Once Upon a Time in the Top Spot: America, “Sister Golden Hair”
41 years ago today, America landed atop the Billboard Hot 100 for one wonderful week with a single whose lyrics were inspired by Jackson Browne.
Written by Gerry Beckley and produced by George Martin, “Sister Golden Hair” was written by Beckley while sort of trying to emulate the Browne mindset. “He has a knack, an ability to put words to music, that is much more like the L.A, approach to just genuine observation as opposed to simplifying it down to its bare essentials,” Beckley told the website AccessBackstage.com. “I think Jackson can depress me a little bit, but only through his honesty, and it was that style of his which led to a song of mine, ‘Sister Golden Hair,’ which is probably the more L.A. of my lyrics.”
As far as the identity of the real “Sister Golden Hair,” you’re out of luck if you think that it’s as simple as Beckley just giving up her name. “This is all poetic license,” he told SongFacts.com. “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. Most of my songs are not literal, in that they are about one particular person or one particular situation. I'm always asked, ‘Is there a 'Sister Golden Hair'?’ Which there isn't.”
Does a mystery count as solved if it turns out that there was never any mystery in the first place? Well, either way, we ended up with a pretty great song and the band ended up with a #1 hit, so who cares if there never really was a “Sister Golden Hair”?