Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Wooden Ships

First recorded (as demos) by David Crosby (1968), Stephen Stills (1968).
Hit album versions by Crosby, Stills & Nash (1969), Jefferson Airplane (1969).

(Above: David Crosby demo.)

(Above: Stephen Stills demo)

From the wiki: “‘Wooden Ships’ was written by David Crosby, Paul Kantner, and Stephen Stills. The song was composed in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on a boat named ‘Mayan’ owned by Crosby, who composed the music, while Kantner and Stills wrote most of the lyrics. ‘Wooden Ships’ was first recorded as a demo by Crosby in March 1968 with the melody but no lyrics. Stills recorded his own demo the following month with most of the lyrics in place.

“On the original Crosby Stills & Nash release in 1969, Kantner could not be officially credited as one of the joint authors-composer due to legal issues. Crosby later said, ‘Paul called me up and said that he was having this major duke-out with this horrible guy (Matthew Katz) who was managing the band, and [Katz] was freezing everything their names were on. ‘He might injunct the release of your record,’ [Kanter] told me. So we didn’t put Paul’s name on it for a while. In later versions, we made it very certain that he wrote it with us. Of course, we evened things up with him with a whole mess of cash when the record went huge.’

“Versions of ‘Wooden Ships’ were commercially released in 1969 both by Crosby, Stills & Nash (on Crosby, Stills & Nash) and by Jefferson Airplane (on Volunteers). Both versions are considered to be original versions of the song, although each differs slightly in wording and melody.

“Both Jefferson Airplane and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young performed the song in their respective sets at the 1969 Woodstock Festival. However, the CSNY performance is better-known, as it was included in the film and first album from the festival. Jefferson Airplane’s performance – over 21 minutes in length, including several extended jam sections – remained unreleased until the 2009 Woodstock Experience set.

“‘Wooden Ships’ was written at the height of the Vietnam War, a time of great tension between the United States and the Soviet Union, nuclear-armed rivals in the Cold War. It has been likened to Tom Lehrer’s ‘We Will All Go Together When We Go’ and Barry McGuire’s ‘Eve of Destruction’, in that it can be interpreted to describe the consequences of an apocalyptic nuclear war.”

Crosby, Stills & Nash, “Wooden Ships” (1969):

Jefferson Airplane, “Wooden Ships” (1969):

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, “Wooden Ships” live performance at Woodstock (1969):

Jefferson Airplane, “Wooden Ships” live performance at Woodstock (1969):

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