Graham Nash Says Joni Mitchell Was The Only Witness Of CSNY Chemistry

In a new conversation with American Songwriter, Graham Nash recalled his first encounter with David Crosby and Stephen Stills and how Joni Mitchell was the only person present to witness this moment of musical chemistry.

When Nash visited his then-girlfriend Mitchell, Stills and Crosby were also there after parting ways with their own bands:

“I had come from London to be with Joni for a few days and didn’t like the fact that there were other people there, but it was David and Stephen. [Stills’ previous band] Buffalo Springfield had broken up, and the Byrds had thrown David out, and David and Stephen were trying to get kind of like an Everly Brothers act together.”

Then, David and Stephen started to play a song together, and Graham reacted to this performance:

“They played this song called ‘You Don’t Have to Cry,’ and I said, ‘Holy sh*t, that’s a great song. Play it again.’ They looked at each other, and they played it again. When they got to the end of the second time, I said, ‘OK, I’ve learned my part.'”

After Nash joined them, the trio and Mitchell realized they had stumbled upon something special:

“I know how Stephen is breathing. I know what David’s body language is when he’s starting a phrase or ending a phrase.’ And when they played it a third time, I added my harmony. In the first minute, we realized, ‘This is something very, very different.’ And Joni Mitchell was the only witness.”

In a previous interview with Rick Rubin a few months ago, Nash had explained that their shared trust with Crosby was not solely based on their musical harmony, as it also stemmed from their deep friendship. They had a strong bond and enjoyed harmonizing together, contributing to the band’s future success.