*10.30-GUINNEVERE (Crosby, Stills, & Nash)

Crosby, Stills & Nash



Guinnevere had green eyes
Like yours, m'lady like yours.
She'd walk down
Through the garden
In the morning
After it rained.

     Peacocks wandered aimlessly
     Underneath an orange tree.
     Why can't she see me?

Guinnevere drew pentagrams
Like yours, m'lady like yours
Late at night
When she thought
That no one was watching at all
On the wall.

[Vocal Break]

          She shall be free…
          As she turns her gaze
          Down the slope
          To the harbor
          Where I lay
          Anchored for a day.

Guinnevere had golden hair
Like yours, m'lady like yours
Streaming out
When we'd ride
Through the warm wind down by the bay.

     Seagulls circle endlessly.
     I sing in silent harmony
     We shall be free…


Guinnevere uses the psychedelic trance of open-tuning twelve string guitar to make a drone upon which to weave a tapestry of jazz timing and harmonics. David Crosby had been developing this sound all through his career with the Byrds from Everybody’s Been Burned, a sound that separated him from harmonies of the Beach Boys or the Beatles in being derived more from bebop jazz than rock music.

Not only the sitar-like weave of guitars that sound like ripples on the ocean reflecting glimmers of the sun, but the person of Guinnevere is psychedelic; as in Donovan’s Guinevere, her image is located in King Arthur’s Court, as seen through a Beardsley art nouveau print. It is the land of “m’lady”, the land the Rolling Stones had visited in Lady Jane, and Sly and the Family Stone had unabashedly claimed in the title of a song released in 1968. People were calling each other “my lady” and “my old man” at the time. “My lord” not so much.

David Crosby's love of sailing had been recorded before in the Byrds' Dolphin's Smile. This time, the poet seems to have anchored on a British isle and seen a maiden that reminded him of a previous love. Rather than feeling he has lost her, he believes he has set her free. The poet still has Guinnevere in his memory and she is delightfully brought to mind upon encountering other women. The lyric would have been told in a timeless way hadn’t there been mention of pentangles, which evokes a parallel between medieval spirituality and that of the counterculture in the late 60s and early 70s. The complexity of the melodic and harmonic line and the grace of the song’s structure make it striking, without the use of any sound effects or distortions. I particularly note the elegant parallel of “seagulls [that] circle endlessly” over the poet’s head while “peacocks wander aimlessly” at the woman’s feet.