Graham Nash: Living Without Fear

By: Tim Dwenger

Graham Nash
The 60-year-old Graham Nash is primarily famous for his groundbreaking work as a songwriter and musician, but he is also fiercely political and highly motivated to make this world a better place. Whether it is his work with No Nukes and Musicians United for Safe Energy, or his politically charged lyrics in songs like "Military Madness" and "Chicago," Nash has been tirelessly working to persuade others to follow a more conscientious approach to life for the last 40 years.

This past August, Nash and his bandmates in Crosby, Stills & Nash were invited to Denver to perform at a special Etown concert during the Democratic National Convention, and he was kind enough to grant an interview as the date approached.

"When they asked us to play, I asked David and Stephen, and David and Stephen said they had other plans and that they couldn't go," he said. "I said, 'Well okay, I'm going alone then,' and David's response was 'Oh well, uh, well, maybe I'll come with you.'"

Though Stills didn't change his mind and join his friends on the Etown stage, Crosby and Nash performed as a duo and their participation was a highlight of an evening that played out in front of a "seething den of Democrats" at Denver's Buell Theatre, just blocks from the site of the convention.

Crosby and Nash opened their brief set with the classic CSN&Y number "Déjà Vu" as a clear nod to the times we are in. The song's repetitive refrain of "we have all been here before" rings true as the election draws near and America grapples with whom to put in power. From there, the duo went into a pair of protest songs that were very well received. The first, a new Nash song called "In Your Name," is a powerful anti-war ballad that he describes as "a prayer. I'm talking to God asking, 'What the fuck is going on here? What is all this killing in your name?'" The second was "In Our Country," penned by Joel Raphael, and Nash said during our conversation, "It's a beautiful, beautiful song about how we have to take our country back and stop playing this silly game."

Graham Nash
As much as they seemed to enjoy themselves during the event it was clear from statements made throughout the evening that the gravity of the times we are in and the decision that is facing us was not lost on anyone in attendance, least of all on Nash himself, who is a true believer in the power of music to bring people together. "Part of why I like Etown is that they use music and entertainment for social and environmental good," he said.

This is an idea that Nash has embraced for much of his life dating back to 1968. "The last show I did with my band, The Hollies, was a Save the Children benefit, so I've been at this for quite a while," he said.

It wasn't until several years after he began his foray into political activism that he decided to take a more active role in the American political process. It was the '70s, the Vietnam War was raging and Nash had left The Hollies, formed Crosby, Stills & Nash and moved to Los Angeles, where he became more involved in the anti-war movement. During that time Nash wrote several protest songs including "Military Madness" and sadly, in many ways the words ring as true today as they did more than 30 years ago.

And after the wars are over
And the body count is finally filed
I hope that The Man discovers
What's driving the people wild
Military madness is killing your country
So much sadness, between you and me
War, War, War, War, War, War

As he became more and more of an activist and wanted to speak freely about his beliefs on a larger scale, Nash began to feel a civic responsibility to the country that he was calling home. Having been born in England he decided to become an American citizen and in August of 1978 Nash succeeded. "I didn't want to feel hypocritical," he said. "I didn't want to praise this country or be critical of this country without being a part of this country. I also wanted to vote."

Graham Nash & David Crosby :: 10.12 :: NYC
Nash said that for 23 years he felt great about the decision and was very proud to be an American citizen, but around the year 2000 things took a turn for the worse in his eyes.

"Being a citizen meant a great deal to me in the early days, and it meant a great deal to me up until about seven years ago," he revealed. "Obviously, when the Bush administration came in and trampled all over the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and put the country in a complete state of fear in an attempt to control emotions and votes it's been an atrocity and I have not felt good about it. I think George Bush will be considered the worst president we have ever had in our entire history."

In a brazen move that echoes this sentiment, Nash's part-time bandmate Neil Young released a scathing criticism of the Bush administration in the form of his Living With War album in 2006. Shortly after the album dropped he approached Crosby, Stills & Nash about doing a CSN&Y tour to promote the album and raise awareness about what they felt was wrong with the country, and more specifically, our President. The album even went as far as to call for the impeachment of George W. Bush.

Let's impeach the President for lying
And misleading our country into war
Abusing all the power that we gave him
And shipping all our money out the door

While the album and the tour were a critical and financial success they were also met with a huge amount of controversy and upset some people to the point where there were several death threats against the band while they were on the road in the summer of 2006.

"I was never on a tour with bomb sniffing dogs before," Nash said. "I was never on a tour where we had death threats and it happened enough times where I was a little apprehensive. I was out there doing what I am supposed to do, which is to make music and to a certain degree entertain people, but to a large degree make them think. As an American citizen I have the right to speak my mind. I don't know if we'll get retaliated against or if we are on any lists but I don't care personally. Well, I guess I do care but not enough to stop me from speaking my mind. What can you do? I'm not going to bow down to the fear of what might happen to me."

It is this kind of motivation and activism that is changing our country little by little and making people more aware of the political and social landscape that affects them on a day-to-day basis.

Continue reading for more on Graham Nash...

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