10.36-SEA OF JOY (Blind Faith)

Blind Faith



Following the shadows of the skies
Or are they only figments of my eyes?
And I'm feeling close to where the race is run.
Waiting in our boats to set sail…
Sea of joy.

Once the door swings open into space
And I'm already waiting in disguise.
Or is it just a thorn between my eyes?
Waiting in our boats to set sail…
Sea of joy.

     Having trouble coming through,
     Through this concrete, blocks my view
     And it's all because of you!

[Violin Break]

Or is it just a thorn between my eyes?
Waiting in our boats to set sail…
Sea of joy. (3x)

Set them free, sea of joy!

To set sail, sea of joy!

Blind Faith (like Crosby Stills and Nash) was a transitory band made up of members of earlier groups. The lead singer, Steve Winwood, was from Traffic, Eric Clapton, lead guitarist, and Ginger Baker, drums, were from Cream, and Ric Grech, bassist from Family, added the flavor of his violin to Sea of Joy. The band existed only for a matter of months before Eric Clapton joined up with Derek & the Dominoes and Winwood returned to Traffic. Blind Faith only released one album. Even though Blind Faith did not release a single from the album, because of the large following Cream had developed, the album was instantly popular and went directly to the top of the charts on both side of the Atlantic.

The name of the band gives pause. Why Blind Faith? Well, a certain religiosity was becoming favored in pop music about this time which would continue into the early 1970s. Of course, George Harrison had written religious songs in the midst of the psychedelic period, but these had been exotic, based in the Hindu or Buddhist tradition of India. Gurus like the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi were still the rage in the late 1960s, but by 1969 Christianity was enjoying a revitalization in the appearance of “Jesus Freaks”. Christian religiosity has shown up in the Psychedelic Masterworks in several Incredible String Band songs, and the Who album Tommy. Norman Greenbaum’s Spirit in the Sky was popular in late 1969. And the Blind Faith album itself included a religious hymn by Eric Clapton, not included in TLA, titled In the Presence of the Lord.

The album is only vaguely psychedelic. One blogger has compared the lyrics of Sea of Joy with CSN’s Wooden Ships (released May 1969), which is not included among the psychedelia here. I would also compare the extended violin break in Sea of Joy with It’s a Beautiful Day’s White Bird (released October 1969), which I have included in this study. All three songs express the desire to escape modern society and start over in the name of freedom. Sea of Joy came to be first heard at a time when psychedelia was clearing like shadows of the skies, close to the point where the psychedelic race is run. When Blind Faith didn’t hold together, it was Led Zeppelin that filled in the vacancy they left behind and the transition from psychedelic music to hard rock (with psychedelia only used as occasional spice) was complete.

The lyrics to Sea of Joy are oblique; in fact, they are grammatically incomplete in some instances. Unlike earlier psychedelic lyrics that sometimes had a similar incompleteness, or open-endedness, suggesting a hallucinatory or exalted transcendent state beyond the reach of proper English, Winwood sings the lines with such earnest soulful yearning that they seem only a sketchy scaffolding for a strong emotion that exceeds his ability to express himself. The concrete blocks [his] view, when he’d rather be immersed in the undifferentiated, the oceanic. Though the lyrics in general don’t explicitly use Christian symbols, I would suggest that the “thorn” (as in “crown of thorns” upon Christ’s crucifixion) is used implicitly for religious purposes. The singer’s destination, then, across the “Sea of Joy” would be Heaven rather than simply a blank escape in Death.