Posted March 2019
Photo by Amy GranthamI have often heard it said that the baby boomer generation had the greatest music. I happen to agree wholeheartedly. One of the reasons I feel that way is because of the iconic work by the legendary Graham Nash. Whether it was his work during his time with The Hollies or the prolific period with Crosby, Still, Nash (and, sometimes, Young) or in his various solo pursuits.
Because Nash was, once again, going to be performing in East Tennessee (this time at Chattanooga’s Walker Theater), I was granted the opportunity to chat with the musical icon about his latest album, Over the Years, and the supporting tour.
After some small talk about his recent vacation that he just returned from, I mentioned that he was going to be playing in Chattanooga (easy driving distance from me) and that I met with him during his show in Knoxville (even closer to me). He interjected with this neat bit of news:
“You know, in Knoxville, I was approached by the City Council just very quickly. The idea was that the Everly Brothers spent the first eight years of their life in Knoxville. They were on their parents’ radio show in Knoxville. So, the Knoxville City Council approached me and said that they’re going to make a small park in honor of the Everly Brothers. Part of their design is, on the walk through the park, there are marble stones on the floor that are carved with quotes from quite famous people about the Everly Brothers. They wanted to know if I could help find people that would give a small quote and get permission to put their signature carved into the marble. So far, I have me, of course. I have Keith Richards. I have McCartney. I have Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel, Brian Wilson. Incredible stuff, you know? I just thought I’d tell you that because you familiar with Knoxville. How could I not be involved when it’s the Everly Brothers? They’re part of the reason we are talking right now! Ha! Ha!”
Shifting our chat to his new CD, I asked Graham to tell me about it.
“I realized a year ago that there’d never been a ‘Greatest Hits’ of my music. Yes, greatest hits of CSN. Greatest hits of CSNY. Greatest hits of the Hollies, etc. But not of me, personally. So, I went on the internet and found out what my friends’ fifteen most favorite songs of mine are and I put them on. And, then, I thought, ‘You know, people have probably bought all this music – maybe even several times. How could I make it more interesting and more desirable?’
“So, I decided that I would go into my archives and find the demos of those songs and put them on. That’s what it became. The artwork was done by my wife, Amy Grantham.”
When I asked if the album cover was shot in Switzerland (which I thought it looked like it had), he said, “It’s actually a National Geographic image from many years ago and Amy put the boy in there.”
Over the Years is a two-disc collection that includes original demos of some of Nash’s biggest hits. I asked him which song he would point to as a calling card for the collection.
“It would be ‘Marrakesh Express’ because that was the demo that I sent The Hollies and they made a very half-hearted attempt to record it. To me, in my mind and being the writer of that song, I needed the energy of a moving train through it, which Stephen (Stills) brilliantly did on the CSN version of Marrakesh. I think if people hear the original demo, they’ll realize a couple of things. One: that the arrangement of the song didn’t change that much from my demos. I notice that the arrangement of each was already complete in my mind when I made the demo.
“And ‘Teach Your Children, of course, is another one. I started that song in the north of England, and I finished it in Los Angeles in early ’69. But you can hear that the arrangement – apart from the fact that there’s a solo in there that was done, of course, by Jerry Garcia – the arrangement is pretty much the same as my demo.”
Clearly, those songs and the songs of Nash’s peers in the same periods of time, they still stand on their own. In fact, a recent study showed that millennials more readily recognize that era of music more quickly and readily than their own era of music. I mentioned that to Graham, and he interjected.
“You know why? First of all, the melody. It’s the melody of all those songs. Today’s music – there’s a great deal of great music, of course. Particularly, ‘This Is America’. There are some great Hip-Hop songs; great songs out there. But I love an identifiable melody and identifiable lyrics. I think that might be one of the reasons why that they’re preferring our genre to theirs.”
A few days prior to our chat, the Super Bowl had just been played and there was tremendous buzz about the pros and cons of the half-time show by Maroon 5 and that classic rockers should be chosen for those shows because they’re historically much more well received. To that point, I asked Graham if he, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Neil Young were offered the gig to play halftime, would they do so?
“I cannot speak for David and Stephen and Neil, but I can speak for myself and I would not do the half-time show at the Super Bowl because of Colin Kaepernick, you know? This man has been trying to bring awareness of the fact that black kids are being killed almost daily by the police. His protest against that by taking a knee was incredibly symbolic. Regardless of what Maroon 5 did, musically, on the half-time show, they could’ve put people on their side instead of all the incredible negative posts I’ve seen about their performance. If they would’ve taken a knee. How hard would that have been?”
I asked Graham what form that the “knee-taking” have taken, his opinion.
“Adam Levine could’ve – at the beginning of one song – on his knee. Even if it was for only ten seconds of a song, it would’ve been incredibly symbolic for him to have done that and they chose not to. I think it was to their detriment.”
I then asked Nash if they (CSN) would not have done the same thing (take a knee during part of a song).
“I have a feeling that if we – the four of us - did do it, it would be an incredible ten minutes of protest. Ha! Ha! I just can’t imagine singing Ohio with the boys – well, I tell you, I could imagine it, but that’s the kind of stuff that we would do. We would turn that – because of Kaepernick – we would turn our performance into a protest, I believe.”
And what causes are on Graham’s front-burner about these days?
“We get asked to do a lot of benefits and you have to prioritize your time. You have to figure out the two or three things most important to you because you can get scattered by supporting many, many causes. It kind of dilutes everything because you can’t put a great deal of time into every single cause.
“And, so, certainly climate change. Certainly, the future of our children in terms of education, and the nuclear problem, still. I read yesterday that Russia supposedly has the ability to explode a nuclear bomb underwater, creating a tsunami that would wipe out Miami and parts of New York, all of Bangladesh. It’s insane. The world is run by these major corporations and several of them are military manufacturers. They’re just playing a game. They don’t give a f*** about people’s lives. They only are interested in making more profit for their company. And, unfortunately, war is an incredible way for these military people to make money. That’s a crime, as far as I’m concerned.”
When I opined that the difference between Russia and the United States is that we know how to pronounce the names of our mobsters, Graham chimed in and said, “Yes! Trump, Trump, Trump, and Trump!”
What’s on your radar for the rest of the year and next year?
“More creation. More music. More art. More trying to make the world a better place for myself and for my immediate loved ones. Just more creation. I ca