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Suite: Judy Blue Eyes by Crosby, Stills & Nash

Album: Crosby, Stills & NashReleased: 1969Charted:
21
  • 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. (thanks, Brian -Grand Forks, ND)

    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! (thanks, Zac - San Antonio, TX)
  • 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 and 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.
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Comments: 35

Stills wrote and usually performs the song in the "Bruce Palmer modal" tuning of EEEEBE as opposed to the standard EADGBE. The same turning is also employed by Stills in 4+20. In his 2007 release "Just Roll Tape" recorded April 26, 1968 he can be heard "down-tuning" his guitar.Gary - Port Charlotte, Fl
In Judy Collins' autobiography, "Singing Lessons," she says the reference to come see me on "Thursdays and Saturdays" was to her visits to her therapist -- a practice that Stills did not endorse. And no wonder, as her therapist was a quack who followed the now-debunked "Sullivan" method of therapy which espoused, among other ridiculous notions, that all children should be raised by someone other than their own parents. I love Judy Collins' music, but reading her life story kind of turned me off to her personally. She seems way too wrapped up in herself .... oh well, I guess that's part of being a Great Artist.Sandy - Enterprise, Fl
Lengthwise, this one is right up there with MacArthur Park and American Pie.Esskayess - Dallas, Tx
I must have heard this song a million times, but its one of those songs that never gets old. The lyrics are beautiful, but it's the musicality of every element that really draws me in. My favorite part is probably where it slows down, kind of in the middling-end, right before the closing Spanish verse. It sounds like a drowsy summer sky.Diane - Providence, Ri
There are different translations. It's hard to translate, since it is broken Spanish and difficult to understand.
Stills could be saying 'it would be' as well, it's not clear...
'How nice it will (or 'would') be taking YOU to Cuba / The queen of the Caribbean Sea.'
He could be saying 'visitarle', but this is only a matter of grammatical correction.
'The only thing I want is to visit you there /And how sad that I can't, "damn"'.

Stills changes this last verse on certain releases of the song (the intro of 4 Way Street or the Daylight Again video, for instance) and says: 'What a pity that I can't' or 'What a pity that I can't go'

Stills in the liner notes on the Box Set: "The little kicker at the end about Cuba was just to liven it up because it had gone on forever and I didn't want it to just fall apart. I said, 'Now that we've sung all these lyrics about one thing, let's change the subject entirely.' And we did. Even did it in a different language just to make sure that nobody could understand it".
Deethewriter - Saint Petersburg, Russia Federation
Judy Collins really does have real blue eyes.....This was 7 and 1/2 minutes long, still too long back in 1969 to really play on AM radio, then..the important test..soh-oh it was edited to 4 and a half minutes, and in mono.
----SJC
Steve - Whittier, Ca
Steven Stills wrote the last part in Spanish. I never knew that he had lived part of his youth in Costa Rica and Panama where he graduated from high school. He also spent time in Gainsville, Florida where he was friends with Eagles guitarist Don Felder.Frank - San Felipe, Venezuela, Tx
I prefer the box set version myself (drums from the beginning)Andy - Glen Burnie, Md
Great song, great band...does anyone know where one can hear the harmony vocals actually split from each other, so a band could perform this complex song to perfection?Keith Malvern - St. Louis, Mo
I've since added "So Begins The Task" and "Change Partners" to my Stephen and Judy set.

These songs all seem to have a common thread.
Kirby - Abilene, Tx
I sing MIDI Karaoke to the local Coledge kids at Open Mike night. I like to tell them the story behind the songs. With this song, I tell them of the impending break up of Steven and Judy, her seeking psychiatric help "I've got an answer/I'm going to fly away",(A female friend sings the parts that are obviously Judy's),
His depression after the breakup ("Four And Twenty"), and his recovery ("Love The One You're With")

These make a coherent set, and holds their attentuion while teaching them something about the songs. Thank you for this site.
Kirby - Abilene, Tx
On the live CSNY album FOUR WAY STREET, you only hear about 20 seconds of the song as it fades in. I don't understand why CSNY couldn't either present the live track in its entirety or just eliminate it altogether.Barry - New York, Nc
This song is great. I used it last week to explain our breakup in 1968 to the wonderful girl I hadn't spoken to since then. Life is strange.Joe - Danbury, Ct
My old buddy Rick D., of Toronto gave this up for the final stanza sung in Spanish:

"...¡que linda le encuentro á cuba
la reina del mar caribe!
quiero sol, no que se tarden allí
y que triste que no puedo, vaya..."

Which sounds like this:

Kay-lee-ee-eeen-doe-lay eng-kwen-trwo-ah Koova
La rey-ee-ee-eee-na day la mar Ca-ree-bey
Kyay-ro so-o-o-o-o-o-ol-no kay say tar-deng ah-yee
ee kay tree-ee-eee-stay kay no pweh-doe, va-ya
Which loosely translates as:

I find Cuba such a beautiful place,
"The Queen of the Caribbean"
I love the sun; everybody's hangin' there,
And it's really sad I can't, that's all...
Wally - Carpinteria, Ca, Ca
Yes..a fantastic song. Seems that Stephen really dug Judy..and who could blame him? Those eyes could take anyone in, not to mention her voice! Stephen auditioned for the Monkees but lost out. Thats ok..he did very well with CSN&Y, eh? Thank goodnes for the internet and songfacts...I never knew these lyrics and what the song meant..until now. Makes a great song even better!Doug - Kansas City, Mo
This song could be easily discotized. I mean, adding in a drummer to discotize virtually every measure... it'd be a piece of cake! And their harmonic voices... vohh, I can't stop listening to it! Yikes it sounds so good! More rock bands need to be like Crosby, Stills, & Nash! We know of the Byrds, Chad & Jeremy, Simon & Garfunkel, Grateful Dead, Royal Guardsmen, etc. Wow! They all have excellent voices!Andy - B'ham, Al
In late spring 2007 Stephen Stills went on a solo tour to promote his "Just Roll the Tape" CD of previously lost material. It included SJBE. On the tour he did play SJBE as part of his set.It actually wasn't too bad considering the shape He is in.Andy - Chicago, Il
Poor ol' Stephen Stills got his heart broken by wicked Judy "Blue Eyes" Collins. And who did she leave him for? Stacy "Prison Break" Keach! Or stoner fans of Cheech & Chong's "Up in Smoke" will better know him as Sgt. Stedenko. I suppose in the end we should pin a medal on the old gal since her wrending of a heart did inspire one of the most beautiful love songs ever written. My hats' off to ya Judy!The Last Dj - Hell.a., Ca
You should trip to it. You'll never hear a more amazing song, I guarantee it! "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting" by Elton John about tied it, but none more simply phenomenal than Steven Still's epic masterpiece.Daniel - Springfield, Ma
The ultimate p-whipped guy song. End of Story.Robinson - Ottumwa, Ia
The terrible thing about this beautiful song is that there could have been albums and albums more just like it. But there are not. Crosby Stills and Nash were hugely talented, and Young too, when he joined. But they were so drugged out they couldn't get along in the same studio. They had one album. Then when Young came, they tried to do a second one but fought so much Young simply recorded his pieces and split. Then that was it. Thanks very much, guys. Way to hang in there. ...Everything that has followed for the past 35 years has been an occasional valiant effort to "give it one more shot," and has met with just so-so results. Their reunion tours end up with them stressed out all over again... I mean... HOW DIFFICULT could it possibly be to simply put aside your drugs for a few weeks to record a billion-dollar album?Dirk - Nashville, Tn
This is a really amazing song i especialy like what it say's.Francisco - Cudahy, Ca
Beautiful song. I've always loved it.Michelle - Anaheim, Ca
As a follow up to my last comment, CSN has replaced this song live with "For What It's Worth". The 1967 hit that Stills wrote for his band Buffalo Springfield. Neil Young was also in this band. Instead of doing Judy Ble Eyes as the encore they do "For What It's Worth."Matt - Downey, Ca
CSN no longer plays this song live. Been to 3 CSN shows the last 2 years. They've completely dropped this song. Maybe because it's not half as good live and a little too much work for the aging rockers to do.Matt - Downey, Ca
Amazingly enough they did not sing this in 2004 at the Greek Theater here in LA.

I am saddenned, but not surprised that thier voices might not have been able to sign it the way they wanted it to be heard.

One of my favorite songs.
Rafael - Pasadena, Ca
This is #418 on Rolling Stone's list of 500 greatest songs.Ross - Independence, Mo
what a beautiful song. I'm 16 years old, and I'm a huge crosby, stills, and Nash fan because of it. It's probably one of my favorites. I'm a huge fan of them with Neil young,too.YStefanie Magura - Rock Hill, Sc
I am 35 years old and have been hearing this song on the radio all my life, but I never really listened it to until recently. When I did finally take the time to really listen to it I fell in love with it. Really a beautiful song. Now one of my favorites.Ruben - Grove, Ok
I think Joni did them all....C, S, N, and sometimes even Y!Hugh - Kansas City, Mo
Dan, You may be confused about the Joni Mitchell part because Our House written by Graham Nash... Graham and Joni had a little relationship at the time...Brian - Grand Forks, Nd
Yeah the spanish section of the song is about Cuba and 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... Stephen 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... The entire Suite: was a collection of thoughts that he had compiled in a notebook that he jammed together... The Majority of the thoughts were pertaining to Judy Collins...Brian - Grand Forks, Nd
First time I heard this song was when I was watching footage of Woodstock. I had known a few CS&N songs when I watched it, but this song really connected with me. A really beautiful song.Geoff - Adelaide, Australia
I always heard that this song was written about Joni Mitchell. It was in Joni's house that these three jammed as a trio for the first time. They could not form CS&N immediately however as they were all tied to contracts with existing (and very popular) bands.Dan - Auckland, New Zealand
At the end of the song, there is a part in a different language. This part actually has nothing to do with the song; it's about Cuba.Jen - Pdc, Wi