“We need people like Bradley Manning,” said singer Graham Nash on Friday night at the Nourse Auditorium in San Francisco, in conversation about his new book, Wild Tales: A Rock & Roll Life. The evening ended with questions from the crowd, a convention that in lieu of any interesting questions coming from the stage often provides the most interesting parts of these so-called public discussions.
“Where is the anger?” someone from the audience asked. “Why aren’t we rising up?”
“Do you think they really want protest songs on the airwaves? Do you think they want people singing about these things on TV?” answered Nash with more questions, while further noting the media has largely turned its back on free speech matters. Though he suggested our first and fifth amendment rights were our country’s greatest assets, his questions were perhaps an acknowledgement that we can no longer rely on a free press to help us protect those rights to speech, a fair trail, or to keep us truly free.
Advocating for truth-speaking and against torture, as well as for solar power and ending world hunger, Nash isn’t just a one-size-fits-all protest singer; rather, he’s one who’s consistently stood strong against nuclear power, supports the science behind climate change, and was on the side of the Occupiers on Wall Street. The musician of conscience has consistently weighed in with songs of resistance since the dawn of his career, as a solo artist, as a member of the duo, Crosby & Nash, and the supergroup, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Last week I posted Nash and James Raymond’s song for Bradley Manning; his earlier works like “Chicago” and “Immigration Man,” among others, bear his mark of vocal excellence combined with pointed, topical concerns.
Among his known charitable activities, Nash co-founded the Musicians United for Safe Energy in 1978; he participated in 1985’s Live Aid, spotlighting famine in Africa and he toured with CSNY in 2006 on the Freedom of Speech tour, a traveling protest roadshow. “We knew what we had to say, especially about George Bush,” Nash said, though the message was not entirely popular, particularly as they crossed the red states. “I’d never been on a tour where there were bomb-sniffing dogs. I’d never been on a tour where people walked out. You bought a ticket to a Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young concert…what did you expect?”
On Friday, the crowd was comprised largely of freethinkers, baby-boomers, and progressives in accordance with Nash’s views, clued-in enough to ask: Had he ever requested his FBI files? Born in Blackpool, England but a citizen here since 1978 Nash answered with yet another question: “Why would I care if they have papers on me?” He shouldn’t. But rest assured, they do. And had I held a mic that night, I would’ve first and foremost thanked Graham Nash—bold enough to sing the contents of his heart and mind for over 50 years—no questions asked.