Sister Golden Hair

Album: Hearts (1975)
Charted: 1


  • America's first single, "A Horse With No Name," went to #1 in 1972. That song was written by Dewey Bunnell, who formed the band in 1970 with Gerry Beckley and Dan Peek (the group became a duo when Peek left in 1977).

    In 1975, they scored another #1 with "Sister Golden Hair," another enigmatic track with lots of harmony. It was written and sung by Beckley, who says that it was based on a composite of different girls. When asked if it was written to anyone, Beckley said: "No, this is all poetic license. With 'Sister Golden Hair,' as far as my folks were concerned, I was writing a song about my sister, and I couldn't quite fathom it; they must not have listened to the lyrics."
  • In his Songfacts interview, Gerry Beckley remembered writing the song by starting with the first line:

    Well I tried to make it Sunday, but I got so damn depressed

    "I'd like to point out that you can have a #1 record with a line that enters that darkly," he said. "That's kind of my thing: I try to mix these emotions and I think 'Sister' was a great example. Pretty good message in there. John Lennon famously said, 'We don't know what these songs are about till people tell us.' So all of our songs, including 'Horse,' are open to interpretation. But 'Sister' was a relationship song and there is a variety of elements. We always combine them as songwriters so that they're not verbatim, word for word, for a particular circumstance. Poetic license we call it."
  • In our interview with Gerry Beckley, he explained that he made a demo of this song before America recorded their fourth album, Holiday, but he was happy with the songs they chose for that album so "Sister Golden Hair" sat on the shelf for a year, making the cut for their next album, Hearts.

    "I can't really tell you if it was a lack of faith in the song or not, but it was interesting to see," he said. "It shows you that songs can have a life of their own - they might just need the right time and circumstances to surface."
  • This song was used in a bloody scene in the 2001 episode of the TV series The Sopranos, "Another Toothpick." After a mobster kills two people, the song plays on his car radio as he drives off. When he has trouble breathing and can't reach his inhaler, he crashes the car and dies, but the song keeps playing.

    "Sister Golden Hair" also appears in the movies Cherish (2002), Radio (2003) and All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006).
  • George Martin, who was The Beatles producer, produced this track and the rest of the Hearts album (he started working with America on their previous album, Holiday). It was Martin's 20th US #1 as a producer, and his first away from The Beatles (by this point, each former Beatle had reached #1 outside of the group). Martin would have three chart-toppers: "Ebony and Ivory," "Say Say Say" and "Candle In The Wind '97."
  • This was recorded at the Record Plant in Sausalito, California. The engineer on the session was Geoff Emerick, who worked with George Martin on much of The Beatles output.
  • Phil Hartman, who was a graphic designer before his star turn in Saturday Night Live, designed the cover to the Hearts album.
  • Beckley played lap steel guitar on this track. He told Songfacts that the musical influence came from George Harrison. "I very openly tip my hat there to 'My Sweet Lord,'" he said. "I was such a fan of all The Beatles but we knew George quite well and I just thought that was such a wonderful intro."
  • The group recorded a version in Spanish called "Hermana de Cabellos Dorados." Gerry Beckley doesn't speak Spanish, so he did it phonetically.

Comments: 73

  • Glenda from VirginiaI think the lyrics simply mean that the man is in love with a woman but is not ready to commit. He's been out doing whatever guys do & not calling the girl. I naively thought that "sister golden hair surprise" was just a term referring to the girl but reading these comments I see that may not be the case :).
  • ZamI can't understand this song, but I love it. I will add a bizarre interpretation: "Sister" is a Nun. But not a "normal" one. The Nun has a "surprise", it is a male dressed as a Nun. This is why he mentions "Sister Golden Hair, Sor-price". So, he can't go further once he discovers the Nun is, in fact, a man.
  • Seventhmist from 7th HeavenPretty much all of America's 70s singles were "enigmatic tracks."
  • Ralph from Kendall, FloridaI remember reading that the lyrics were originally about a kite that wouldn't fly. That's why meet me in the air is used. The kite's tail wasn't long enough. Then Gerry Beckley changed it and used composite women. I remember the kite's tail was golden and when made long enough, surprise it flew. Just like Ventura Highway with alligator lizards in the air, you can use abstract lyrics.
  • Velma Guthrie from WvSong is about a man who didn't want to get married so he didn't. He still thought about her and wants to continue without commitment.
  • Joe from Ca Love seeing the interpretations that it's a reference to incest or someone's actual sister. The writer of the song clearly explained it above, yet people are still trying to interpret it as if it wasn't just explained.
  • Jennifer from PennsylvaniaSister Golden Hair is a woman he met on tour, and can't get out of his mind. He is meant to marry another but is getting cold feet because he can't get this other woman out of his head. The "surprise" is that she is a true blond ie. she has golden blond hair "down there!" He hasn't contacted her nor she him, but he wants to reunite before he gets hitched.
  • Carmine from CanadaWell, it WAS 1975 after all... a mere 4 years after Nixon had launched the "war on drugs" (including the HERB, cannabis... I repeat, HERB - and NOT drug). I doubt the song has ANYTHING to do with "nuns", his "blond sister", or "sex". Fact is, "golden hair" is plentiful on "primo-quality bud". At the time, public figures - including prominent pop artists - had to be DISCRETE about their stance on the issue, seeing as people's very LIVES were being destroyed by the INSANE campaign which Nixon had begun in 1971. To categorize cannabis with substances like cocaine or heroin, or any other alkaloid, is in itself a CRIMINALLY irresponsible act.

    Ok... time to give my "blond sister" a call...
  • Bob from IllinoisI'm going to float a conspiracy theory that I haven't seen in this thread. Maybe the song is a conversation with his mother. Think of the life of a rock star, and think of all the things a mother would worry/complain about. He doesn't write her as often as she would like, but that doesn't mean he doesn't think about her. She wants him to meet a nice girl and get married - he has thought about it, and even faked interest, but just can't make it to the altar. His mom was a blonde. Maybe the surprise was that he can't continue to fool her about being the son she has always hoped he would be. But probably not. It is really just a girl that he hasn't had the time or energy to court properly because of the distractions of the road.
  • Maari from Bloomfield, MiI thought this was a song by the Eagles. Is it me, or does it sound similar to "Take It Easy" for some reason? Great chorus though.
  • Eric from San FranciscoWow, some pretty interesting theories. After reading the lyrics of many songwriters, John Lennon in particular, it is often impossible to know what they are talking about. Even in American Pie, it is hard to be really sure, since Don McLean will never comment on them. We may think we know what they are about, but can't be positive. What I was curious about, and Brian touched on it below, is whether George Harrison played guitar on this song. It has his trademark sound, and George Martin produced it. Perhaps they just, as was indicated below, emulated his style.
  • Rayna from Pembroke Pines, FlSister golden hair = sister being slang term of address to a woman or girl
  • Rayna from Pembroke Pines, FlI say it's about a man who just can't get up the "huevos" to marry this woman he claims to adore. He says he loves this lady but is not ready to think of women except in terms of company and friends, as opposed to a partner for life. He tried to show up for the wedding, but he got cold feet at the thought of such a commitment. "Got myself undressed" = changing out of his wedding attire. The "surprise" is that he is still thinking about his not-to-be bride and kind of regretting what he did.
  • Steve from Spokane, WaI really love this song, even in spite of the cheesy lyrics.
  • Gina from, KyI always thought as a teen & still believe, simply put, she's a christian & he's a sinner. Sister Golden hair isn't a nun, she's a good girl with strong old fashion morals & is waiting for marriage before she gives herself completely ... The "surprise" is, she's so sinfully beautiful how can she be so good. He on the other hand he is a guy who really loves her & admits he wants her for some things but not marriage (I do agree there's times When a woman sure can be a friend of mine)
    .......He calls her Sister referring to her as a christian because she won't give in, because of her strong belief .....golden hair, because she is blond & beautiful like an angel, so its like a pet name, she's a beautiful blond christian girl, thus Sister golden Hair............ On their wedding day, (Well I tried to make it Sunday) he couldn't go through with it so he didn't show up, he does love her & is mad at himself for not showing up (I got so damn depressed), he tried to get his mind off what he had done & changed his wedding clothes ( and I got myself undressed) get his mind off of Sunday "the wedding" ,he started making plans for Monday, (That I set my sights on Monday) but still isn't ready for marriage (I ain't ready for the altar), meaning two things, He's not ready for marriage or her christian ways or another way of putting it, thinking he has to give up his sinning ways......... He can't stop thinking about her & after a few days of laying low......... (I been one poor correspondent, and I been too, too hard to find)........He trys to explain that he's truly sorry & is really in love with her by saying (can't you see it in my eyes?)...........Here he is saying I tried to fool myself into thinking i could go on without you,(Well I tried to fake it),Now he's willing to admit he's crazy about her in a humbling way to win her back, (just can't live without you).He's goes a little further & wants to make an agreement (Will you meet me in the middle) saying I'll marry you, just give me a little time & that he won't pressure her for sex because she's worth the wait. (I don't mind sayin', I just can't make it), They both get what they want, when both are ready.The doo-wop's are indication, that they are happy
    So in the end they get married. He waits for her & she saves herself for him.
  • Big E from Dallas, TxI had a girlfriend that had Golden Hair and the "Surprise" was that that carpet DID match the drapes! She was blonde all over! It was beautiful. (You blonde parents need to breed more!)
  • Fernando from Juarez, MexicoIn 1976 I was inSpain with my parents, I was living in El Paso, Texas and flew to Madrid. One day in a Taxi cab, I heard Sister Golden Hair IN SPANISH SUNG BY AMERICA ,with a really thick English accent, on the radio. So I asked the taxidriver where could I possibly buy that record, because of the novelty and besides, it sounded funny. I bought the 45 RPM of Con Tu Pelo Tan Dorado and still have it. Does anyone know about any other America song in Spanish?
  • Jim from Long Beach, CaMy old buddy I use to work with told me this is his "gin and tonic" song..LOL!!..Great song and it takes me back to a great place and time.
  • Brian from Boston, MaGreat song the acoustic strumming is really cool. America is one the bands along with the Beatles Eagles etc. that got me interested in acoustic guitar. Before I became a Beatles fan at the age of 17 [due to the release of Sgt Peppers on cd in 87] I remember hearing America on the radio and seeing them ocassionally on Johnny Carson. I found the sound of the acoustic incredible. I was young around 12 or 13 and my musical tastes had not yet developed. Even at that young age though I was intrigued by the acoustic guitar that America had played on this and other songs. I remember reading an article in which the songs' writer Gerry Beckley had said the Guitar strumming was inspired by George Harrisons' "My Sweet Lord". I can definatly hear the influences along with the slide guitar that George was famous for.I can now play this and other songs from America on guitar. As much as I love electric guitar I think given only one option I would have to choose acoustic.
  • Cedar from Perry, OkI always thought the song was about how me had messed up a relationship. He had left his girlfriend and left town for a while "I've been too too hard to find" but he is back now and wants to patch things up "but it doesn't mean you ain't been on my mind". He tried faking that he didn't need her but he can't live without her. He wants her to meet him in the middle to show she still cares about him and can forgive him. As for the altar bit, it's not about leaving her at the altar, he feels too guilty and depressed (about what he has done to this woman) to go to church on Sunday (to confess his sins).
  • Robert from Austin, TxI always took the Golden Hair Surprise lyrics to refer to the fact that her head was NOT covered in blonde hair and that perhaps she was a brunette or redhead, but other, um, parts of her were in fact Golden Haired.
  • Michael from Omaha, Ne"Well I tried to make it Sunday but I got so damned depressed that I set my sights on Monday and I got myself undressed" I take this to mean that the guy is imagining his wedding day with this girl and it scares him and then he "sets his sights on monday"' (the day after) it hopes that afterwards would be manageable. He is getting himself undressed after a day of work or whatever.
  • Keith from Centerport, NyThis may seem to be out there for some, but all lyrics are up for interpretation. My take, is a man who finds out the women he loves is a man, hence the surprise. Also a women sure can be a friend of mine, reference to male friendship, not mutual consented sex...just thinking...
  • Al from Baltimore, MdI admit this song is more than a little confusing, but if you look at it in this light, it does make sense: the singer likes this golden haired girl a lot, but he isn't sexually attracted to her. She wants a serious relationship with all the trappings, possibly leading to the altar, but the singer doesn't want that at all. He loves her like a sister, and he needs her in his life. But he can't manage a sexual relationship with her, and he's quite frank about it ( "I tried to fake it. I don't mind saying, I just can't make it.") What he wants is for her to love him a little, not a lot, just enough so he knows she really cares. In turn he will offer his devoted friendship, but nothing beyond that. The key word is "Sister". This is not a reference to a nun, but a reference to the nature of his ideal relationship with her.
  • Dona from Ladysmith, MnOBVIOUSLY - the song is about finding out that Sister Golden Hair is a dude - SURPRISE! :) Just kidding, but reading all this analysis is really, really fun.
  • Paul from Carrollton, GaNo. NO. NO. Sister Golden Hair is the real life story of a young man(Beckley) not ready for the altar(military service) looking out the window at his beautiful golden haired sister who is playing in the sandbox in the yard and knowing may miss her become a beautiful young woman. If you look at the album cover you will see the story illustrated. The house on the cover is the back of their home in Norcross Georgia.
    Her hair today is just as golden as the song describes.
  • Jennifer Harris from Grand Blanc, MiIt's about this man who wants to marry this girl,but doesn't have the heart,so they live together instead.I love America.
  • Cristina from St. Louis, MoOkay I have taken into consideration the masturbation theory, but really, who can masturbate when they're depressed, right? Anyway, seriously, he "tried to make it Sunday and got so damned depressed" because he can't see her. This guy's just trying to get through the weekend until he can see her again--which is why he sets his sights on Monday. Obviously that's when he's going to see her again; however, they're just friends but he wants it to be more.
  • Camille from Toronto, OhRegardless of what the song means...and I tend to believe it's about a guy with commitment problems cuz many of us girls have been there.....after reading all these comments, I'm surprised no one has mentioned that this song has one of THEE best endings that you HAVE to sing with...and if you hear it on the radio & they don't play the last few notes you feel robbed! What I'm talking about, and what is not included in the lyrics on Songfacts, is when they are singing "dooo wop, do wop, dooo wop, do wop...", ect., that fabulous, warm-toned voice breaks in and finalizes it all with, one, two, three FOUR! Mmmmmm, love that!
  • Briar from Hazard, KyWhen I first heard the song I thought it was Dylan singing.
  • John from Brisbane, United StatesBut I do agree there is times a woman sure can be a friend of mine.And I always thought it was sister golden hair surprise too.
  • Rich from Bellevue, WaI dispute Alan Gocha's explanation for why he got undressed. My take is: He didn't undress to get naked or go back to bed, he got undressed from his *TUX*. He had gotten so far as to be all dressed up for the wedding that Sunday, and then just couldn't go through with it.
  • Joy from Fairfield, CaTim, Gerry Beckley did the voice of "Theodore" of the Chipmunks on one CD, a Christmas CD I believe (not sure if he did it more than that). They are excellent in concert, I'm seeing them next month. Also, Gerry and Dewey are really nice guys as I've met them at their meet/greets.

    I think everyone is over-anzalyzing the song LOL. IMHO, it is about a guy who blew it with a "sister golden hair" (slang for blonde woman) as he was afraid of commitment. The first verse is alluding to this and how he is depressed over the situation. He now wants her back and is trying to convice her he cares...thus the lines "Well I keep on thinkin' 'bout you
    Sister golden hair surprise,
    And I just can't live without you
    Can't you see it in my eyes". He wants to meet her in the middle meaning he's not ready for marriage but he doesn't want her out of his life...he just wants her to show him that she still cares and they can take it from there. He tried faking that she didn't mean anything to him and could live without her but he couldn't do it.

    In concert, Gerry changes the last line to "I think we're gonna make it", alluding to a happy ending ahead. This is usually one of the encore songs and everyone is up dancing and singing along. If there is a meet/greet, I'll ask Gerry if he was referringn to any nuns in the song :)

  • Alan Gocha from Detroit, MiAlright Everyone. I think that we are letting our selves get carried away just a little bit.
    First off, the song is not about someone who is masturbating. There is one line that could refer to this and that is the line that says he got undressed. That doesn't make sense if you take it in context. Superseding that line he says he was depressed. This is why he got undressed. What that means is that he was just too sad to get out of the house to see her, and that seeing her hurt too much, so he got undressed and got back into bed.
    Second, the song is not about a nun. Just because he uses the word sister doesn't mean it's a nun. Nowhere in the song does it refer to A. Catholic School or Church. B. The context of the song isn't about forbidden love. If it was he would probably use those words or something like it. The song refers to a love that for some reason did or did not work.
    Third, the song is not about his sister. He uses the term sister golden hair, as a poetic way of saying a heavenly girl that is blonde. Yes he uses the term sister as in the meaning of nun. It doesn't mean she is a nun it means she is of that status. She is pure. It's like calling her an angel. He even is quoted as saying that his parents thought it was about his sister and they must not have read the lyrics.
    The song is truly about two lovers that became friends. He regrets this and wants what he has back.
    He was suppose to meet her on Sunday as a "friend" but it was too hard.
    " Well I tried to make it sunday, but I got so damn depressed
    That I set my sights on monday and I got myself undressed"
    The second part is that he is telling her he just wants to date her again, he isn't asking for marriage. Then under his breath he says but I do agree theres times because in his heart he really does want to marry her.
    "I aint ready for the altar but I do agree there's times"
    The next part says that she was a good friend even if not a lover. That the friendship made him realize how much she meant to him.
    "When a woman sure can be a friend of mine"
    Then he goes on to say how much he loves her.
    "Well, I keep on thinkin bout you, sister golden hair surprise
    And I just can't live without you; can't you see it in my eyes?"
    Next he apologizes for being a bad listener. Part of the reason they broke up was that he wasn't there for her, but he still cares about her even though he didn't show it.
    "I been one poor correspondent, and I been too, too hard to find
    But it doesn't mean you aint been on my mind"
    Next he wants her to meet him in the middle, less than engaged but more than friends. He wants her to show some emotion for him, that she actually still cares for him in that way. He can no longer pretend just to be friends.
    "Will you meet me in the middle; will you meet me in the air?
    Will you love me just a little, just enough to show you care?
    Well I tried to fake it, I don't mind sayin, I just can't make it"
  • Allan from Brentwood, Ca It is so obvious, to me at least. The guy is suffering from ED. He needs Viagra! He tried, but he just can't make it! And he's trying to convince his girl to go along with his problem.
    It's just hard to hear this song... if I were in his position, I sure wouldn't be singing about it! Keep it in your pants dude.
  • Karl from Akron, , Oh The late Phil Hartman's artwork for America was on their Album "History " which was their greatest hits album.. The drawings were taken off of previous albums.
  • Charlie from Cape Girardeau, MoMy take on the meaning of this song: "Sister Golden Hair" is the guy's sarcastic name for the girl who won't put out until she's married. He "ain't ready for the altar", but he wants a girl who'll "be a friend of mine", in other words, put out. Since he "just can't live without" her, his only option is to "fake it" until one of them gives in.
  • Greg from Ludlow, KyVery simple, you people think way too deep, He Broke a girls heart(sister golden hair) and now he wants her back, He doesnt want to marry her, just for her to be there for him again. He does not want her to completely fall for him, just love him enough to show she cares. And He's Been too. too hard to find probably because either A. he broke her heart and wouldnt talk to her, or B. he means he was not there for her like he should have been, now he wants her to meet him in the middle, he dont want to settle down(she probably does) and also look up the lyrics people, it does not say "Im not ready for the altar but I do agree there's time" Its "but I do agree there timeS when a woman sure can be a friend of mine"
  • Raymond Peters from Roy, WaI won't comment on the rest of the song but I know in my heart (from experience) that "Golden hair surprise" refers to being enamored with a girl that the drapes and the carpet don't match....if you know what I mean?
  • Matt from New York, NyYou guys are getting too hung up on the word "sister." It's just about a man who is afraid to commit to marriage, but doesn't want to lose the girl as a lover.
  • Matt from Raleigh, NcTeresa - that line makes me cry every time I hear it! A rare song in which the melody and words are one - without the other they are nothing. Yeah the guy can't commit, but who among us hasn't been ready at some point in there lifes?
  • Cody from Tooele, UtWow Someone put Some thinking In This Song(Person Below Me) But Hey Man They Said That Any Lovin Is Good Lovein So he'll Take What He Can Get
  • Rob from Toronto, CanadaIT'S ALL ABOUT GINGER. I took an interest in this song about 15 years ago because its lyrics ring of something agonizing to me and to this day this song is deeply gut wrenching. In my interpretation of the lyrics he is wrestling with forbidden love but not the love for a nun as many have thought. He has fallen in love with his half-sister whom he has been introduced to but didn't know she existed prior to some broken family interaction along the path of his life, hence the surprise. She also has shown that she felt something more than sibling love for him during family gatherings. He tries to fake being a brother but he is tortured by his lust for her and prefers to stay away from family contact for fear of being taken as a family member by her and lose his stake as a suitor. Not ready for the alter would mean that marriage is not an option due to sanguinity but that he seeks to live his life with her anyways as. The song is about a letter he writes to her after years of painful waiting for her to catch up to him in years and reach adulthood, and to see if they can move on without one-another, metaphorically, sunday but then monday means several painful years of tenuous, cautious, cat-like commitment to being there when she's ready. Meet me in VA would have meant giving him her virginity but as the lyric changed to air the meaning is that he has sent her a recording of a song he wrote for her and would she embrace his disincarnate company present in the "air" which is not a stretch of a term for a piece of music. More to this is the outro of the song hints that he has won her with his recording in the way that it refrains victoriously on a new chorus, implying another song by it's doo-bop, do-wop change at the end. I don't want to type love and war but furthermore, meet me in the middle would mean that they both have buried thier forbidden love for years and in his letter he is calling the game because the burden is too great and is considering suicide in his deep depression. "The Middle" implies that he has living with the great pain of this love for years but that she is also party to the madness because she was the first to flirt with him so he is prompting her in the letter to respond favourably to this love even though it's taboo. More tangeably, he is asking her to see him somewhere geographically between their residences away from the family so that they can start to really get to know one another without pretending not to be in love. Can't you see it in my eyes means he has also sent her a photo with the letter and the recording (the CD cover?)the photo must show his emptiness but also his affinity for her, that she would fall in love even moreso with the photo after not seeing one another for years. Lastly, the song is a musical masterpiece because like the outro it makes the musical statment that he would win her through his musical prowess: the intro for the song is a solo acoustic guitar bit (which is probably everyone's favourite part of the song if my hunch is good!) This part stands alone before the song starts, it is stark, meloncholy, lonely, stirring and moves the emotions because it's sombre but hopeful which represents the pain of his doubt about the outcome of his love for her. This part is again played before v2 in the same way, just an acoustic guitar standing alone. This also implies that he's tried before to impress her with his guitar work as the part makes the exact same statement but only sweetern and more powerful as the second time it's joined by a gorgeous electric slide line alongside it, probably an overdub, indicating that (he likes to play with himself)he has carefully built a better gift for her and his new song would sound better to her and finally cause her to consider him worthy of her overlooking the barrier of sanguinity. The sunday-monday also refers quite surreptitiously to the astrological forces present and the title of his CD, Northern Sun. He has sought fame in the music biz but he so far "just can't make it". He would have used his fame and fortune(sun)to win her but having so far failed, he is appealing to her less material side, her soul and sympathy (moon) for his artwork itself. It's uncanny how the lyrics work out in this deeper meaning because they both have the leo and cancer strongly posited in each of their natal charts and it's just so lyrically convenient how Sunday and Monday happen to be next to one another naturally as they are in the zodiacal wheel! While all this may seem to be a stretch, you might think I'm reading my own experience into these most beautiful and mysterious lyrics but just consider this... the author has stated that these lyrics are strictly poetic licence and thus came from the treasure trove of his subconcious muse, also consider that there was a book written about an unsinkable ship called the Titan whose fate was a disaster much the same as the Titanic's fate and the novel's description of the boat was strangely close to the true description of the Titanic. There was also a novel written about four men shipwrecked on an island who drew straws to see who'd be food for the other 3 and then were saved as a result of the sacrifice which sustained them. Incredibly, decades later a real incedent happened almost mirroring the circumstances and even the names of the men were strangely similar! Trust me this song is about a great but forbidden love between 2 half siblings who are also 12 years apart to make matters even more gut-wrenching. But the crazy part about their May-September obsticle is that they are both the same zoological sign on the Chinese wheel which has a 12 year cycle! Divine, forbidden love which would challenge both the lovers and those around them. Hope this was a fun read, it was an opportunity to air out this interpretation of the song and was cathartic to write, thanks for indulging me! IT'S ALL ABOUT GINGER.
  • Katie from Melbourne, AustraliaI love this song and the band America. This is Beckley at his best.
  • Wendy from Byron Bay , AustraliaI just saw the band perform this in Brisbane Australia I've loved this song since I first heard it & it still brings back those feelings of being young and free and 'not ready for the altar'. The thing about the nuns is a surprise to me, I too thought she was Sister Golden Surprise til today!
  • Justin from Albany, NyThis song is unbelievable. I love America.
  • Zola from St. Louis, Mothe guy singing is in love with his friend, but she doesnt ever recognize that they could have something together. The "I ain't ready for the altar but I do agree there's times" just means that hes not asking her to marry him or anything, but he wishes she would acknowledge him in that way. He wants her to "meet him in the middle" because when you're in love with someone like that any recognition is better than nothing. this part "Well I tried to fake it, I don't mind sayin', I just can't make it," probably means that they almost had something together once, but it was torn apart.
  • Chris from Chicago, IlOf course this song is simply about aman who can't commit.He wants her,but he doesn't.....but he really does:)
  • Alexander from Kiensiflodikov, IcelandI think this song is about a man about to become a priest and he doesnt want to do it because hes still in love with this girl. Eh I'm probably wrong but im just throwing out ideas
  • Chrissy from Downriver, MiWhat I get from this song is that he's engaged to marry someone, but he just can't do it, because of "Sister Golden Hair", a friend of his, who he's realised that he's in love w/. That's not likely what was originally intended by Beckley, but it fits nicely.
  • Allox from Qld, AustraliaAnyways, whatever it's about, I love this song so much.....
  • Kathy from Metro Detroit, MiI've been listening to the song for several days, because I found this site and I wanted to see what the song helped me see as a possible concept.

    Nuns can be part of the Catholic Church and Catholic Church has Mass(gathering) on Sunday. Nuns wear habits that hide all of their body including their hair.

    Perhaps its a young man, teenager, who goes(or went) to Catholic school, who has a crush on one of his teachers. Whom he names "Sister Gold Hair Surprise" because he somehow accidentally, or simply through research, which we all do on our crushes, found out that she had blond hair.

    He tried to make it Sunday(to mass) but it depressed him cause the woman he has a crush on/loves is a nun who does not show him she even knows he is alive. So he set his sights on seeing her in class on Monday. So he went to bed.

    Now he's a normal teenage male and he dates women his own age, either because of hormones or just to look normal, and thus "there are times a woman SURE can be a friend of mine" either through sex with them or them just listening to him.

    The rest of the song is how he just cant get her, the nun/crush object, out of his mind, and he's not showing up to church and avoiding her cause he is crazy about her and thinks of her all the time. Then he says he just wants her to show him that she feels the same about him.

    Just my thoughts.
    -Kathy, Detroit, MI
  • Rayna from Pembroke Pines, Fl It's about a jerk of a man who can't commit to the woman he says he adores, to the point of jilting her at the altar. He tells her he likes her as social company but that's it, as opposed to loving her as a life partner.
  • Brenda from Erie, United StatesAh came on guys this song is about a blonde woman that the man loves and can't commit too! get your minds out of the gutter!he was going to wed her on a sunday but got as far as got dressed but couldn't get any father(Ah Spelling but you know what I mean)( I tried to make it Sunday but I got so damned depressed so I set my sites on Monday and I got myself undressed)
  • Boogiespencer from Bethesda, MdBeckley was in love with a beautiful blonde hair SURPRISE. She of course like all woman wanted the full committment of getting married and taking him to the Altar. He wanted to meet her in the middle and probably just live with her. "can I love you just a I have to get married... They probably broke up and he just kept thinking about her and admitted that he "could not live with out her" and "could not make it"
  • Teresa from Mechelen, BelgiumThat's very right :"Will you meet me in VA" became
    "Will you meet me in the air", Gerry Beckley said
    it was better like that. Why not enjoy this beautiful lovesong and stop thinking that every
    song is about drugs or sex. "Well I keep on thinking 'bout you, Sister Golden Hair surprise and I just can't live without you, can't you see it in my eyes ...."
  • Brice from Tallmadge, United StatesWrong! Wrong! Wrong! no more crap about a nun!
    I don't know the actual story but it is NOT about a nun.
    The story I do know about the chorus is Gerry Beckely wanted it to be ....will you meet me in VA (Virginia) he was singing it backstage when america was opening for jackson browne jackson joined in singing only he misinterpreted the words and sang "the air" Beckely liked it and changed it.

  • Julian from Oakland, ArTo some people every song is about masturbation, just like to other every song is about drugs. It's quite sickening.
  • Megan from Ozark, AlHe is NOT singing about "THAT"! He's afraid of commitment! What are you guys on!?
  • Deserea from Swain, NyDon't be silly, this song is NOT about masturbating. It's about a man who is with a woman who is ready to commit, but he fears he is just not ready to marry her. He is AFRAID OF COMMITMENT. He avoids her "I been one poor hard to find." But its a SURPRISE that he cares for her so much. He wants to take the relationship slow "Will you meet me in the middle." He tried faking that commitment didn't bother him to try and not to hurt her, but he couldn't do it.
  • Teresa from Mechelen, BelgiumI don't know what this song is about (english is not my language, I'm from Belgium), but for me
    "sister Golden Hair" is, was en will always be a very beuatiful song. "... And I just can't live without you, can't you see it in my eyes ..."
  • Brett from Auckland, New ZealandThe lyric is indeed 'surprise' (Rhymes with 'see it in your eyes' you see!)
  • Dave from Baltimore, Mai have America's Greatest Hits on lp and on the album cover, it has sister golden hair surprise, and though i've seen mistakes on these things before, i've always heard it as surprise and this would certainly point in that direction
  • Al from Seminole, FlI just listened to the song from Napster a few times. To me it is definetly, Sister Golden Hair Surprise. You can distinctly note the 'R' in Sur... and the 'S' in ...prise..
    As far as the "masturbating to a nun"... please.. save that for Marylynn Manson.
  • Lauren from Jacksonville, FlThat's funny, David, I thought they said "Golden Hair surprise," too. I suppose "so bright" makes more sense.
  • Rich from Elkins, WvI never get tired of this song...I think the backgroung vocals are tight! ~as far the other junk a few of you are saying about it... keep your day don't know jack about decent lyrics and good tunes.
  • David from Nitro, Wv"Sister Golden Hair so bright" - I always thought they were saying "Golden Hair surprise." Funny to learn this now after 29 years.
  • Olaf from Occidental, CaIt would be REALLY ironical that America performed their NUN 'BATING song on a Bob Hope Special that also featured John Wayne, Flip Wilson & Aretha Franklin (1975 at Pauly Pavilion, UCLA).
    But seriously, what's the basis for this bizarre/crackpot interpretation? (a few words: "Sister","Sunday","undressed","altar"?
  • Greg from Calgary, United StatesFirst "A Horse With No Name" is about heroin, now "Sister Golden Hair" is about masturbation. Uh-huh....
  • Pete from Nowra, AustraliaMasturbating over a nun PLEASE, what are you guys on , He was obviously having a tug over an alter boy, please people lets concentate here
  • Nathan from Schaumburg, IlThis song is not about masturbating to a nun. If you LISTEN to the lyrics he goes on to say (...So I set my sites on Monday and got myself undressed, I AINT READY FOR THE ALTER...) I believe it's about a man who is afraid to commit.
  • Brett from Edmonton, CanadaThis song is about a man who, ironically, can't stop masturbating while thinking about a nun ("Well, I tried to make it Sunday, but I got so damned depressed...") Obviously, he's faced with a very problematic dilemma. Great song, wonderful music.
  • Tim from Livonia, MiOne of the band members does the voice for "Theodore" on the Chipmunk cartoons. Saw these guys last year, still sound good.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Album Cover Inspirations

Album Cover InspirationsSong Writing

Some album art was at least "inspired" by others. A look at some very similar covers.

Jonathan Cain of Journey

Jonathan Cain of JourneySongwriter Interviews

Cain talks about the divine inspirations for "Don't Stop Believin'" and "Faithfully."

Dean Pitchford

Dean PitchfordSongwriter Interviews

Dean wrote the screenplay and lyrics to all the songs in Footloose. His other hits include "Fame" and "All The Man That I Need."

Creedence Clearwater Revival

Creedence Clearwater RevivalFact or Fiction

Is "Have You Ever Seen the Rain" about Vietnam? Was John Fogerty really born on a Bayou? It's the CCR edition of Fact or Fiction.

Petula Clark

Petula ClarkSongwriter Interviews

Petula talks about her hits "Downtown" and "Don't Sleep In The Subway," and explains her Michael Jackson connection.

Women Who Rock

Women Who RockSong Writing

Evelyn McDonnell, editor of the book Women Who Rock, on why the Supremes are just as important as Bob Dylan.