Suite: Judy Blue Eyes

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"Suite: Judy Blue Eyes"
Judyblueeyes45.jpg
Single by Crosby, Stills & Nash
from the album Crosby, Stills & Nash
B-side "Long Time Gone"
Released September 1969
Format 7" 45 RPM
Genre Folk rock, soft rock
Length 7:28 (album version)
4:35 (single edit)
Label Atlantic
Songwriter(s) Stephen Stills
Producer(s) David Crosby
Graham Nash
Stephen Stills
Crosby, Stills & Nash singles chronology
"Marrakesh Express"
(1969)
"Suite: Judy Blue Eyes"
(1969)
"Woodstock"
(1970)
"Marrakesh Express"
(1969)
"Suite: Judy Blue Eyes"
(1969)
"Woodstock"
(1970)

"Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" is a suite of short songs written by Stephen Stills and performed by Crosby, Stills & Nash (CSN). It appeared on the group's self-titled debut album in 1969 and was released as a single, hitting #21 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop singles chart. In Canada, "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" peaked at number 11.[1] The song is a suite in the classical sense, i.e. an ordered set of musical pieces.

The song is ranked #418 on Rolling Stone′s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[2]

Background and composition[edit]

The title "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" (a play on words for "Sweet Judy Blue Eyes") refers to Stephen Stills' former girlfriend, singer/songwriter Judy Collins, and the lyrics to most of the suite's sections consist of his thoughts about her and their imminent breakup. Collins is known for her piercing blue eyes. During a July 15, 2007 interview for the National Public Radio program Just Roll Tape, Stills revealed that Collins was present in the studio when the demo tapes were recorded. Collins had advised Stills "not to stay [at the studio] all night." Stills later commented that "the breakup was imminent...we were both too large for one house." Stills said that he liked parts of this demo version of "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" better than the released version.

Collins and Stills had met in 1967 and dated for two years. In 1969, she was appearing in the New York Shakespeare Festival musical production of Peer Gynt and had fallen in love with her co-star Stacy Keach, eventually leaving Stills for him. Stills was devastated by the possible breakup and wrote the song as a response to his sadness. In a 2000 interview, Collins gave her impressions of when she first heard the song:

"[Stephen] came to where I was singing one night on the West Coast and brought his guitar to the hotel and he sang me "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes," the whole song. And of course it has lines in it that referred to my therapy. And so he wove that all together in this magnificent creation. So the legacy of our relationship is certainly in that song."

The recording features an acoustic guitar tuned to EEEEBE ("Bruce Palmer Modal Tuning"[3]) vs. the standard EADGBE tuning.[4][5] This style of tuning would later be used for the Déjà Vu songs "4+20" and "Carry On".

Live performances[edit]

The final section of the song is included on the CSNY live album 4 Way Street. It fades in on the opening of side one of the album. CSN also performed "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" at the Woodstock and Live Aid festivals, and their performance at the former is featured in the film Woodstock (1970).

Sections[edit]

"Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" has four distinct sections. The timings below are for the full album version. The shortened version released as a single cut the second and fourth verses from the first section, cut the third and fourth verses from the second section, cut the final verse and preceding break from the third section, and shortened the guitar break between the second and the third sections. The final section is the only part that stayed fully intact on the single.

First section[edit]

The first section is a traditional pop song with four verses, featuring a chorus of "I am yours, you are mine, you are what you are." Running at approximately 2:56, the lead vocal is performed by Stills, with Crosby and Nash providing harmonies.

Second section[edit]

The second section is performed in half time relative to the first section, and features four verses of three-part harmony from the band, with Stills performing a brief vocal solo between the second and third. This section runs from 2:56 to 4:43.

Third section[edit]

The third section is more upbeat and features poetic lyrics ("chestnut brown canary, ruby-throated sparrow"), lasting from 4:43 to 6:25. Each of the three phrases is initially sung by Stills, with Nash then joining, and finally Crosby rounding out the harmonies. Connecting the phrases are instrumental breaks performed by Stills on acoustic guitar.

Final section[edit]

The final section (the coda) is sung in Spanish, starting at 6:34 until the song concludes. The "doo-doo-doo-da-doo" backing vocals are the best known segment of "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes", with Stills singing Spanish lyrics in the background. Stills has said that he intentionally made the final stanzas unexpected and difficult, even using a foreign language for the lyrics, "just to make sure nobody would understand it" (not even Spanish speaking people).[6]

The final section has been parodied many times, notably in Frank Zappa's compositions "Billy the Mountain" and "Magdalena" on The Mothers of Invention's album Just Another Band From L.A. Most recently, "Weird Al" Yankovic performs a takeoff of it ("Mission Statement") on his 2014 album Mandatory Fun, only instead of Spanish, the lyrics are corporate buzzwords strung together in such a way as to be ultimately nonsensical. It is also sampled in the 2010 Cypress Hill song "Armada Latina".

Personnel[edit]

Charts[edit]

Chart (1970–71) Peak
position
Canada 100 (RPM)[1] 11
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[7] 30
US Hot 100 (Billboard)[8] 21
US Cash Box Top 100[9] 15

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "RPM Top Singles Chart" (PDF). RPM. RPM archives. Ottawa: Library and Archives Canada. November 29, 1969. Retrieved March 31, 2017. 
  2. ^ Rolling Stone 12/09/2004
  3. ^ "Classic Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young: Selections from Déjà Vu and Crosby Stills & Nash [Authentic Guitar-Tab Edition] © 1993 Warner Bros. Music
  4. ^ "Classic Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young: Selections from Déjà Vu and Crosby Stills & Nash [Authentic Guitar-Tab Edition] © 1993 Warner Bros. Music
  5. ^ "Alternate Guitar Tuning". 
  6. ^ Cavallo, Dominick. A Fiction of the Past: The Sixties in American History. St. Martin's Press (1999), p. 172. ISBN 0-312-21930-X.
  7. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – Crosby, Stills & Nash – Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved September 3, 2016.
  8. ^ "Crosby, Stills & Nash Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved March 31, 2017. 
  9. ^ Cash Box Top 100 Singles, November 29, 1969