Songs for Beginners

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Songs for Beginners
Studio album by
Released28 May 1971
Wally Heiders Studio III, Los Angeles and Studio "C", San Francisco
GenreFolk rock, country rock, rock
ProducerGraham Nash
Graham Nash chronology
Songs for Beginners
Wild Tales
Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic(CD+DVD) [2]
Rolling Stone(favorable)[3]

Songs for Beginners is the debut solo studio album by English singer-songwriter Graham Nash. Released in May 1971, it was one of four high-profile albums (all charting within the top fifteen) released by each member of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young in the wake of their chart-topping Déjà Vu album of 1970, along with After the Gold Rush (Neil Young, September 1970), Stephen Stills (Stephen Stills, November 1970) and If I Could Only Remember My Name (David Crosby, February 1971). Songs for Beginners peaked at No. 15 on the Billboard Top Pop Albums chart, and the single "Chicago" made it to No. 35 on the Billboard Hot 100. It has been certified a gold record by the RIAA.[4]


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 Young's early 1970s pseudonym Joe Yankee). The making of this album directly followed Nash's break-up with longtime girlfriend Joni Mitchell. Many of the songs are about their time together. The Top 40 track "Chicago" concerned both the 1968 Democratic National Convention and the trial of the Chicago Eight, articulating the outrage Nash felt concerning those proceedings.

"Wounded Bird" was written for Stephen Stills, about the pains he was going through in his relationship with Judy Collins. "Better Days" was also written for Stills, after Rita Coolidge left him for Nash.[5]

A first-generation compact disc was released in the late 1980s, and reissued in 2011. A remixed version supervised by Nash was issued on 180-gram vinyl only by Classic Records in 2001. A deluxe edition of Songs for Beginners was released on 23 September 2008 as a CD+DVD-Audio pack, featuring a bonus multichannel high resolution audio, all new 2008 video interview with Nash, plus a photo gallery and complete lyrics along with the 11-track CD album remastered.[6]

The song "Simple Man" features in the opening sequence of the 2007 film Reign Over Me, and a copy of the album appears in it. The same song was also used in the final minutes of the finale of the HBO series Looking. The song "Better Days" appears in episode 2 of Fox TV's The Passage, released in 2019.[7] 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. "I Used to be a King" was covered by Shawn Colvin on her 2015 album Uncovered.

In 2018, the song "Better Days" was used as the closing credit song in the Showtime miniseries Escape at Dannemora, Episode 7.[8] In 2021, "Better Days" was played over the closing credits of the HBO Max series Hacks, Episode 6.[9]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are written by Graham Nash, except "Be Yourself" written with Terry Reid

Side one
1."Military Madness"2:50
2."Better Days"3:47
3."Wounded Bird"2:09
4."I Used to Be a King"4:45
5."Be Yourself"3:03
Side two
1."Simple Man"2:18
2."Man in the Mirror"2:47
3."There's Only One"3:55
4."Sleep Song"2:57
6."We Can Change the World"1:00


  • Graham Nash — vocals; acoustic 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"

Additional Personnel

  • Dave Mason — electric guitar on "Military Madness"
  • David Crosby — electric guitar on "I Used to Be a King"
  • Jerry Garciapedal steel guitar on "I Used to Be a King" and "Man in the Mirror"
  • 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"
  • Neil Young — piano on "Better Days", "I Used to Be a King" and "Man in the Mirror"
  • Joel Bernstein — piano on "Military Madness"
  • Chris Ethridge — bass guitar on "Man in the Mirror", "There's Only One", "Chicago" and "We Can Change the World"
  • Calvin "Fuzzy" Samuel — bass guitar on "Military Madness", "Better Days" and "Be Yourself"
  • Phil Lesh — bass guitar on "I Used to Be a King"
  • John Barbata — drums all tracks except "Better Days", "Wounded Bird", "Simple Man" and "Sleep Song"; tambourine on "Chicago"
  • Dallas Taylor — drums on "Better Days"
  • Dorian Rudnytsky — cello on "Simple Man" and "Sleep Song"
  • David Lindleyfiddle on "Simple Man"
  • Bobby Keys — saxophone on "There's Only One"
  • Sermon Posthumas — bass clarinet on "Better Days"
  • P.P. Arnold — backing vocals on "Military Madness"
  • Venetta Fields — backing vocals on "There's Only One", "Chicago" and "We Can Change the World"
  • Sherlie Matthews — backing vocals on "There's Only One", "Chicago" and "We Can Change the World"
  • Clydie King — backing vocals on "There's Only One", "Chicago" and "We Can Change the World"
  • Dorothy Combs Morrison — backing vocals on "There's Only One", "Chicago" and "We Can Change the World"
  • Dorothy Morrison — backing vocals on "There's Only One", "Chicago" and "We Can Change the World"

Production personnel[edit]



Region Certification Certified units/sales
United States (RIAA)[23] Gold 500,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.


  1. ^ Jurek, Thom. Songs for Beginners at AllMusic
  2. ^ Jurek, Thom. Songs for Beginners at AllMusic
  3. ^ Kaye, Lenny (22 July 1971). "Album Reviews: Graham Nash, Songs for Beginners". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 2 October 2007.
  4. ^ RIAA database retrieved 26 August 2014
  5. ^ Edgers, Geoff (17 September 2019). "What pushed Graham Nash, the quiet one, to record his solo masterpiece". The Washington Post. Retrieved 6 June 2020.
  6. ^ Songs for Beginners [CD/DVD-Audio]: Graham Nash
  7. ^ "Watch the Passage Season 1 | Prime Video". Amazon.
  8. ^ "Escape at Dannemora Episode Guide: Part 7". Showtime. Retrieved 6 June 2020.
  9. ^ "Season 1E6 · New Eyes". HBO Max. 13 March 2021. Retrieved 4 August 2021.
  10. ^ a b c d "Stephen Stills". Billboard. Retrieved 5 July 2020.
  11. ^ "STEPHEN STILLS | full Official Chart History | Official Charts Company". Retrieved 5 July 2020.
  12. ^ a b c Canada, Library and Archives (16 April 2013). "The RPM story". Retrieved 5 July 2020.
  13. ^ Hung, Steffen. "Stephen Stills - Stephen Stills". Retrieved 5 July 2020.
  14. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970-1992.
  15. ^ "Graham Nash - Songs For Beginners -". Retrieved 19 December 2020.
  16. ^ "Swedish Charts" (PDF).
  17. ^ a b c "CASH BOX MAGAZINE: Music and coin machine magazine 1942 to 1996". Retrieved 5 July 2020.
  18. ^ "RECORD WORLD MAGAZINE: 1942 to 1982". Retrieved 5 July 2020.
  19. ^ "Go-Set Australian charts - 25 March 1972". Retrieved 24 December 2020.
  20. ^ a b c "RECORD WORLD MAGAZINE: 1942 to 1982". Retrieved 5 July 2020.
  21. ^ a b " - Graham Nash - Chicago". Retrieved 24 December 2020.
  22. ^ "Go-Set Australian charts - 25 March 1972". Retrieved 24 December 2020.
  23. ^ "American album certifications – Graham Nash – Songs For Beginners". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 9 June 2016.