Single Stories: America, “Sister Golden Hair”
42 years ago today, America entered the Billboard Hot 100 with a song that was inspired the work that one of their peers had been doing, and the inspiration must have been pretty profound: it went on to become the band’s second #1 hit in the US.
Written by Gerry Beckley and produced by George Martin, “Sister Golden Hair” was – as Beckley has freely admitted – inspired by the work of his friend Jackson Browne. “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,” said Beckley, in an interview with Access Backstage.
The song, which appears on the band’s 1985 album, HEARTS, is ostensibly a message from a man to his significant other, one in which he tries to explain that he loves her, he’s not just ready for marriage. “I find Jackson can depress me a little bit, but only through his honesty,” Beckley told Access Backstage. “It was that style of his which led to ‘Sister Golden Hair,’ which is probably the more L.A. of my lyrics.”
“Sister Golden Hair” is also notable for featuring one of Beckley’s first usages of “ain’t” in a lyric. “It was one of the first times,” he admitted. “But I wasn’t making an effort to. I was just putting myself in that frame of mind and I got those kind of lyrics out of it.”