America – Sister Golden Hair

I’ve always liked the slide guitar in this song. It has a George Harrison sound to it. The song was on America’s album Hearts. The former Beatle producer George Martin produced this album.

Gerry Beckley wrote “Sister Golden Hair,” America’s second and final number one hit. Beckley has said that Jackson Brown and George Harrison inspired this song.

The song peaked at #1 in the Billboard 100, #11 in Canada, and #26 in New Zealand.

Gerry Beckley: “I very openly tip my hat there to ‘My Sweet Lord,'” “I was such a fan of all the Beatles, but we knew George [Harrison] quite well and I just thought that was such a wonderful intro.”

One interesting thing about the album… Phil Hartman, who was a graphic designer before his star turn in Saturday Night Live, designed the cover to the Hearts album.

 

From Songfacts

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.”

“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.

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.

Sister Golden Hair

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
I ain’t ready for the altar but I do agree there’s times
When a woman sure can be a friend of mine

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?
I been one poor correspondent, and I been too, too hard to find
But it doesn’t mean you ain’t been on my mind

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

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?
Now I been one poor correspondent, and I been too, too hard to find
But it doesn’t mean you ain’t been on my mind

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

Doo wop doo wop …

Author: badfinger20 (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

31 thoughts on “America – Sister Golden Hair”

  1. So many songs are open to interpretation and Lennon says it best, “We don’t know what these songs are about till people tell us”, but after reading your post and looking at the lyrics, I have a good idea.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. A great song, always liked it, always liked that band too and find that this single as well as ‘Ventura Highway” probably age the best of their output. You’re right it does have a bit of a George Harrison sound to it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m an oddball….my favorite song by them is “Loney People” for some reason. I do like their other songs though. Its cool that Martin had another number one song without the ex Beatles.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I loved this song. This group was seriously well-connected to music royalty. I didn’t realize. The steel guitar inspiration is definitely noticeable. I’ve never seen them live, despite many chances. They (Beckley and Bunnell) are rescheduled to be in our area in September, and hopefully we’ll be able to safely gather in theaters by then.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would like to see them also. To this day I really connect to “Lonely People.” George Martin did a good job producing them…

      I hope we are able to gather by then…in my mind though something you said stuck with me…we could very well be wearing masks at Christmas. Hopefully not… I tell myself…be positive be positive.

      Like

      1. They also did some recording at the studio outside of Nederland, CO. Probably after this album. I wish there was more to read and listen to about the CO place. It has basically vanished, and as we lose the people who were there, we lose the stories.

        It seems like to be free of masks and other precautions, we’ll have to have a vaccine. I know they’ve pulled out all of the stops to find one, but I keep hearing it could be months or years. Ugh.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh do you mean Caribou Ranch? Badfinger recorded there when they left Apple records. I bet it’s the same place….yep I just checked it is the same place. Sorry I’m typing real time lol. I read about the place when researching Badfinger. They loved it because it was so serene.

        I’ve heard the same thing. I’ve heard the UK may have it tested and done in August but it would only be for healthcare workers at first…which of course is totally the right thing to do.

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      3. Yes, Caribou Ranch. About 5 years ago, I took a drive up there, trying to spot some remains of the place. But nada. I didn’t really know what I was looking for, though. It’s very scenic up there.

        The updates on a possible vaccine have been a roller coaster ride. One day it sounds like it could be the end of 2021, and the next, it could be later this year. I bet it will be the sooner. Agreed, health care workers must come first.

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      4. Not me. Flu shots rarely work and most make you sick when you weren’t before. The recent HPV vaccine has injured young girls & boys. The Swine Flu vaccine in 1976 caused many to contract Gillian-Barre syndrome. Don’t even get me started on autism…

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Why? It’s a cold & flu virus. Your body will be full of remnants of previous infections. Besides, most of the testing is skewed…on purpose. From RFK Jr.’s site:
        https://childrenshealthdefense.org/news/coronavirus-and-infection-control-whats-going-on-with-testing/

        The government does not want accurate testing. They want an hysterical populace. When, in the history of infections, have we ever quarantined the healthy?

        How’s this for a rundown:
        https://themadtruther.com/2020/05/05/88-simple-truths-about-the-virus-the-pandemic-and-everything-in-between/

        Liked by 1 person

      6. “then it was not the true cause of death”…I totally believe that BUT…if not for it pushing high blood pressure or something else up…then technically…no the virus didn’t kill them but without the virus they would not be dead..chicken or the egg? .I’ve seen that listed a lot. And “no worse than flu numbers” I’ve seen that also BUT again…we have been isolated, wearing masks, and gloves…so yea the numbers are not as high. There is a reason for that.

        I know the percentage is low of dying but who wants to get sick?…BTW it came back to Nathan. He has a fever again…but not as bad as last time.

        Of course if I was a carrier…that is why I want to know…Jen and Bailey would have to be a carrier also.

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      7. And, the person with the blood pressure issue and/or any other co-morbidity would be taken out by the next flu bug or something else. The flu kills…millions. It’s a circular discussion. And, if there were underlying problems, listing death as solely COVID is lying.

        Quarantining the healthy only drops their immune systems. I can’t breathe in a mask for long and there have been reports (not mainstream, of course) of people becoming hypoxic. Oxygen deprivation is an immune killer, too.

        The only way to insure herd immunity is to let the healthy do what they do. Who knows what asymptomatic carrier might just be the person to mutate it down to nothing but a sneeze for the rest of us.

        Nobody wants to get sick. Nobody wants to die. We are being played. I’m a staunch realist. Everybody dies, eventually.

        The list of 88 things…I paid particular attention to #16 as THAT one is totally inline with CT’s material.

        My nasty-flu-bug dance I did in Jan. 2019 had my fever jumping up and down. That is a working immune system. I hope he isn’t taking any drugs to interfere with it. I took nothing. I let it run. I took in fluids and slept. Bye-bye nasty.

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      8. I’ve had the flu several times….NEVER like described now. Jennifer gets it bad…I never do…Not Every flu season does the New York hospitals over flow with people on ventilators…they just don’t…That is like saying SARS was the same as the flu. This is NOT as bad as sars but it’s a form of it.

        Personally I think the Left is overselling it and the Right is underselling it…I figure it’s somewhere in the middle.

        I do agree with a lot of what he says but people that keep saying…ah it’s no different than the flu…yes there are differences than the common flu. I’ve had the flu…body aches, a low grade fever…maybe I’m lucky I don’t know.

        Do I think it’s a death sentence? Of course not…but there is no reasons to take chances…I don’t plan to go out and lick tabletops lol.

        I know people die Vic but they don’t need a push…and no I don’t think the regular flu would have pushed all of them…now 70-80 years ok…I can see that but teenagers gasping for air in hospitals? No we don’t see that in every flu season.

        You have to admit that this is highly contagious and that is the reason also for the masks etc… But yea…I do see some of your points but I don’t particularly want it.

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    1. Yea…the guitar player and I have had arguments over this song. When we played bars…he always wanted to play it…I told him…no one…I mean no one wants to hear Sister Golden Hair on a Saturday night in a bar.
      We did end up learning it…and people sat on their hands…it’s a good record…a great record…keep it there.

      Like

  4. While some folks dismiss them as a wanna-be Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, I like America. In fact, their 1975 greatest hits compilation “History: America’s Greatest Hits” was one of the first records I ever heard when I was like 8 years old. My 6-year-older sister had it on vinyl.

    “A Horse With No Name”, “Ventura Highway”, “Muskrat Love”, “Lonely People”, “Sister Golden Hair”…there are so many great tunes on this album! There’s a very cool laid back vibe to these tunes. And America’s harmony singing is awesome and I think in fact oftentimes is comparable to CSNY.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lonely People is the one I really connect with a lot. Yea at first people accused them of the Neil Young rip off… rip off or not it was good!
      Sister Golden Hair combine all of the inluences together.

      Liked by 1 person

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