Cleveland's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum has launched "Touching the Flame," an exhibition of more than 140 objects chronicling the life in music and art of rock legend Graham Nash, from his fledgling years in skiffle bands in the north of England, through his breakthrough with the Hollies and his decades-long journey with Crosby, Stills, Nash and (sometimes) Young. Drawn from Nash's personal collection, and including items from the museum's archive and loans from friends, the exhibition brings together original song manuscripts, guitars, letters, photographs, political memorabilia, vinyl records and artwork, accompanied by commentary from Nash.
"Graham Nash: Touching the Flame" was conceived in October, 2014, when Nash participated in the Hall of Fame Museum's 19th-annual Music Masters series, a tribute to the Everly Brothers. On view at the time was "Paul Simon: Words and Music," the museum's first biographical exhibition based on an artist's direct involvement in creating a first-person story. "They had just opened the Paul Simon exhibition," Nash recalls. "I was walking through the exhibit with Joel Peresman [president of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation], taking it all in. And Joel said, 'You're next.'"
"Graham loved the way 'Words and Music' showed Paul Simon's creative process," says Hall of Fame Museum curator Karen Herman, "and what it's like to be a writer. When he was at the museum last year, he was asked why he collects. And he said, 'to touch the flame of that moment when something really special was created.' As soon as we heard that, we knew we had it." Herman returned to Cleveland with Nash's treasures and began organizing them into a narrative based on the idea of harmony. "We stressed harmony by starting with the Everly Brothers, moving on to Graham's first harmonizing with Crosby and Stills, and finally to the singing booth where you can harmonize with Graham yourself," she says.
Nash arrived at the press preview looking fit, trim and exuberant. In the midst of his own exhibition, he beamed like a kid in a candy store — the kid who grew up poor in the north of England after the war and still can't believe his good fortune. He walked through the exhibition, stopping along the way to talk to Rolling Stone about a few of the items on display that have special meaning for him."If there's one thing I'd like people to take from this," he says, "it's look at what one person from a humble background did with his life. If I can do it, you can too."