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Graham Nash Remembers David Crosby: ‘He Was Remarkably Unique’

Crosby's best friend recalls their 50-year partnership, their late-in-life reconciliation, and their heartbreaking plans for a reunion

spinner image Graham Nash playing the guitar next to David Crosby
(Left to right) Graham Nash and David Crosby
Simone Cecchetti/Corbis via Getty Images

On Feb. 3, two weeks after the death of the talented, cantankerous singer-songwriter David Crosby, his bandmate and legendary harmonist Graham Nash talked to AARP about his friend and collaborator.

Graham Nash: I think one of the only things that we can do, particularly me, is only try to remember the good times. Try to remember the great music that we made. I’m only going to be interested in the good times, because if I concentrate on the bad times, it gets too weird for me.

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Rob Tannenbaum: By weird do you mean painful?

GN: Yes, painful.

The fact is that we were getting a little closer at the end. He had sent me a voicemail saying that he wanted to talk to apologize, and could we set up a time to talk. I emailed him back and said, “Okay, call me at eleven o’clock tomorrow your time, which is two o’clock on the East Coast.” He never called, and then he was gone.

RT: How long ago was it that he contacted you?

GN: Maybe a week and a half.

RT: I wonder if he knew he was dying.

GN: You know, I’ve thought about that myself. He was a very intelligent man. I wouldn’t put it past him to know that he was actually at the very end. The truth is, Rob, we’ve been expecting David to pass for 20 years.

RT: Sure.

GN: Since his liver transplant and all his stents. He had seven stents. His body was really failing. But once again, I can only try to remember the good times, because we had many of them.

I just saw a BBC program that Crosby and I did, I think, in ’71, and it was just incredibly beautiful. It was “Guinnevere,” with just me and David singing. I just keep that in the forefront of my mind. I only want to concentrate on the good things that we did.

spinner image Graham Nash and David Crosby playing their acoustic guitars while performing for the BBC television series 'In Concert' at BBC Television Studios in London in 1970
Graham Nash (left) and David Crosby performing together for the BBC television series "In Concert," at BBC Television Studios in London.
Don Smith/Radio Times via Getty Images

RT: That performance that you mentioned, is that on YouTube?

GN: Yes, it is.

RT: OK, let’s talk about the good times. Every artist, every musician has a different gift. Your gift, Stephen (Stills’) gift, Neil (Young’s) gift, David’s gift — they are not all the same. What was David’s gift?



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GN: David’s gift was the unbelievable uniqueness of him as a musician. Crosby was very jazz influenced in his early days. He played in tunings that were very strange, ribbons that were very strange.

When my friends Joel Bernstein and Stanley Johnston put together the 1974 stadium tour CD, the four CDs, when I was breaking it all down and checking out every track, David’s rhythm guitar on every song was just phenomenal. He really was in many ways the heartbeat of this band. I mean, he was incredibly talented and unique as a musician. That’s what he brought.

RT: I interviewed him only once, and it was just delightful. He’s one of those people who if you ask a question, you’re going to get an answer.

GN: Whether you want it or not!

RT: Right: “Here is my opinion. You probably won’t like it, but I don’t care.” It seems to me that in addition to his musical gifts, that was part of what he contributed, too. He strikes me as a guy who didn’t have doubts about music.

GN: No, because he was remarkably unique. I know many musicians, of course, and I’ve heard many musicians over my life. But I have never heard anybody with the same brilliant sense of music and harmony that David had.

His death is like an earthquake: You know that you’re in an earthquake, but subsequently, other smaller earthquakes happen afterwards. His death has been like that. It was only two or three days after he passed that I realized that he was actually gone.

RT: You had mentioned when we talked that you were on your way to England for a funeral, Ronnie Stratton.

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GN: Yes, I had to postpone that. I sent a beautiful heartfelt video to my friend Ronnie’s wife. She understood that I couldn’t go there. I’m still waiting to find out if there is a memorial or a service for David. Nobody quite knows exactly when he died or what he died of. I know he had COVID for a second time right after he was in rehearsals.

I’m in Woodstock right now, but before I came up here, we had a visit from Stephen (Stills’) son Christopher. Christopher was playing in David’s band. They were rehearsing for a show in Santa Barbara at the Lobero Theatre. It was its 150th anniversary. David had committed to do two shows and was in Los Angeles rehearsing with the band. Christopher was one of the band members.

He said that he was so happy that David was happy, smiling and laughing that we had been in contact. I got the same message from David’s son James. He said that David was ecstatic that we were back in contact.

spinner image Graham Nash and David Crosby onstage performing at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in 2014
(Left to right) Graham Nash and David Crosby perform at Red Rocks Amphitheatre on Sept. 23, 2014 in Morrison, Colorado.
Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

RT: It’s a shame it didn’t go a little further, but it sounds like it went far enough to be significant.

GN: Significant for me. It was very significant for me. It made David’s death a little easier for me, because I realized that we were going to get together later in his life. Crosby was my dear friend, my best friend for over 50 years. I can only concentrate on the good stuff, Rob. Our reaction to his comments about Neil’s wife and the other things that separated David from us — but if he was willing to call me and apologize for what he had done and how he had hurt me, it made his death a little easier for me to accept.

RT: When you get older, you know more dead people. More of the people you know die. That’s just universal.

GN: Yes, and because of the internet, it’s also worldwide instantly.

RT: Right, that’s another difference.

GN: Yes.

RT: Is your emotional response to people’s deaths, friends’ deaths different than it was the first couple of times that it happened?

GN: No, it’s always been mysterious. We always want to know if there is a heaven or a hell. We all hope that we die peacefully and not in pain. We want all those things. I wish to God that David would have had a better ending.

But him being happy at the end made it much better for me to be able to accept.

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