In August 1968, 26-year-old Graham Nash arrived in Los Angeles for a three-day trip, which he planned to spend sequestered with his new love, Joni Mitchell. Arriving at Mitchell’s picturesque bungalow in Laurel Canyon, Nash found the singer-songwriter hanging out with a couple of her friends, fellow musicians Stephen Stills and David Crosby. The pair played him a new song they’d been working on, “You Don’t Have to Cry”. After asking them to repeat it twice, Nash joined in to create a flawless three-part harmony. This debut Crosby, Stills and Nash performance took place with Mitchell as their audience of one. It’s a scene so perfect that you’d think it was contrived if it showed up in a biopic. “Isn’t it?” says Nash, now 80, down the line from his home in New York’s East Village. “Yet that’s exactly what happened. I’ve had a lot of those moments in my life.”
Thus began the on-again, off-again tale of one of the first and greatest folk-rock supergroups: Crosby of Californian folk-country combo The Byrds, Stills of Canadian-American rockers Buffalo Springfield and Nash of Mancunian pop group The Hollies. After releasing their sublime self-titled record in 1969, the trio added a fourth member, Stills’ former Buffalo Springfield bandmate Neil Young, before making their live debut in Chicago as a warm-up for playing the gigantic Woodstock festival. They soundtracked the era’s counterculture and continued in various iterations until splitting, seemingly for good, following a final Crosby, Stills and Nash tour in 2015. In the years since, Nash has been back on the road alone. New album Graham Nash: Live captures him in the northeastern United States in September 2019 revisiting his two solo records, 1971’s Songs for Beginners and 1974’s Wild Tales.
The disintegration of Crosby, Stills and Nash has been largely attributed to an acrimonious fall-out between Nash and Crosby, so it’s notable that several of the plainly autobiographical songs on those albums were written at a time when their friendship was at its deepest. In 1969, after the tragic death of Crosby’s girlfriend Christine Hinton in a road accident, Nash pledged to stay by his friend’s side. “We went around the world drinking, quite frankly,” he remembers. “Courvoisier and Coca-Cola, what a drink! I knew that David was in deep, deep depression about Christine. I knew that he was very fragile. I feared for his life for a short moment.”