Stephen Stills wrote this about his then-girlfriend, folk singer Judy Collins. In their 1991 boxed set, Stills said: "It started out as a long narrative poem about my relationship with Judy Collins. It poured out of me over many months and filled several notebooks. I had a hell of a time getting the music to fit. I was left with all these pieces of song and I said, 'Let's sing them together and call it a suite,' because they were all about the same thing and they led up to the same point."
This runs 7:22. The single is three minutes shorter then the album version. Many FM radio stations played the album cut.
The last verse is in Spanish and is about Cuba. It was sung in Spanish because Stephen Stills didn't want it easily understood since it had little to do with the theme of the song. Stills put that part in simply because the song had gone on forever and he didn't want it to just lay there at the end.
Here's the translation:
"How nice it will (or would) be to take you to Cuba The queen of the Caribbean Sea I only want to visit you there And how sad that I can't, damn!"
The title is a play on words. "Suite" is a reference to a part of a classical composition, but it can also be interpreted as "Sweet."
This wasn't their first single, or even their biggest, but certainly one of Crosby, Stills & Nash's most well-known songs. It established the harmony style that would be the group's trademark for years to come.
This opened Crosby, Stills and Nash's set at Woodstock in 1969. The event ran long, so they didn't go on stage until 3am the third night (The Who set a precedent by going on at 3am the night before). They played 16 songs in their set, the first 9 acoustic and the last 7 electric. Those who left to get to work Monday morning not only missed Crosby, Stills and Nash, but didn't see Jimi Hendrix close out the festival.
Crosby, Stills and Nash played this at Live Aid in 1985. Organized by Bob Geldof, Live Aid was a benefit for famine relief in Africa. Crosby, Stills and Nash also played "Teach Your Children" and "Southern Cross."
Nash Stephen Stills spoke to Rolling Stone magazine about this song: "It was the beginnings of three different songs that suddenly fell together as one. Actually on the demo the middle part is not exactly how they would play. Half of it is it just falls off in its own - but we actually split it in half, and they got started singing and boom, there it went. Once it all was there then we just kept adding parts. When I wrote it I used cardboard shirt-blocking, you know those things from the cleaner's - 'cause they were harder to lose than pieces of paper and they didn't crumple up. I could line them up on music stands and they'd stand up."
Nash revealed to Rolling Stone that of the CS&N trio, Stills was the only to play on this song. All three contributed vocals.
Judy Collins recalled to Mojo magazine the effect this song had on her after Stills played it in her hotel room. She said: "He sang me Suite Judy Blue Eyes and, you know, broken hearts are a very good inspiration - and I just caved in and I suppose I made promises I couldn't keep. We both had personal struggles." Collins' battle was with alcohol.