Almost Cut My Hair - Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young
After the success of their first album, Crosby, Stills and Nash wanted to tour but realised that the musical abilities of Crosby and Nash just weren't up to it, and Stills needed more support in the guitars and keyboard departments (Stills had played nearly all the instruments of their first album except for drums), so they invited Neil Young to join them. The band's second LP, CSN and Y's first, "Deja Vu", was a runaway success going straight to number one in the US album charts. Crosby supplied two songs, the album title track and "Almost Cut My Hair".
"Almost Cut My Hair" is the most iconic song Crosby ever wrote, often regarded as a "hippy anthem" but it's much more than that.
In his latter years Crosby occasionally dismissed the song as a piece of juvenilia, but I beg to differ. Here Crosby articulates the often confused spirit of rebellion of the younger generation of America in 1970: only months earlier the deaths at the free Altamont rock concert and the Manson murders of Sharon Tate and her family had soured the message of the counterculture. The band had appeared at both the apotheosis of hippydom, Woodstock, the previous August, and at Altamont in December, 4 months later. Crosby making a stand of not cutting his hair and continuing to let his "freak flag fly" is a bigger act of defiance than it may seem today. His point is that the bad stuff - Vietnam, Police brutality, ultra conservatism - is still there. He owes it to those who feel let down, to stand up and say he's still fighting.
"Almost cut my hair - it happened just the other day - it's getting kinda long, I coulda said it wasn't in my way but I didn't and I wonder why I feel like letting my freak flag fly,
yes, I feel like I owe it to someone...."
There's some great videos of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young performing this in later years, even as recently as 2009, when they were all in their late sixties. All four of them still, have long hair, even Graham Nash, and Crosby, needless to say, has the longest, despite being slightly balding on top! And that's the great thing about David Crosby, he never gave up, unlike, one suspects, his audience, mostly short back and sides. But that's why we need our icons: so that someone stays true to the beliefs and dreams of our youth, someone remains uncorrupted by sensible adulthood on our behalf. And that's why we turn the volume up and get out our air guitars.
"....but I'm not giving in an inch to fear 'cause I promised myself this year: I feel like I owe it to someone."
The muse didn't often bite David Crosby. But when it did, it bit him good.