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Simple Man / Marrakesh Express

Artist
Graham Nash and David Crosby
Year Released
1970

I’ve always considered Graham Nash the weakest link in the CSNY equation but every now and then he has surprised me with a brilliant tune of his own. Here he is starting out with Simple Man and moving into his classic, Marrakesh Express.

Quite frankly, this performance (particularly these two songs), really spoke out to me and made me realize what exactly Nash brought to the quartet. His characterized voice – edgy but in perfect pitch – can sometimes be a tad too distinguishable among the harmony of Crosby and Stills, but with just Crosby, the sound changes all together and his voice becomes imperative. There’s something incredible that goes on between Crosby and Nash, something that, really, when you think about it, carries the foundation of the CSNY sound. Without the dynamic of these two, soloists like Young and Stills would lack the rich harmonies fans had come to expect.

In these two songs we learn how Nash wrote with the accompaniment of Crosby. Notice their back-and-forth discussion after the first song. Notice how Nash starts playing as Crosby continues to chat, specifically mocking a musicians ability to spread political ideas – something he was supposedly kicked out of The Byrds for). Notice how Crosby hangs on to “doo-doo-dos” and “ba-da-dums” in exchange for actual words. He’s being playful, and even more so musical. This is genuine expression. This kind of intersection between the two is the beauty that is Crosby-Nash. You can tell they’re really good friends and you can tell they’ve played with each other for some time. Whereas CSNY can sometimes sound rigidly rehearsed, Crosby and Nash can’t help but sound like they’re simply having fun.