By Mike Jurkovic
Photos By Derek Meade
[N]ash,” he greets me, in that seer-like voice several generations have now sung along with. And it is that same warm voice that humbly speaks to us from the pages of his best-selling memoir, Wild Tales. No revision. No apology. In a free-wheeling discussion, we touch upon many of the themes he’s written about and how the journey that started in Manchester has brought him here: author, activist, artist, humanitarian, mentor.
The Hollies ascent was. . .“Immediate! We were a real good band who wrote good songs that caught the imagination and we never looked back. We’ve never even officially broken up.” Nash adds that he’d tour with the Hollies again, if Clarkie (Allan Clarke, the group’s bedrock and Nash’s childhood friend) sang like he did at the Hollies’ 2010 Rock And Roll Hall of Fame induction.
He’s ever loyal to Croz: “David’s a fascinating person. He said the worst thing to do was give an artist self doubt, then welcomed me here with everything he had.”
He’s still close to Joni: “I couldn’t have started the book without her. She confirmed the first time Croz, Stephen and I sang was at her house, which became our house.”
He wrote out the lyrics to “Anna” for John Lennon in ’63, the night before the Beatles recorded the song, not unlike John bringing Paul into the Quarrymen after Paul showed him the lyrics and chords to “Twenty Flight Rock”: “John was a very smart boy. He surrounded himself with the best.”
He paid for Maroon 5’s demos: “They were my kid’s classmates.”
Elmore: Most readers of Wild Tales will discover for the first time your other artistic achievements: Your photography is globally acclaimed. Your digital art is setting standards while the founding role you played in the realm of digital printing cannot be understated. You’re a new grandpa. Do you still fret your cool quotient?
Graham Nash: “Miles is cool. Belafonte is cool. Am I cool? I don’t know. I try to create something of beauty every day. Sculpture, music, art, a great cup of tea. Creating beauty advances mankind forward.”
EM: The openness with which you discuss LSD in Wild Tales is really refreshing given all the mea culpas these days.
GN: “I’m not advocating drug use, but I learned things I believe I intrinsically knew. I’m a speck of dust on a gigantic planet in an expanding universe moving ever away from us. So to bark at someone because your coffee’s too hot is utterly pointless. So I try to do the best in everything I do. It’s obvious I won’t make it though.”
His Manchester laugh pitches high above my South Bronx chuckle, harmonizing as ever. And harmony, and voice, is why he’s deeply saddened by Linda Ronstadt’s Parkinson’s diagnosis: “Linda was and still is a very strong, beautiful woman. But losing her voice means not only never singing, she may never again speak out for justice, and we need every voice to be heard to overturn the corporations.”
EM: You were at the fall of the Berlin Wall and participated in Occupy Wall Street. Why can’t we sustain a global people’s movement to defeat the corporate/political order?
GN: “But we can! And it’s most important to remember that we are! It’s a revolution of ideas! Is the Berlin Wall still standing? Occupy isn’t grabbing headlines, but they’re working towards getting better people elected and reducing student debt and inequality.We just need to continue talking to those who oppose us. It’s a slow process, but not hopeless.
“It’s the same thing with the climate change deniers. We know damn well what’s going on. But you have senators saying, ‘It was freezing in Topeka. All those scientists are wrong.'”
EM: As a founder of Musicians United for Safe Energy, does that frustrate you?
GN: “I understand it takes a great deal of energy to move the planet even a microsecond forward. And, with all due respect, most people are taught just the opposite. The powers that be, in the endless pursuit of greed, don’t want an educated populace; they want sheep. So they pigeonhole us with their media. Everywhere else, they’re freedom fighters. Here they call us unwashed, unemployed, unorganized, homeless hippies.
“But not one nuke plant has been built here since the late ’70s, when we started. Several have been shut down and we’re gonna get them all. Because what’s happening in Fukushima will be going on for centuries and that has been deliberately buried in the news under Kim Kardashian’s ass. They don’t want you know because 37 plants in the US are built on the same design.
“Y’know, I had a meeting with the Rockefeller Foundation a few days ago. We have eleven hundred environmental groups that all want the same thing but speak a slightly different language.”
EM: Why can’t we all get on the same page?
GN: “It’ll happen. By divesting from fossil fuels, that’s what they’re hoping to do: empower a divestiture movement. But it’s truly a matter of educating our kids. Bring music and art, bring imagination back into the classroom and watch new thinking, new ideas, arise.”
EM: As a world citizen, do you see the same attack on education throughout the world as in the States?
GN: “No. No, I don’t. It’s abysmal here.”
EM: Any recent wild tales?
GN: “I was at a book signing in Manchester and this bloke hands me an envelope and says I should look at it later. So I get back to the hotel and open the envelope. It was my report card from when I was eleven and the teacher’s remarks were ‘this boy wants to know everything.’ And that’s who I am.”