Iconic musicians and social activists David Crosby and Graham Nash fired up a full house at Macky Auditorium Friday afternoon in a politically charged closing plenary of the Conference on World Affairs.
Crosby, formerly of The Byrds, and Nash, who was a member of The Hollies, joined forces with Stephen Stills and Neil Young in the late 1960s to form the supergroup Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.
They spoke at the CWA on the topic “Life Matters.”
Crosby and Nash rolled through a long list of what’s wrong with the world right now, including the influence of major oil corporations, the effect of special interests on Congress, the dangers of nuclear energy and the ills of organized religion.
On Easter at the Vatican, Nash said, “all I see is a bunch of old men in dresses waving smoke around. I’m not decrying religion, I’m decrying the image they’re trying to project, that they can save you, that they have God’s ear. … All this killing in the name of God completely sucks.”
But they said they still have not lost hope — in part because they both have children and need to believe that “the human race is going to dig itself out of this mess,” as Crosby put it.
In the end, they said, it is up to individuals to make change happen.
“Never doubt that a small, committed group of citizens can change the world,” Crosby said. “It’s the only thing that ever has.”
As examples, Nash cited the security guard who reported duct tape over the door latch at the Watergate burglary, which eventually led to the resignation of former President Richard Nixon, and the person who set himself on fire in Egypt, starting the chain of events that led to Hosni Mubarak’s ouster.
“The power is with you,” Nash said. “You can change the world.”
Crosby said he cried when Obama was elected president. Among other things, he said we finally had a president “who could pronounce nuclear.”
But our basic rights secured by our founding fathers are under attack, they said. Crosby added that he doesn’t want to lose his ability to speak his mind.
“I’m willing to fight for it, I hope you guys are too,” he said.
Nash told a comical story about the inspiration for his song “Cathedral” — being on LSD at Stonehenge.
Asked by an audience member how they would recommend effecting the change they propose when it comes to members of Congress beholden to special interests, Crosby suggested, “You get in their face.”
“You can get pissed off,” Nash said. “It is your fucking life.”
They also described their role as singers/songwriters as not just being entertainers, but town criers and commentators on what needs to be improved in society.
“It’s like slipping nuggets of truth into the shitstream,” Crosby said, drawing laughter.
At another point, Crosby, who went through well-publicized addictions to controlled substances, admitted that “I only have about 18 brain cells still holding hands.”