Single Stories: Crosby, Stills & Nash, “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes”

Wednesday, October 4, 2017
Single Stories: Crosby, Stills & Nash, “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes”

48 years ago today, David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash released the second single from their self-titled debut album, a harmony-laden epic which – just as its title promised – was indeed an actual suite.

Composed by Stills, “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” was famously written about singer Judy Collins, who was – at least at the time of its writing – Stills’ girlfriend. In fact, Collins was actually in the studio when he recorded the original demo of the song…and, as Stills revealed during a 2007 NPR interview, she told him “not to stay [at the studio] all night.” History does not reveal how long his recording session actually lasted, but it does confirm that he and Collins concluded their relationship pretty soon after that, which was pretty well telegraphed within the lyrics of the song.

When one listens to “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” the four individual sections are easily distinguishable: it’s a pop song for the first second, which lasts just slightly less than three minutes, then the second section – which lasts from 2:56 to 4:43 – is performed in half time relative to the first section, then the third section (4:43 – 6:25) is upbeat again, and then it concludes with the “doo-doo-doo-da-doo” vocalizations that have served as the signature segment of the song.

When “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” was released, it climbed to #21 on the Billboard Hot 100, which was a few spots higher than Crosby, Stills & Nash’s previous single, “Marrakesh Express,” had made it, so it was definitely a win by those standards. More importantly, though, it’s a song that defines the CS&N harmonies perfectly, which is as wonderful a legacy as the trio could hope for.

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