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Graham Nash travels back to the beginning of his solo career for a new live album

Graham Nash. (Ralf Louis)
Graham Nash. (Ralf Louis)

Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Graham Nash has lent his voice to some of rock’s great harmonies as a member of The Hollies and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

In 1971, he released his first solo album, “Songs for Beginners,” and another three years later called “Wild Tales.” Almost a half a century later, Nash is looking back at that period of his career. His new release features live versions, recorded in 2019, of those two solo albums.

Reflecting on who he was at the time he wrote the albums, Nash recalls himself as “a curious man.”

“I hopefully maintain my curiosity about the world,” he says. “In those times, the world was a little crazy, you know? And we thought that Richard Nixon was the worst thing that could happen to America. But now look at today.”

On his first album, Nash wrote a song responding to the protests around the Democratic National Convention in Chicago and the trial of the Chicago 7. “Chicago/We Can Change the World” remains his highest-charting single.

Watch on YouTube.

Nash says a friend asked him and his bandmates to go to Chicago to raise funds for the defense of the Chicago 7.

“I could go, David [Crosby] could go, but Stephen [Stills] and Neil [Young] couldn’t,” says Nash. “They wanted to go, but they had other plans.”

He ended up writing the song in response to the events, a song that he sees as pertinent 50 years later.

“It’s kind of amazing to me just how relevant some of my songs are,” he says.

Nash’s “Prison Song” protests jail time for minor offenses – a debate that continues to this day.

Watch on YouTube.

The first verse was about his father, Nash says, who had borrowed a camera from a friend at work when police came to the door.

“[They] said that the camera had been stolen, and they wanted to know the name of the man that had sold the camera to my father. And my father would not tell them.” Nash says. “As a result, they put him in jail for about a year.”

His parents taught him to root for the underdog and follow his heart, he says.

“Life, of course, is made up of choices,” he says. “And I hope that I chose the right path.”

The old albums also bring up memories of his ex-girlfriend, Joni Mitchell. The pair broke up before he recorded the two albums, and some of the songs were about that split, including “I Used to Be a King” and “Simple Man.”

Watch on YouTube.

“She is an amazing woman,” Nash says. “She’s beautiful, of course, an incredibly talented songwriter, probably one of the most talented songwriters of that age, and a great painter, also. She paints with paint and she also paints with words.”

Rerecording old songs means a lot, says Nash, because of how much those tunes now mean to audiences.

“But one has to move on, you know,” he says. “One has to live life and realize what’s happening and check out the reality of what’s going on and move forward.”

As listeners take a journey into the past through his music, Nash wants fans to know one thing.

“Graham Nash is still alive,” he says. “He’s still kicking. He’s still creating. He’s still looking for, as somebody once said, the pocketful of sunshine.”

Watch on YouTube.

Emiko Tamagawa produced and edited this interview for broadcast. Francesca Paris adapted it for the web.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.