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Wednesday 18 December 2013

Graham Nash: Wild Tales

Please enjoy my long-winded book review!

My bio rhythms are totally off these days, ever since the full moon and this book kept me up reading until 4 am. It's the autobiography of Graham Nash, who is so egotistical and full of himself it was almost nauseating. But his music, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, and their sweet harmonies and ballads are so important to me, I forgive him. That music touched a nerve in me and changed me forever. Go ahead and have a big ego, Nash. You rocked my soul.

I found out that Nash played for years with the magnificent instrumentalist DAVID LINDLEY! I never knew! David Lindley is one of my favorite musicians, if you have never heard of him, look up "Rosie" by Jackson Browne or "Pay the Man" or "Never Knew Her", he is an incredible musician, a true string genius with a knack for harmony and a beautiful falsetto. In the book Nash talks about how Lindley once was soloing on the violin and set off some idle acoustic guitars on stage to vibrating. Instead of stopping his solo or moving the guitars, Lindley kept playing and changed the song to accommodate the resonance of the guitars. Typical. He is one of those musicians that sings through his instruments, putting all the notes in that sweet place where they belong. Never too busy or too boring, always just right. Like Goldilocks's porridge. Love that guy.

One thing that really blew me away in this book was a little tidbit about Joni Mitchell. Not only did Graham Nash meet her and fall in love with her and get to hear a lot of her amazing music first, but he explained one reason why she plays in all those odd tunings. She is known for tuning her guitar in sync with ambient noises like train whistles and faucet drops but what I never knew is that she had a childhood brush with Polio and her left arm is slightly weaker than the rest of her body. She started experimenting with open tunings because she wasn't strong enough to form an F chord with her left hand.

For those of you who don't play the guitar, the F chord is kind of like a great divider... everybody and their brother can play some chords on the guitar, but it is often not easy for beginners to form an F because even though it is close to the end of the neck, it is a barre chord, and you have to be able to depress multiple strings with one finger. It was a challenge for me as a player to get this chord down and to hear that the great genius songwriter Joni Mitchell herself could not form an F basically floored me.

Reading this book also inspired me to explore more of my own songwriting and to play more music. I play more piano than guitar these days but playing music is like riding a bicycle, like meeting an old friend. Picking up my neglected instruments always feels good and I had better keep a pen and paper handy for the lines and melodies that erupt out of me like a volcano and need somewhere to go, NOW, before they are lost, as they so often are.

Neil Young stormed into the woods and wrote "Ohio" in it's entirety after reading a Kent State headline. He was gone for an hour and came back with that song. Boom. Gotta let it out!!!!

Every year around this time of the season I want to play Joni Mitchell's "I Wish I Had A River" - I still don't have any sheet music but it is on my to-do list. And if you haven't seen any of her paintings, Google it, NOW! Go do it!

What an amazing person she is.

Psst... and I stayed up late and completed my little cabled gauntlets! I love this blue yarn. These babies were made with the heavy 1970's LA music scene on my mind. Why was I born so late?

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