Song With No Words (Tree With No Leaves)

Album: If I Could Only Remember My Name (1971)
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Songfacts®:

  • As the title implies, this really is a song with no words. Singers will often scat out words when they're coming up with vocal melodies, but they later replace them with actual lyrics. Sometimes a nonsense line will stay in, but in one, David Crosby left in his vocalizations throughout the entire song - all six minutes of it!

    "When I wrote this song, it seemed complete," he said. "It never asked me for words. Id did it, it felt good, so I left it that way."
  • It was Graham Nash who called this song "Tree With No Leaves," providing the subtitle. Nash also sang on the track with Crosby.
  • Crosby recalled to Uncut magazine: "I had a double handful of songs, and were good. I was doing things nobody had heard before, like 'Tamalpais High' and 'Song With No Words,' using your voice like a horns stack. They were loving that we'd do s--t nobody else had done."
  • In the liner notes to the 1991 CSN boxed set, Crosby explained the tuning: "The A is up a whole tone to B, B is down to a whole tone to A, and high E is down a whole tone to D. It's the same tuning that gave me "Guinnevere," "Déjà Vu," "Compass."
  • "Song With No Words" is part of David Crosby's first solo album, If I Could Only Remember My Name. The first Crosby, Stills & Nash album was released in 1969 around the same time his girlfriend, Christine Hinton, died in a car accident, which devastated him. After Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young released their Deja Vu album in 1970, each member went to work on solo albums. Crosby got a lot of help from his old friends, who helped him through the difficult time. On this song, Jorma Kaukonen of Jefferson Airplane and Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead both played guitars - Garcia played electric and pedal steel.

    Garcia proved to be a supportive figure to the singer after the tragedy. Crosby told Uncut magazine: "When I was making my solo record, I was in terrible shape because my girlfriend had just died. I didn't know what to do. I had no way to deal with it, so I hid in the studio – it was the only place I felt comfortable. Jerry came by every night. Every night he'd show, and we'd tap away."
  • If I Could Only Remember My Name gained new recognition in 2010 when it was listed second on the Vatican's "Top 10 Pop Albums of All Time" as published in the official newspaper of the Holy See, L'Osservatore Romano. (The Beatles' Revolver topped the list).

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