Graham Nash on longevity, ‘new’ album with David Crosby, and smoking pot at 80: ‘It doesn’t affect my voice’


Graham Nash was 25 when he wrote his classic 1968 song, “Teach Your Children.” He recorded it a year later with the then-budding supergroup Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, which teamed him with David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Neil Young.

Had anyone told Nash then that he would still be recording albums and doing concert tours in 2022, at the age of 80, how would he have responded?

“I would probably have laughed and then smoked another joint!” said the two-time Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee, who performs Saturday, Oct. 15, at Humphreys Concerts by the Bay.

“Just think about it,” he continued. “Most people who are 25 now think somebody who is 80 is probably dead already. So, why would I have thought of (being) 80? No way! It just happened.”

Nash rose to stardom in his native England in the 1960s as a member of the Manchester band The Hollies. He achieved international fame after moving to Los Angeles in 1968 and co-founding Crosby, Stills & Nash, which soon expanded with the addition of Young.

That he is now on the road performing songs by all three groups, along with such Nash solo songs as “Chicago” and “Military Madness,” is a source of pride to him. It is also something that makes him chuckle in disbelief.

“Even at 80, I am singing better than I ever have, and I mean that sincerely,” he said, speaking by phone from Tacoma, Wash.. “I’m not a man to brag. But when you reach this age — ha-ha! — am I supposed to be doing this well?”

Make that doing well, with a recent caveat. Nash noted that he had to cancel the Sept. 29 opening date of his fall concert tour.

“I’m actually in a lot of pain,” he said. “I fell (Sept. 27) in New York City and spent five hours in the ER. Fortunately, I have not broken my hip, but I have internal bruising, which is incredibly painful. I had to cancel my show last night in Tacoma so I would feel better. But I’m still in a lot of pain.”

(Nash subsequently performed some of the initial dates on his fall tour while seated in a wheelchair. On Oct. 13, six days after this article was published, he cancelled the tour’s 11 remaining concerts citing “a COVID outbreak in the touring party.”)

Graham Nash self-portrait at The Plaza Hotel in New York in 1974.

This image released by Graham Nash shows a self-portrait at The Plaza Hotel in New York in 1974.

(Graham Nash / Associated Press)

Rocking on

Nash is not the only graying music star who launched his career half a century or more ago and is still performing.

This year has seen concert tours by former Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, who are 80 and 82 respectively, and by the Rolling Stones, whose best-known members, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, are 79 and 78. (Starr postponed several performances earlier this week after contracting COVID-19.)

Others who hit the road in 2022 include Willie Nelson, 89, Buddy Guy, 86, Mavis Staples, 83, Smokey Robinson, 82, Boz Scaggs, 78, and Blondie, whose lead singer, Debbie Harry, is 77.

“I saw (classical guitar giant) Andres Segovia perform at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, when he was 92, and he killed me!” Nash said.

“The Ink Spots were still touring when they were all in their 70s and 80s. I mean, why not? Was it Mick Jagger who said: ‘You can’t trust anybody over 30?’ I wonder what he thinks about that now.”

With the clock ticking, Nash is keeping as busy as ever.

In March, he released a live double-album. Recorded at several concerts in 2019, it features him and a seven-piece band performing his first two solo albums, 1971’s “Songs for Beginners” and 1973’s “Wild Tales,” in their entirety.

The live album followed last November’s publication of his latest book, “A Life in Focus: The Photography of Graham Nash.” His previous book of photos, “Eye to Eye,” came out in 2004.

Nash’s next solo album is due in the spring. He is also featured on every number on the upcoming new album by Allan Clarke.

“Allan is my oldest friend, and I’m honored, of course, to be on his album,” he said.

“We’re both 80. I met him when I was 6. We started The Hollies in 1962, and he’s the voice behind (such Hollies’ hits) as ‘The Air That I Breathe’ and ‘Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress.’ Allan sent me a couple of tracks, and I added my vocals in my home studio in New York. Now, I’m on the entire album and very proud to be.”

David Crosby and Graham Nash are shown at a 1974 Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young concert in Oakland.

David Crosby and Graham Nash are shown at a 1974 Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young concert perform in Oakland. The two have been estranged for the past seven years will reunite, in a manner, in a new Nash and Crosby compilation album that Nash is overseeing. “I do miss David,” Nash says of his former musical parner.

(Robert Altman / Getty Images)

In harmony with David Crosby

Nash is also looking forward to the release of a new archival compilation album that he curated. It features him and David Crosby singing vocal harmonies on songs with a bevy of their famous musical pals.

“That really is a great album, and I hope it comes out soon,” Nash said.

“It starts with us singing on (Stephen Stills’ 1970 solo hit) ‘Love the One You’re With,’ then on Jackson Browne’s (1972 hit) ‘Doctor My Eyes’ and James Taylor’s (1975 hit) ‘Mexico.’ It finishes off with me and David singing ‘You’ve Got a Friend’ with Carole King (in 1993) at the Universal Amphitheatre (in Los Angeles).”

Does this album have a title?

“I don’t know. ‘Harmony’? “ Nash replied, with no apparent hint of irony.

He and Crosby have been engaged in an intensely acrimonious battle of words since Crosby, Stills & Nash imploded in 2015.

The two have since had scathing exchanges, largely via the media. In a 2018 Union-Tribune interview, Nash declared: “Crosby, Stills & Nash will never play another note together,” then added: “I just don’t like Crosby. I can’t make music with him. It’s done. It’s over.”

Does Nash’s upcoming new/old compilation album with Crosby mark a reunion of sorts for the long-estranged bandmates?

“No,” Nash said. “This record has been in the works for about five years. I put it together, compiled it and made a great album cover for it. I think anyone who hears it will say: ‘Holy s–t, this really is a great record!’ ”

Does listening to him and former best friend Crosby harmonizing in their prime make Nash wistful that they no longer speak, let alone sing, together?

“The truth is, I do miss David,” Nash replied. “I think he’s really a great musician, totally unique, and we made a lot of really good music together in our lives.

“But, as with brothers, sometimes you argue and that (can wreck) your relationship. That’s what happened to David and me. But look at the music we made together.”

Stephen Stills, Neil Young, Graham Nash, David Crosby October 26, 2013, Mountain View, CA.

Stephen Stills, Neil Young, Graham Nash and David Crosby are shown during Young’s 27th Annual Bridge School Benefit Concert at Shoreline Amphitheatre in 2013. They have not performed together since then.

(C Flanigan / FilmMagic)

Wasted on the way

What Nash and Crosby continue to share, besides their musical legacy, is their long-avowed affinity for smoking pot.

“I do smoke pot, and it doesn’t affect my voice at all,” Nash said.

“I mean, listen to my new live album. I’ve been stoned at every show I’ve done for the past 50 or 60 years.”

Along with Santana and Jefferson Airplane, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young was the only band to perform in 1969 at both the Woodstock festival and the daylong Altamont concert.

Woodstock embodied the peace-and-love ethos that blossomed in the second half of the 1960s. Altamont — held barely four months later and marred by violence and death — seemed to signal the abrupt end of that era.

But no matter. Nash, 53 years later, still embraces the hippie ideals he espoused back then.

“I was a hippie, absolutely,” he said. “And I still believe that love is better than hate, peace is better than war, we have to take care of each other and you have to try your best. I still believe all that hippie s–t.”

Before Crosby, Still & Nash formed, Crosby co-founded the pioneering folk-rock band The Byrds in 1964. He was fired in 1967 by fellow Byrds Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman.

In 2018, McGuinn and Hillman toured without Crosby to perform songs The Byrds had recorded during, and after, Crosby’s tenure in the band. Could Nash envision himself, Stills and Young touring without Crosby?

“I don’t think so,” he replied.

“I mean, yeah, of course we could, because Stephen, Neil and I are fine musicians. But it would appear to people that, well, Crosby would be terribly missed.

“Let’s get real here. It’s Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. We could make music together, without David, but it would have nowhere near the power of the four of us together.”

With or without Crosby, Stills and Young, does Nash feel a sense of urgency to be as active as possible?

When that question was posed to him in his 2017 Union-Tribune interview, he replied: “Of course. I’ll never finish all I’ve got on my mind to do. And I feel a tremendous urgency to get it done before I croak.”

Does he still feel that way now?

“No,” Nash said. “I feel relatively healthy. I eat well. I exercise. I take care of myself. I’d love to play the Royal Albert Hall (in London) when I’m 85.”

Graham Nash: An Intimate Evening of Songs & Stories

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15

Where: Humphreys Concerts by the Bay, 2241 Shelter Island Drive, Shelter Island

Tickets: $56, plus service fees



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