Teach Your Children – A Tribute to CSNY

You, who are on the road, must have a code, that you can live by.
And so, become yourself, because the past, is just a good-bye. 

Teach, your children well, their father’s hell, did slowly go by.
And feed, them on your dreams, the one they picked, the one you’re known by.
Don’t you ever ask them why, if they told you you would cry,
So just look at them and sigh, and know they love you.

The lyrics of “Teach Your Children” are highly representative of the songs of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. I was torn with leading off with a number of their songs, yet I chose this one as the song starts with teaching our children to seek their dreams and letting them go with your guidance and love. The song is even more profound today, as it concludes with a stanza on “teaching your parents well.” With technology so rapidly expanding and changing our world, the song is emblematic that we can learn from each other.

David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and later Neil Young formed a group of songwriters and singers who wrote and sang eloquently. Their harmonies made great songs even better. I have an entire post devoted to Young, so I will not highlight some of his many contributions, but let you take a peek at your leisure with this link: https://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/2013/03/30/heart-of-gold-a-tribute-to-neil-young/. Young added guitar-might to the stage presence of the initial trio and had played earlier with Stills in Buffalo Springfield. Crosby was a key part of The Byrds and Nash was with The Hollies. So, CSN and then CSNY became a blend of some prolific musicians and songwriters.

LIke earlier posts, I will leave off some of mine and others’ favorite songs. My intention is to highlight a few songs that resonate with me and leave others for your perusal. If you have not dived into CSNY, I would encourage you to do so. Many of their lyrics will be apropos today, like those in the above song.  One that is hauntingly compelling and so simple is a lament over those who pay the ultimate price fighting wars in the name of freedom. From Nash’s “Find the Cost of Freedom” here is only a small taste:

Find the cost of freedom
Buried in the ground
Mother Earth will swallow you
Lay your body down

I started to quote more lyrics, but I thought these words state the obvious very succinctly and could be used easily to describe those honorable, young men and women who died in Afghanistan and Iraq for uncertain ends. To me, the next song can be used for multiple separations from those you love, but I interpreted it along the above lines of someone going off to fight a war. I will let you judge from the sample lyrics from “Just a Song Before I Go:”

She helped me with my suitcase,
She stands before my eyes
Driving me to the airport,
And to the friendly skies.

Going through security
I held her for so long.
She finally looked at me in love,
And she was gone.

They have so many great songs: “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” which is a tongue-in-cheek tribute to Judy Collins, “Our House” which even our kids know word for word, “Deja-vu”, “Helplessly Hoping,” Helpless,” “Southern Cross,” “Marrakesh Express” and “Guinevere” are just a few. I also won’t highlight “Ohio” which I did in the earlier post about Young. It needed its own space as it spoke volumes against President Nixon who called out the national guard on US college students at Kent State and a couple of kids got shot. This was a stain on Nixon before his Watergate Waterloo.

Another favorite is “Wooden Ships” as it is a great tune with great lyrics written by Crosby and Stills:

Wooden ships on the water, very free and easy,
Easy, you know the way it’s supposed to be,
Silver people on the shoreline, let us be,
 Talkin’ ’bout very free and easy…
Horror grips us as we watch you die,
All we can do is echo your anguished cries,
Stare as all human feelings die,
We are leaving – you don’t need us.

To me, these words say go live your life and pursue your dreams. Don’t stand by and watch life pass you by. Don’t save it for later, so take time to explore and you will learn something about yourself. Otherwise, you may be on the shore waiting to die. This same theme is picked up by Nash’s song “Wasted on the Way:”

And there’s so much time to make up
Everywhere you turn
Time we have wasted on the way

Oh when you were young
Did you question all the answers
Did you envy all the dancers
Who had all the nerve

Look round you NOW
You must go for what you wanted
Look at all my friends who did and got what they deserved.

There is so much more to write about Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. I would love to see newer artists start covering their play list more. Their songs need to be heard by more people. Let me close, with their most iconic song “Woodstock:”

Well, then can I roam beside you? I have come to lose the smog.
And I feel myself a cog in something turning.
And maybe it’s the time of year, yes, said maybe it’s the time of man.
And I don’t know who I am, but life is for learning.
We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon,
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.

“I don’t know who I am, but life is for learning.” These are profound words. I have tried to teach my children this. Never stop learning. I often say you can judge people’s intelligence by their awareness of how much they don’t know. And, getting back to the theme, even old farts like me, learn something new everyday. So, teach your parents well. Thanks guys for the journey which has not stopped.

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11 thoughts on “Teach Your Children – A Tribute to CSNY

  1. So good, BTG! CSNY could just show up, stand on stage, shout out the song title…and let the concert goers sing every single song, every single word. But that would defeat the purpose wouldn’t it….so CSNY tune up and sing their stuff…along with the thousands standing and singing.
    Every song lyric has a meaning to….someone. Every single one.
    Again…so good! Thanks for making my Sunday a smiling one…..

  2. As usual, an excellent work on musicians of our time. I’m out of touch, but I don’t see the music or the moving words today that we had back then. I know some will accuse me of being just a nostalgia nutcase, and that’s ok. But music of the ’60’s brought freedom to some, ended a war, and began a new age of personal insight and vision, (Not always successfully). Thanks for sharing some inspiring work by a great group of artists.

    • Thanks Barney. I appreciate your understanding of the meanings and intent from this era. I agree the songs don’t have the same substance today. Are there any protest songs about our Afghanistan or Iran military interventions that made it to the popular culture?

  3. Thanks for sharing these inspiring words from such great artists. I am not very familiar with these songs, but it has piqued my curiosity.

    Sadly, the songs of today do not convey these powerful messages anymore. Everything is about rhythm and melody and not about lyrics.

    Now I have to look for these artists so my children will get to listen to songs with substance.

  4. Pingback: Songwriters and Performers | musingsofanoldfart

  5. Dear BTG,
    I’d been struggling to understand some part of the lyrics of Teach Your Children. The way I read it, and heard it, they sing: “the one you know by.” Could it be just grammatically incorrect (OK, we may call it informal language) and they do indeed mean “the one you’re known by”, just like you wrote above? The latter would give sense to the sentence.

    • MB, thanks for stopping by. Maybe I an the one who heard the lyric wrong. I believe when I wrote this I got the lyrics from a site that may have also gotten it wrong. I like the word “known” as you said, but maybe the dropped the “n” as it flowed better.

      John Mellencamp does this in his song “Rockin the USA” where his chorus is R-O-C-K in the USA, which leaves off the “in.” Good obervation on your part. Keith

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