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 …