Universe still smiling on Graham Nash, and he's coming to the Englert Theatre Friday
by Dave Gil de Rubio, Last Word Features
In his 75 years on this mortal coil, Graham Nash has lived the equivalent of multiple lifetimes.
As a musician, he’s made his mark as a founding member of The Hollies, as well as Crosby, Stills & Nash and its various permutations — in addition to having a respectable solo career.
The native of Blackpool in northwest England also has indulged his creative impulses via a lesser-known, but equally lauded foray into photography.
All this on top of being a proudly liberal social activist who has always been vocal and active in causes that have had him pen songs that railed against everything from nuclear waste dumping (“Barrel of Pain”) and what happened at the 1968 Democratic National Convention (“Chicago”) to overly-aggressive defense policies (“Military Madness,” “Soldiers of Peace”) and injustices within the justice system (“Prison Song”). Given what’s going on in our nation’s capital, Nash is just as outspoken at this time of his life.
“I think this administration is setting America back at least 50 years. I think they are incredibly stupid. I don’t see how you get a head of the EPA that doesn’t believe in climate change. That’s insane. We deserve better than this,” he angrily pointed out. “What are we teaching our children about this? That you can (sexually assault women) and think it’s all right and kiss them whether they like it or not? You can’t normalize this presidency. A lot of people won’t even call him president and that’s a good but small way to resist — and we must resist.”
On the personal front, the past few years have been ones of change. A public falling-out with David Crosby has essentially signaled the end of Crosby, Stills and Nash reuniting, with or without Neil Young.
Nash’s 38-year marriage to Susan Sennett ended in 2015, on the heels of his 2013 memoir, “Wild Tales: A Rock & Roll Life.” It also spurred his return to the studio for 2016’s “This Path Tonight,” his first solo studio outing since 2002’s “Songs For Survivors.”
Like much of his music, the songs on “This Path Tonight” are primarily acoustic and seamlessly blend folk and pop.
Many of the songs on the album — such as “Myself At Last,” “Fire Down Below” and the title track — find Nash taking stock of his past, pondering the decisions he’s made and trying to figure out where his life is going. The closing song, “Encore,” puts his future into musical terms, asking: “What’re you gonna do when the last show is over.”
Nash is clear about the impetus behind this latest collection of songs.
“I was married for 38 years and was not in love the last decade or so of that marriage, and realized at 75, I need to be as happy as can be for what is the rest of my life,” he said. “The universe continues to smile on me, and when my marriage broke up, I fell in love with this beautiful, talented, spiritually, wonderfully educated bright woman here in New York City. Her name is Amy Grantham and she’s a fabulous artist.”
Nash said he was introduced to Grantham, a photographer, at a Crosby, Stills & Nash concert through Stephen Stills’ personal assistant/road manager. The attraction was immediate, and the relationship, Nash said, has energized him not only personally, but creatively.
At the three-quarter century mark, Nash has no intention of slowing down. With former Bruce Springsteen sideman Shayne Fontayne (who produced the latest album) as his creative partner for the past few years, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famer is intent on looking forward. He’s on tour, playing smaller venues, including the Englert Theatre in Iowa City on Friday night (3/23). Nash perks up when asked what fans can expect when they come to see him at an intimate space like this.
“The truth is, with these smaller theaters, I can see the audience. I can look in their eyes and know if I’m making a connection. It’s important,” he said. “I don’t want to be some performing puppet up there. I want to interact with the audience and let them know how I want to be there and how great this moment is tonight. I’m tired of seeing people where it’s obvious they don’t want to be there. ... You can’t fool an audience — they’ll pick up on that immediately.”