Suite: Judy Blue Eyes

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"Suite: Judy Blue Eyes"
Single by Crosby, Stills & Nash
from the album Crosby, Stills & Nash
B-side"Long Time Gone"
ReleasedSeptember 1969
RecordedFebruary 1969[1]
GenreFolk rock, soft rock, progressive rock, raga rock, psychedelic folk, Latin rock
Length7:28 (album version)
4:35 (single edit)
Songwriter(s)Stephen Stills
Producer(s)David Crosby
Graham Nash
Stephen Stills
Crosby, Stills & Nash singles chronology
"Marrakesh Express"
"Suite: Judy Blue Eyes"
"Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" on YouTube

"Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" is a song 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, reaching number 21 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop singles chart. In Canada, "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" peaked at number 11.[2] The song imitates the form of a classical music suite as an ordered set of musical pieces.


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. During a July 15, 2007 interview for the National Public Radio program All Things Considered, Stills revealed that Collins was present in the studio when the demo tapes were recorded and had advised him, "Don't stay in here [in the studio] all night now." Stills also commented that the breakup with Collins "was imminent. ... We were just a little too big for one house." Stills said that he liked parts of this demo version of "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" better than the released version; the song and other demos of early Crosby, Stills and Nash songs were released commercially on the album Just Roll Tape.[3]

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.

Collins elaborated in a 2017 interview:

Afterwards, we both cried – and then I said: "Oh, Stephen, it’s such a beautiful song. But it’s not winning me back." I’ve always understood that people have to write about their lives. Most of all, I felt the song was flattering and heartbreaking – for both of us. Neither one of us walked away from that relationship relieved. We were feeling like, "Whoa, what happened?”[4]


The recording features an acoustic guitar tuned to EEEEBE ("Bruce Palmer Modal Tuning"[5]) vs. the standard EADGBE tuning.[6][7] This style of tuning would later be used for the Déjà Vu songs "4+20" and "Carry On".

"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, the third and fourth verses from the second section, and 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.

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.

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.

This is followed by Stills acoustic guitar solo, connecting the two sections.

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.

The final section (the coda) is sung in Spanish, with "doo-doo-doo-da-doo" backing vocals, starting at 6:34 until the song concludes. 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).[8]

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. "Weird Al" Yankovic performs a takeoff of it ("Mission Statement") on his 2014 album Mandatory Fun; 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".

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" as their opening song at the Woodstock and Live Aid festivals, and their performance at the former is featured in the film Woodstock (1970).[citation needed]

Critical reception[edit]

Writing for The New York Times in 1969, Robert Christgau suggested that while "Stills has become such a sophisticated guitarist that many of his lines lack any straight-on rhythmic compulsion", his "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" is "a structural triumph which could never have been brought off by a more Dionysiac spirit."[9]

"Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" was named the 51st greatest song ever in a 2000 list by VH1. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked it number 418 in the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It was also included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's "500 Songs That Shaped Rock & Roll".[10]

"I love the intricacies of the harmonies and Stills's guitar work," remarked Slipknot front-man Corey Taylor. "This is a favourite."[11]



Chart (1969–71) Peak
Canada 100 (RPM)[2] 11
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[12] 30
US Hot 100 (Billboard)[13] 21
US Cash Box Top 100[14] 15
U.S. Record World Top 100[15] 18


  1. ^ Everett, Walter (2009). The Foundations of Rock: From "Blue Suede Shoes" to "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes". Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 390. ISBN 978-0-19-531024-5.
  2. ^ a b "RPM Top Singles Chart" (PDF). RPM. RPM archives. Ottawa: Library and Archives Canada. November 29, 1969. Retrieved March 31, 2017.
  3. ^ "'All Things Considered': 'Lost' Stephen Stills Recordings Released". Retrieved 8 January 2018.
  4. ^ Farber, Jim (21 Sep 2017). "Judy Collins on Stephen Stills: 'I said, it's such a beautiful song, but it's not winning me back'". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 February 2021.
  5. ^ "Classic Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young: Selections from Déjà Vu and Crosby Stills & Nash [Authentic Guitar-Tab Edition] © 1993 Warner Bros. Music
  6. ^ "Classic Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young: Selections from Déjà Vu and Crosby Stills & Nash [Authentic Guitar-Tab Edition] © 1993 Warner Bros. Music
  7. ^ "Alternate Guitar Tuning".
  8. ^ Cavallo, Dominick. A Fiction of the Past: The Sixties in American History. St. Martin's Press (1999), p. 172. ISBN 0-312-21930-X.
  9. ^ Christgau, Robert (June 8, 1969). "The Byrds Have Flown--But Not Far". The New York Times. Retrieved August 11, 2018.
  10. ^ Anon. (n.d.). "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes". Acclaimed Music. Retrieved August 11, 2018.
  11. ^ "iPod Roulette". Classic Rock. No. 129. March 2009. p. 20.
  12. ^ "Crosby, Stills & Nash – Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved September 3, 2016.
  13. ^ "Crosby, Stills & Nash Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved March 31, 2017.
  14. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 Singles, November 29, 1969". Archived from the original on September 6, 2017. Retrieved March 31, 2017.
  15. ^ "RECORD WORLD MAGAZINE: 1942 to 1982". Retrieved 2020-12-28.