Graham Nash Reveals His Favorite Joni Mitchell Song
via CBS Sunday Morning / YouTube
Folk music icons Graham Nash and Joni Mitchell shared a close and complex relationship that combined elements of friendship, romance, and artistic collaboration. Their connection was formed within the vibrant music scene of the 1960s and 1970s, where they were both prominent figures known for their exceptional songwriting and distinctive voices.
For a brief period, they formed one of the music industry’s notable power couples. While Nash achieved success with hits alongside The Hollies, Mitchell was solidifying her status as an iconic singer-songwriter.
Nash’s departure from his band led him to California, where he coincidentally took up residence in Mitchell’s Laurel Canyon home, setting the stage for significant life-changing encounters.
One of the most memorable pieces of art that celebrate their partnership was the song “River” by Mitchell off her 1971 album Blue. The song has long resided in Nash’s mind, and it held a special place in his heart.
“‘River’ made me sad, because it chronicled the end of our relationship, but also elated, because it was such a beautiful song and she had the courage to bare her soul,” Nash told The Guardian in 2021 in celebration of Blue’s 50th anniversary.
“We were very much in love. I treasured that relationship.”
Folk music’s power couple
At the heart of the relationship of Graham and Mitchell was a deep mutual respect for each other’s talents. They bonded over their shared passion for music and the creative process.
Nash, who later became a part of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (CSNY), was drawn to Joni Mitchell’s unique approach to songwriting and her ability to convey deep emotions through her lyrics. Similarly, Mitchell admired Nash’s musical abilities and the harmonious blend of voices that CSNY achieved.
The duo started their romance during the late 1960s and early 1970s, which influenced their creative work. This period was marked by intense personal and artistic exploration for both artists.
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Mitchell’s Blue, often considered one of her most intimate and personal works, is believed to have been inspired in part by her experiences and feelings during her time with Nash.
Nash reminisced, “We were a couple for two years – and I watched her write many of the songs on Blue. She didn’t finish it until after we parted.”
The couple’s romantic relationship lasted long enough for their emotions to inspire compositions directed at each other. Nash notably penned “Our House,” an ode to their shared domestic happiness.
Though their romantic relationship eventually ended, their friendship endured. Even after their romantic involvement ceased, Nash and Mitchell continued to collaborate musically and remained supportive of each other’s careers.
Although Blue echoed reflections on Michell’s connection with Nash, their separation occurred just prior to the recording of the album, providing Nash with a distinctive perspective on the album’s themes.
The song “River” encapsulated the bittersweet emotions of their breakup, yet Nash found admiration in Mitchell’s courage to lay bare her soul through her music. The intensity of their love was evident, and Nash cherished their time together.
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Recalling poignant moments, Nash shared, “I remember leaving the house to give her the space to finish ‘My Old Man.’ I’m sad that it’s about me again, but it’s so brilliant.”
He also recounted his proposal to Mitchell, which “My Old Man” suggests, noting that his intentions were to empower her artistic brilliance rather than seeking a traditional “wife” role.
“She’s an amazing woman. I’m proud to have been a part of her life. In 100 years’ time, people will remember the Beatles, Bob Dylan and Joni.”