Thus its practitioners---the best of them---can rise to shaman status. They can speak to higher realities, lead us on political issues, arouse our spirits, calm our souls.
Those with the power are rare. There is a huge corporate industry designed to manufacture and sell commercial imitations.
But real ones still walk among us, and if we catch them at the right moment, they can move us as little else in this life.
(By way of disclosure, I've worked with Graham Nash since 1978, when he toured California with Jackson Browne, raising funds and consciousness to fight the Diablo Canyon nukes. With Bonnie Raitt, Jackson and Graham are the core of NukeFree.org, whose website I edit.)
The show was a mix of old and new, but stayed within the terrain of melodies and harmonies the trio essentially invented.
The way it's supposed to be."
Hearing CSN's standards reminds us Boomers of a time and place, an era of history when we were young and open and a whole new genre of music and politics and ways of being was in the birthing. There was a war on and we wanted peace, and injustices and bigotries we wanted done away with, and with all that came a mindset and culture that changed the world---but not yet enough.
With a superb supporting cast (including David Crosby's son, James Raymond), the band reminds us of why these songs became standards in the first place. It's not enough that music is of a time---it also has to be good on its own. The deep resonance of the chord changes, the perfect harmonies, master guitar riffs, intriguing lyrics....there are reasons these songs are still with us. Carry On, Helpless, Suite Judy Blue Eyes, Our House will always carry the touch of greatness that inspired them.
Thankfully, the group has also kept its political focus. Graham dedicated Teach Your Children to the underpaid, overworked professionals who do just that.
He also sang Almost Gone , a searing accusation written with James Raymond about the ghastly torture of Bradley Manning, the whistleblowing young soldier being pilloried by our imperial army for the "crime" of telling the truth.
Graham's epic Winchester Cathedral asked "how many people have died in the name of Christ?" The question was underscored with Military Madness , reminding us that our species continues to poison and bleed itself with an unfathomable addiction to violence and war that could someday soon kill us all.
The riverfront night was clear and clean, but global-warmed, and at one point Graham complained of the heat.
"Take off your shirt," someone yelled.