Michael (n.d.). "Southern Cross Lyrics". Google. Peermusic Publishing, Sony. Retrieved December 8, 2016.
- CSN Boxed Set
- "Southern Cross by Crosby, Stills & Nash". songfacts.com. Retrieved 3 October 2011.
- "A starlit revel on the Coconut Milk Run". OceanNavigator.com. Retrieved 18 January 2016.