With the passing this week of David Crosby, a founding member of both The Byrds with Roger McGuinn (“Mr. Tambourine” and “Turn, Turn, Turn”) and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, below is an encore of an earlier post for the latter band.
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” which was written by Joni Mitchell, Nash’s girlfriend, another great songwriter:
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.
It was the poetry of their lyrics that kept me hooked. Amazing music men.
Truly so, VJ. The words rival those of Bob Dylan’s in my view and he won a Nobel prize. Keith
Note to Readers: I got tickled by some fans who went to a reunion tour of CSN&Y a few years ago. They were complaining about the comments of protest the singers made between songs. My thoughts were have you not listened to their music and heard them speak? We also saw Arlo Guthrie a couple of times and he joked how the protest songs still had relevance today,
a great gift to us and so are you!💗
Thanks Cindy. You are a gem. Keith
You’re most welcome Keith!! awww sweet 💞
It doesn’t do much meaning, but I think it was Judy Blue Eyes that ended with that “Do dododoDO do do duedodue”. I like that one also.
Great song. I think Stephen Stills and Judy Collins had ended their relationship when he wrote this song.
That was the soundtrack of my youth. Funny how the words mean so much more to me now that I’m older.
Agreed. I think the first album as the newly minted CSN&Y is one of the finest albums.
Nice tribute and trip down memory lane. Love them. True talent. “Our House,” “Marrakesh Express.” Never stop learning is the best motto. We are teachers and learners throughout our lives. Reminds me of the Zen Buddhist concept of “Shoshin” or beginner’s mind. Learn as a beginner, even if you have already reached an advanced level.
Avigail, many thanks. I love this concept. Please comment again. Keith
My pleasure. Shoshin is a favorite concept of mine and a technique I endeavor to employ. 😊
Wonderful tribute post, Keith, and true, we should never stop learning! Thanks for the things you teach us with your posts. 🙂
Their talent on many levels is pure genius. Thanks for sharing this beautiful tribute.
Thanks Lisa. Agreed on the genius part.
Note to Readers: I heard a recording of Graham Nash complimenting the encouragement of David Crosby for Nash’ songwriting ability. In particular, when The Hollies passed on recording “Marrakesh Express,” it was Crosby who immediately saw it as a great song and CS&N recorded the hit song.