This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song #500 and going until I reach Song #1. When you see the song title listed as something like: Song #XXX (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song #xxx (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.
RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #366: Suite: Judy Blue Eyes by Crosby, Stills and Nash.
Let’s dive right in by dealing with the title of this song which is very clever. The “Judy Blue Eyes” mentioned in the title was a real person. Her name was Judy Collins. She was a talented and respected singer and artist in her own right. Judy Collins had several big hit songs including “Both Sides Now” (which was written for her by Canada’s own, Joni Mitchell), as well as “Send in the Clowns”. At the time that “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” was written by Stephen Stills, he and Judy Collins had been involved in a romantic relationship that was just about to end. “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” was written by Stills in the hope that he could win back her affections. When he played it for her for the first time one evening, she is said to have remarked, “Oh, Stephen! It is such a lovely song but, I am not taking you back.” And so, Stephen Stills was left broken-hearted but, with an excellent song to show for the experience of it all.
The word “Suite” has two meanings for the song. First of all, it is a play on the word sweet which is how Stills felt Collins was. Musically speaking, a suite is a composition that has multiple, distinct sections. In the case of this song, there are four singing sections that are separated by acoustic guitar solos of varying lengths and intensities. “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” is almost 8:00 long and has often been used to open or close Crosby, Stills and Nash live shows. This song is noted for how it showcases the brilliant ability that these three men have to harmonize when singing. In the video that you will soon see, you will note how completely in sync they are and how crisply and precisely they start and stop their notes. As the song goes along, you can see by their body language that they are feeling good about how in harmony they are that night.
“Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” has gone on to be one of the most recognizable songs that Crosby, Stills and Nash released. It is certainly one of the most personal. They had many other hits such as “Teach Your Children”, “Ohio”, “Southern Cross” and “Wasted on the Way”. They are credited with helping establish the Folk-rock sound/West coast music scene in the 1960s. Over the course of their careers (including, with Neil Young, as CSNY), they have sold tens of millions of albums. Crosby, Stills and Nash were elected to The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. Stephen Stills was elected to The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the band Buffalo Springfield that same night, too. I am sure I am safe in saying that, although these awards and accomplishments mean a lot to Stephen Stills, he would probably trade them all away in a heartbeat for the love of his Judy Blue Eyes. For now we are left with an epic ode to a love that was lost. As you listen to the song, note how he used the lyrics as a means of convincing Judy Collins to come home. If you have never heard the song before, get ready for some beautiful harmonizing and a raucous closing section to the musical suite. Without further delay, here is “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” by Crosby, Stills and Nash. Enjoy.
The link to the official website for Crosby, Stills and Nash can be found here.
The link to the website for Rolling Stone Magazine can be found here. Thanks, as always, for supporting great music.
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