“It’s indelibly imprinted on my soul,” said Graham Nash, in New York recently to promote the new paperback edition of his remarkable year-old memoir Wild Tales—A Rock & Roll Life.
“I remember it all, but when I looked down at the first draft, all I could say was, ‘I wish I were him!’”
For the paperback version of his life story, Nash added a “welcoming” acknowledgement to his newborn twin grandsons. Also since the hardcover’s publication, he got a new tattoo.
“It’s an Icelandic symbol for people who are spiritually and physically lost in a storm–so if I ever get lost in a storm I’ll know my way out!” he joked. The new tatt joins one on his shoulder of Hundu god Ganesha (“the remover of all obstacles”), and on the other shoulder, a mermaid.
“It’s a nice image, for my wife,” explained Nash, who lives with his wife Susan in Hawaii. “I thought for her, it was better than ‘I love Susan’—and then getting divorced after 40 years!”
Besides Wild Tales, Nash is promoting CSNY 1974, a box set including all 40 tracks performed during the historic 1974 Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young tour, along with a 188-page booklet of never before seen tour photos and a bonus DVD of previously unreleased concert footage. Nash co-produced the set, and has called the four-year undertaking “the most difficult, yet rewarding work I’ve ever done in my 50 years of recording.”
He only wishes he could be more involved in similar projects on behalf of The Hollies, the British group which he left in 1967 to join Crosby, Stills & Nash.
“Here’s what I’d like to do,” he said. “Me and Allan [Hollies lead singer Allan Clarke] do a Hollies box set from our point-of-view, since we started that band and it was our band. It would include BBC stuff: A friend gave me 60 Hollies live tracks from the BBC, that are stunningly brilliant and sound great.”
The Hollies were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010, 13 years after Crosby, Stills & Nash.
“The induction was very much welcomed and we were honored, but it was a little late,” Nash correctly noted. “The Hollies were always given short shrift.”
He recalled how The Hollies always incorporated novel sounds into their songs, be it the banjo in “Stop Stop Stop,” the chiming church bells of “Pay You Back with Interest” and the steel drum in “Carrie Anne.”
“I always tried to push everything forward and make something different then what we did before,” said Nash, and a hallmark of the Hollies’ many hits, he noted, was that they were always “sonically interesting.”
“You have to keep moving forward.”
Like CSNY, The Hollies are represented by a new box set, a 50-track 50th anniversary retrospective 50 at Fifty. Nash fantasized a stadium tour of The Hollies and David Crosby’s and Stephen Stills’ respective pre-CSN bands The Byrds and Buffalo Springfield—all Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees, by the way—and then after intermission, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Returning to reality, Nash, a RockHall member for both CSN and The Hollies as well as a double inductee into the Songwriters Hall of Fame (with CSN and as a solo writer) and an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his contributions as a musician and philanthropist, touched on his continuing activism in support of peace and social and environmental justice.
“When I heard about the execution of Michael Brown in Ferguson, I co-wrote a song, ‘Watch Out for the Wind,’ that morning and performed it with Crosby, Stills & Nash that night,” said Nash, who organized the No Nukes/Musicians United for Save Energy (MUSE) concerts in 1979 with Jackson Browne and Bonnie Raitt. “And one of my favorite songs in the set is ‘Burning for the Buddha,’ which is about 128 Tibetan monks who burned themswelves to death last year over the tensions between China and Tibet.”
He’s reminded of the enduring timeliness of his composition “Teach Your Children.”
“We have to open a dialog and start talking with each other and teach our children a better way of dealing with all this madness,” he said.
But the “biggest problem facing humanity now,” he added, is climate change.
“I’m in talks with AT&T and Levi’s about putting on a huge concert in San Francisco with many big names to raise money and awareness for climate change, and practical ways of reducing the carbon footprint,” he said. “And I just met with the Rockefeller Foundation, which decided to divest all its money in fossil fuels and reinvest in altnerative energy. Over a thousand groups are dedicated to climate change but they’re all slightly different and looking for funding and want their organization to be top guy. We have to bring everybody together with one voice, under the same umbrella. We’re past the tipping point, but we need to act and try to do something now.”
“And we have to get money out of politics!” he added.
Meanwhile, 65 examples of Nash’s acclaimed photography are on display at the Fine Art Photograpy Gallery at Mumm Napa in Rutherford, Calif. The My Life Through My Lens, Photographs by Graham Nash exhibit is up through Jan. 31 and includes pictures of friends including David Crosby, Jerry Garcia and Johnny Cash. As a photographer, Nash has received the New York Institute of Technology’s Arts & Technology Medal and Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, and the Hollywood Film Festival’s inaugural Hollywood Visionary Cyber Award; his work is collected in the book Eye to Eye: Photographs by Graham Nash, and has been displayed internationally in galleries and museums including the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution.
As for new recordings, Nash is working on an album of acoustic versions of Jimi Hendrix songs, also featuring the likes of Crosby, Jason Mraz and Grace Jones. “It’s a great project and will revitalize Jimi’s music with an acoustic feel,” he said.
Also in the works is an album with Crosby compiling songs they’ve recorded with others, including Jackson Browne and James Taylor, over the past 30 years. And Nash has begun work on his next solo studio album, with 30 new songs to choose from.
“I don’t look back,” said Nash. “I’m much more interested in what I’m doing now.”
But he was thrilled to take part in an Everly Brothers tribute concert on Oct. 25 at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame & Museum in Cleveland.
“It was an incredible show with [artists including] Vince Gill, Emmylou Harris, Peter Asher and Alison Krauss, and closed an incredible circle in my life,” he said. “I was 15 years old when I heard the Everlys the first time, and recorded an album of Hollies songs with them in 1966 [Two Yanks in England]. Don [Everly] swore he’d never sing again after Phil died, but when he was presented with a lifetime achievement award and the band struck up ‘Bye Bye Love’ and led him to my mic, we sang together and he had such joy on his face.”
Writing Wild Tales, Nash concluded, likewise allowed him to look back on his life and his songwriting and “put in cohesive form my incredibly rich life experience.”
“I really did it for my grandchildren,” said Nash, who also has an illustrated children’s book of his classic Crosby, Stills & Nash hit “Our House” forthcoming. “It’s easy to say it’s for my wife and my kids, but they know who I am and what I’ve been through and how I deal with the joy and tragedy in my life. But my grandchildren don’t know who I am: The eldest one is two, and the twins are only six-months-old, and with all due respect, I’m 72! How long can I go on?”
“So I really did it for them, to show them where their grandfather came from–from incredibly humble beginnings in World War II–and what I did with my life.”
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