AARP Eye Center
Graham Nash, 81, is a singer, songwriter and member of Crosby, Stills & Nash, as well as a photographer. His forthcoming album is Now. Here he shares some life lessons with AARP's Rob Tannenbaum.
The best music begins with honesty
When you’re writing songs, you have to tell the truth. It’s every artist’s duty to reflect the times. Most of the choices I’ve made started with my mother and father telling me, “Follow your heart and you won’t go wrong.”
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Convenience and plenty beat inconvenience and scarcity
I came to New York City with the Hollies for the first time in 1965. It thrilled me. “Wait, I can have a cheeseburger delivered in five minutes? What a country this is!” I never wanted to go back to England, and I never did.
Make leaps of faith
The first time I sang with David Crosby and Stephen Stills, there was no doubt what I had to do. I was already in a famous band, and we had been famous for seven years. People thought I was f------ crazy to leave the Hollies. “Give up all the women, the money and the fame?” They had not heard me, David and Stephen sing — but I had.
Make up as swiftly as possible
David was my best friend for over 50 years. I’ve always wondered whether I was enabling him by keeping him going, keeping him in rent — even as he said terrible things about Neil’s wife [Neil Young’s wife, actress Daryl Hannah] and others. When it’s uncomfortable to be around a friend, it’s time to move on. But his death [on January 18] was like an earthquake; you know that you’re in an earthquake, but then other smaller earthquakes happen afterwards. It was only two or three days after he passed that I realized he was actually gone. The fact is that we were getting a little closer at the end. He had just left me a voice mail saying that he wanted to talk, to apologize, and could we set up a time. And I heard from his son that he was ecstatic that we were going to reconnect. But then he was gone.
There’s no such thing as too many songs
I can only write songs for me. I can’t write them for you. In CSNY [Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young] we had what we called the reality wheel, which meant we only worked on songs all of us loved, no matter who wrote it. After we finished Déjà Vu, I had 20 songs left over — so did Crosby, so did Stephen — and we did solo albums. When you’ve got songs in your head, you’ve got to get them out into the world so there’s room for more songs.
Collab is good
I played “Teach Your Children” for Stephen when I’d just finished it. He said, “Pretty good song, Graham, but don’t ever play it like that again. You sound like Henry VIII doing ‘Greensleeves.’ This is how it should go.” And he played a beautiful guitar part that turned it into a hit.
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