A short story about rock and roll

Every now and again my buddy Brian -- referred to through the years here as Pop Warner -- opens up a door to the coolest scenes. Brian works for Warner Music; he is sort of the company’s liaison with iTunes. I say “sort of” because his job is actually quite a bit more complicated than the title and over time he’s offered me countless insights and fantastic access into the music world. In return, I tell him the Cubs teams he grew up with were generally terrible. It’s probably not an even trade.

In any case, he and his team put on this incredibly cool little concert for iTunes once or twice a year at a winery in San Francisco. And -- because Margo and I happen to be in San Francisco for the national holiday that is Duane Kuiper Bobblehead Day (Friday!) -- we were invited to come to the show on Wednesday. It was wonderful. There’s something about seeing talented and determined musicians live (especially in an intimate setting like this was) that takes music to another dimension. The first performer was Atmosphere, a hip hop group from Minneapolis, the second was Gloriana, a country music group out of Nashville and the third was Night Terrors of 1927, an alternative rock band featuring the guitarist from a terrific band you might know, Rilo Kiley. The fourth band, AJR, featured three young brothers from New York City who have a YouTube sensation song going right now -- this is the band our young daughters would love most.

In other words, the four bands could not have been much different. They were in completely different genres, a couple I’m generally skeptical about They had completely different sounds. Plus I did not know much about any of the four before seeing them. And yet, all of them, in that setting, were absolutely fantastic. You could just feel their energy, their enthusiasm, their life experience. All of them are young, developing, flowing with a sense of purpose and music and hope. I’m always envious of talented wine drinkers who can taste all these different flavors and fruits and woods so that the wine tells its own story. That’s sort of what it was like listening to their music.

And then afterward I talked a little football with Gloriana, a little boxing with the fabulous Jenny Lewis (shockingly that’s the only sport she cares about) and various other sports with iTunes folks. It was all pretty great.

But then comes the point of the story. The most famous musician at the event was certainly Graham Nash. He is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice -- once with Crosby, Stills and Nash and once with the Hollies. He has lived an extraordinary rock and role life. He lived with Joni Mitchell. He wrote “Teach Your Children.” He clashed with Neil Young (and countless others), signed Elton John and is an accomplished enough photographer that a portrait he took of David Crosby is on permanent display at the Smithsonian Museum of American History.

Well, he was at this event to talk about a new Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young box set -- CSNY 1974 -- that he put together and will be released in July. He talked a bit about how extraordinary the CSNY music was, and how much they fought, and how surprised he is that they all seem to like this new box set. He was funny and retrospective ... and then there was this little transcendent moment.

He was introducing the live version of “Love the One You’re With” that is on the CSYN album and all of a sudden he just stopped. He stared out into space for a moment. And he he apologized and said he just remembered something -- the first time they played that song was the first time he met Rita Coolidge. He apologized for spacing out, but then he again stared off into space.

“Yes,” he said, “that was when I started to see Rita. And that created a row with Stephen (Stills) because he wanted Rita. ... Stephen and I didn’t talk for a couple of years.”

Graham Nash one more time stared off into space, and everyone around considered this moment when Nash and Stills fought over Rita Coolidge.

“Ah,” Graham Nash said. “Rock and roll.”