Graham Nash says magic sound of Crosby, Stills & Nash was ‘born in 45 seconds’

Musician Graham Nash has said the sound of folk rock band Crosby, Stills & Nash was “born in 45 seconds”.

The 81-year-old from Lancashire formed the band in 1968 alongside David Crosby and Stephen Stills and said American singer Joni Mitchell, whom he was dating at the time, witnessed its inception.

Speaking to Lauren Laverne on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs the songwriter said: “Joni was the only witness to the beginnings of Crosby, Stills & Nash.

Glastonbury Festival 2009 – Day Two
Graham Nash from Crosby, Stills & Nash performing at Glastonbury in 2009 (Anthony Devlin/PA)

“I had come to Los Angeles to spend three or four days with Joni.

“I got to the parking lot. There were other voices in the house and that kind of upset me a little you know, I just wanted to be with Joni.

“But it was David and Stephen and they were having dinner with Joni.

“And after dinner, David said to Stephen, ‘Play Willy (Nash’s nickname), that song that we were just doing’, and because the Buffalo Springfield (rock band) had broken up and because David had been thrown out of The Byrds they were trying to get a duo kind of thing together.

“And they had this song that they sang called You Don’t Have To Cry, which is on the first record (of Crosby, Stills & Nash).

“And I said, ‘Do me a favour, sing it again.’

Investiture at Buckingham Palace
Graham Nash, one of the founder members of the 1960s pop group The Hollies, holds his OBE medal he received from the late Queen (John Stillwell/PA)

“When they finished the second time, I said, ‘Trust me, do me a favour, just sing it for the third time.’

“When we started the song, and I added my harmony, after 45 seconds, we had to stop and laugh.

“We were all in bands that were pretty decent harmony bands, but this was completely different. It had a magic to it, immediately.

“And so the sound, whatever sound that is, of Crosby, Stills & Nash was born in 45 seconds.”

Neil Young joined Crosby, Stills & Nash in 1969, the same year Crosby’s girlfriend Christine Hinton died in a car accident.

He went on to deal with substance abuse problems and Nash said he tried to support him.

“I needed to really be with him, support him, and we decided that we would go around the world and drink ourselves to death.

Music – The Hollies – 1969
Graham Nash was a founder member of The Hollies (PA)

“We had a favourite drink which strangely enough was Courvoisier and Coca Cola. Strange.

“I stayed with him, because I knew that he had a very short grip on life. I knew how desperately he felt because Christine had been killed.

“So I just wanted to support him. I wanted to be his friend. And that’s what we did. We went drinking around the world.”

Crosby died aged 81 in January 2023 and Nash paid tribute on Instagram saying: “He leaves behind a tremendous void as far as sheer personality and talent in this world.

“He spoke his mind, his heart, and his passion through his beautiful music and leaves an incredible legacy. These are the things that matter most.”

Nash was a founding member of The Hollies before Crosby, Stills & Nash formed and he has been inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with both bands.

Desert Island Discs airs on Sunday at 11.15am on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Sounds.