Nash brought in an impressive group of guests to assist in the recording, including David Crosby, Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, Dave Mason, David Lindley, Rita Coolidge, and Neil Young under his early 1970s pseudonym Joe Yankee. The making of this album directly followed his break-up with longtime girlfriend, Joni Mitchell. Many of the songs are about their time together. The album featured the traits that Nash had come to be known for: a good sense of pop song construction, expressions of emotional sincerity, and fervent political activism. The Top 40 track, "Chicago," concerned both the 1968 Democratic National Convention and the infamous trial of the Chicago Eight, articulating the outrage Nash felt concerning those proceedings. The topicality which suffuses the album would always remain central to Nash's work: of the quartet, he and Crosby most directly professed sentiments aligned with those common to the Woodstock Nation. This similarity undoubtedly formed part of the foundation for their long-standing partnership even outside the parent group.
A first generation compact disc was released in the late 1980s, and reissued in 2011. A remixed version supervised by Nash and issued on 180-gram vinyl only by Classic Records in 2001 is currently out of print. A deluxe edition of 'Songs for Beginners was released on September 23, 2008 as CD+DVD-Audio pack, featuring a bonus multichannel high resolution audio, all new 2008 video interview with Graham Nash, plus a photo gallery and complete lyrics along with the 11-track CD album remastered.
The song "Simple Man" featured in the opening sequence of the 2007 Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle film Reign Over Me, and Sandler's character later praises the album upon finding it in a used record store. A demo version of "Be Yourself" plays during the closing credits of the film "Up in the Air". "Military Madness" has been covered live by Death Cab For Cutie, and was covered by indie-rock band Woods on their 2009 album Songs of Shame."
Graham Nash — vocals; guitar all tracks except "Better Days" and "Simple Man"; piano on "Better Days," "Simple Man," "Chicago" and "We Can Change the World"; organ on "Better Days," "There's Only One," "Chicago" and "We Can Change the World"; paper and comb on "Sleep Song"; tambourine on "Chicago" and "We Can Change the World"
Rita Coolidge — piano on "Be Yourself" and "There's Only One"; electric piano on "Be Yourself"; backing vocals on "Military Madness," "Better Days," "Simple Man," "There's Only One," "Chicago" and "We Can Change the World"