Graham Nash has wild tales to tell in autobiography

Graham Nash autobiographyIn the 1960s and 70s, Graham Nash was one of the musicians at the intersection of global musical creativity that defined those decades. He started as a co-founder and major voice behind the The Hollies, which led the British Invasion with (among others) The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. As he grew artistically beyond the band’s pop-oriented sound, he departed to become a collaborator with David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Neil Young, before turning to a career as a solo artist. In his engaging 2013 autobiography, Wild Tales, Nash tells all: not just the sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll (naturally), but also the drama, artistry, and moments of transcendence. The book is filled with interesting tidbits. There are exchanges with many of the seminal musicians and insiders of that era, including Joni Mitchell, Mama Cass, Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis, John Lennon, Jerry Garcia, Elton John, David Geffen, and Ahmet Ertegun (co-founder of Atlantic Records).

I was a budding teenager when Crosby, Still & Nash burst forth with their groundbreaking album in 1969. I instantly fell in love with the singles “Marakesh Express” (written by Nash) and “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” (written by Stills). The album was a different direction from the electric guitar-oriented music that was starting to dominate rock. The gorgeous vocal harmonies and the seamless blending of pop, rock, and country/Americana paved the way for the explosive popularity of performers like Linda Ronstadt and The Eagles as the 70s dawned. In a scenario that has become almost a cliché of the music industry, Apple Records passed up the chance to release the CSN album—“not for us,” they told Nash. Fortunately, Ertegun was a fervent supporter of the trio, and the album was eventually released on the Atlantic label. Nash shares dozens of insightful anecdotes, such as hearing Little Richard berate his guitarist Jimi Hendrix for upstaging him during a performance. Or talking to Miles Davis about Crosby’s disappointed reaction to Davis’ interpretation of “Guinevere.”

Wild Tales relives the cultural ferment that led to so much amazing musical creativity during those decades. It was a time when a pop song that broke all the rules with episodic sections that didn’t repeat—“Suite: Judy Blue Eyes”—could become a hit and a classic. Nash’s persona and the excitement of the era come alive through the narrative. Makes you long for another era, an escape from our current state of relatively sterile pop music.

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