Graham Nash Surprises Audience at New York City Tribute to Crosby, Stills & Nash, Remembers Late Bandmate David Crosby

“My only sadness is that I wish [David] Crosby was here,” said Graham Nash, making a surprise appearance toward the end of a Crosby, Stills & Nash (CSN) tribute concert at Carnegie Hall in New York City on Monday, May 13. The Music of Crosby, Stills & Nash, kicked off the evening of May 12 with a live rehearsal, featuring some of the 20 artists who performed songs by the trio.

The tribute, the 19th annual Music Of benefit by Michael Dorf Presents, featured performances of CSN and the trio’s solo songs by Steve Earle, Todd Rundgren, Shawn Colvin, Rickie Lee Jones, Grace Potter, Neal Francis, Guster, Iron & Wine, Sarah Jarosz, the New Pornographers’ A.C. Newman, Aoife O’Donovan, Yola, and more.

Before the show started, Dorf introduced the music of CSN and revealed that with support, along with the concert, Michael Dorf Presents raised $2 million for its music education beneficiaries including Young Audiences NY, FIXS, Church Street School of Music, The Center for Arts Education, D’Addario Foundation, Sonic Arts for All, Save the Music, Midori & Friends, Grammy in the Schools, the Orchestra Now, and the Newport Jazz Kids.

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Calling CSN the “quintessential representation of the Woodstock generation,” Dorf continued, “Not just a supergroup of three great singer-songwriters with such sweet harmonies, but songs filled with Aquarian-age ideals of philosophy that we can change the world and bring peace and love to all on the planet and learn from our previous mistakes—a culture of political activism we all could use a little bit more of today.”

Dorf closed by reciting the lyrics to the band’s 1970 Déjà Vu classic “Teach Your Children,” written by Nash. “In ‘Teach Your Children,’ Graham Nash is saying that despite the gap [between] his generation and their parents, they need to accept each other as philosophical differences can alienate and not expect both of them to be the same or even understand each other. Like two sides of any conflict, there needs to be an open dialogue … to relieve some of the tensions. This message continues to this day.”

The evening was a tribute to the music of CSN and their music with Neil Young, and a salute to Crosby, starting with Sarah Jarosz, who became friends with Crosby toward the end of his life, began with something from the beginning of his days with CSN with “Guinnevere,” one of several cuts surfacing from the band’s 1968 eponymous debut throughout the night.

[RELATED: Top 10 Songs Written by David Crosby]

L-R: Michael Dorf, Graham Nash, Shlomo Lipetz. Photo by Bobby Bank

Dressed all in white, sibling trio Joseph also offered up “See the Changes” before a band of New York City students, who benefitted from the Music Will (formerly Little Kids Rock)—which provides music education to more than one million children nationwide, who don’t have access to musical resources at their schools—shared an apt performance of “Teach Your Children.”

I don’t know if I’m dying or about to be born / But I’d like to be with you today sang Shawn Colvin, smoldering through Crosby’s last-written song before he died in 2023 at 81. “I Won’t Stay Long,” the closing track on his eighth and final album For Free from 2021 left Colvin penetrating each line of Crosby’s final message and delivering a near-ghostly refrain of the ending I could live / I could breathe.

Earle admitted that both of his attempts to learn CSNY’s “4 + 20” in the 9th grade failed, but gave it a go, while Leslie Mendelson, joined by Joseph, took on a more politically charged “Long Time Gone,” penned by Crosby the night President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

New Pornographers founder A.C. Newman took on Nash’s lovelorn “I Used to Be King” from Songs for Beginners while Aoife O’Donovan, covered in a head-to-toe pink suit, picked up the CSNY classic “Déjà Vu,” Crosby’s ode to the Buddhist philosophy of rebirth and the recyclable energy of life, sparked by his experience sailing at sea for the first time. “Just a Song Before I Go,” a song Nash supposedly wrote on a bet, was delivered by Caamp frontman Taylor Meier and the house band.

After sharing where the audience can find his grey jacket—Macy’s—Rundgren delivered a near-spastic “I Almost Cut My Hair” from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. “That’s a tough one to follow,” said Real Estate’s Martin Courtney coming on for the Stills-penned “Dark Star.” Sat at the piano, Neal Francis, joined by Mendelson, offered a funkier take on “Chicago (We Can Change The World),” a song Nash wrote about the 1968 election and the sentiments during the Vietnam War protests and Chicago 8 trial and Black Panther leader Bobby Seale, who was gagged and chained during court proceedings: Though your brother’s bound and gagged / And they’ve chained him to a chair / Won’t you please come to Chicago.

[RELATED:5 Crosby, Stills & Nash Songs Stephen Stills Wrote Solo (Late ’60s-1980s)]

Stephen Stills‘ 1969 ode to then-girlfriend Judy Collins, “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” was reimagined in perfect harmony by two vocalists making a CSN triad with Sammy Rae, who shared a story about how she was recorded near Crosby and he sat in to listen to her sing and told her to “quit her day job,” which she did. Rundgren reappeared on piano joining Guster’s Ryan Miller on “Military Madness,” a song he pointed out was released the year before he was born on Nash’s 1971 solo debut Songs for Beginners.

Iron & Wine’s Samuel Beam sang through “Lady of the Island” with Donovan, who stayed behind to join Jarosz and Rickie Lee Jones on “Carry On.” Without the backing house band, Grace Potter sat at a small organ for “Helplessly Hoping,” and shared her emotions around playing Carnegie Hall. “I never knew how much playing Carnegie Hall would mean to me,” joked Potter, “until I looked out at soundcheck and thought ‘It’s just like the inside of a birthday cake.’ So let’s blow out the candles together, shall we.”

Toward the end of the night Potter stayed on, and joined Francis, Rae, and more for an ensemble performance of “Woodstock” before Yola closed the artist showcase with a moving rendition of “Wooden Ships.”

Before the lights dimmed for the night, Nash stepped out, surprising the audience, and performed “Our House,” before being accompanied by all the performers from the evening for Stills’ 1970 solo hit “Love the One You’re With.”

The Music of Crosby, Stills and Nash Setlist, May 13, 2024:

Introduction by Michael Dorf

1. “Guinnevere,” Sarah Jarosz
2. “See the Changes,” Joseph
3. “Teach Your Children,” Music Will Band
4. “I Won’t Stay Long,” Shawn Colvin
5. “4 + 20,” Steve Earle
6. “Long Time Gone,” Leslie Mendelson
7. “I Used to Be King,” A.C. Newman (New Pornographers)
8. “Déjà Vu,” Aoife O’Donovan
9. “Just a Song Before I Go,” Taylor Meier (Caamp)
10. “Almost Cut My Hair,” Todd Rundgren
11. “Dark Star,” Real Estate
12. “Chicago (We Can Change The World),” Neal Francis
13. “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” Stephen Stills
14. “Military Madness,” Guster
15. “Lady of the Island,” Iron & Wine
16. “Carry On,” Rickie Lee Jones (featuring Sarah Jarosz and Aoife O’Donovan)
17. “Helplessly Hoping,” Grace Potter
18. “Woodstock,” Ensemble featuring Grace Potter, Neal Francis, Sammy Rae)
19. “Wooden Ships,” Yola

20. “Our House,” Graham Nash
21. “Love the One You’re With,” Graham Nash (featuring all-star ensemble)

Photos: Bobby Bank / Courtesy of The Press House PR

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