Graham Nash Delivers Folk Alliance International Keynote Speech

Posted on February 20, 2014 | by Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers

Graham Nash Still

“We’re trying to shorten the distance between the public and the truth,” said two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Graham Nash in his keynote speech Thursday at the Folk Alliance International conference in Kansas City, Missouri.

            Addressing a hotel ballroom jammed with fellow musicians, Nash spoke passionately about the need for music that speaks truth to power, adding that every song should have a real reason for existence. “Musicians have a solemn duty not to waste your time.”

            In an onstage interview with his friend Joel Rafael, Nash then shared an array of stories, many of which are recounted in his new memoir Wild Tales:A Rock & Roll Life, from sprinkling his mother’s ashes at Carnegie Hall (because she confessed to him she’d always wanted to be onstage), to harmonizing with the Everly Brothers in 1992 in Toledo on “So Sad” (a performance that can be heard on the e-book version of Wild Tales), and back to the fateful night in 1968 when he first sang with David Crosby and Stephen Stills in Joni Mitchell’s living room. Nash recalled adding a third harmony to “You Don’t Have to Cry” and said their magic vocal blend happened within 30 seconds. “You have to follow your heart,” he said. “I wanted that sound.”

            Nash picked up an open-tuned Taylor guitar and played the new song “Back Home,” fretting chords with his thumb, Richie Havens style. He wrote the song with Shane Fontayne in memory of Levon Helm, and tagged it with a quote from “The Weight.” Joel Rafael took the lead vocal for a version of Woody Guthrie’s “Plane Wreck at Los Gatos,” and Nash closed the session on a sweet note by singing “Teach Your Children”—with an entire ballroom full of backup singers.

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