Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young – Teach Your Children

This song was climbing in the charts in the top twenty when it was pulled. It was pulled because of the Kent State shootings and Neil Young wrote Ohio and CSN&Y wanted it released as soon as possible. Teach Your Children probably would have peaked in the top ten if not pulled.

The song peaked at #16 in the Billboard 100, #8 in Canada, and #19 in New Zealand in 1970.

Graham wrote this song while he was still playing with the Hollies but he never recorded it with them. He played it to Stephen Stills and Stills suggested a country arrangement which turned it into a hit.

Jerry Garcia performs the pedal steel guitar part of this track. He had been playing steel guitar for only a short period of time. Crosby told Nash he should ask Jerry to play steel guitar on the song. Garcia played on this song and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young worked with the Grateful Dead on harmonies for their acoustic albums Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty.

I would say it worked out well for both bands. Jerry told Graham Nash who wrote the song that he made a mistake but Graham wanted that take.

It was on the album  Déjà Vu which peaked at #1 in the Billboard 100, Canada and #5 in the UK.

Graham Nash: I’d heard Jerry had just started playing pedal-steel guitar and asked if he would add a pedal track to my song. After the first take, I said, “Thanks, Jerry, you’re done.” “No, no,” he protested, “I fucked up that part when we go right into the chorus. Can I do another?”“Absolutely, do it,” I told him, “but I’m never going to use it. The first one was exactly what I wanted.”

And, of course, his pedal steel was one of the defining elements in that recording.

From Songfacts

Graham Nash wrote this song. The lyrics deal with the often difficult relationship he had with his father, who spent time in prison.

 Graham Nash (from the liner notes of their 1991 boxed set): “The idea is that you write something so personal that every single person on the planet can relate to it. Once it’s there on vinyl it unfolds, outwards, so that it applies to almost any situation. ‘Teach’ started out as a slightly funky English folk song but Stephen (Stills) put a country beat to it and turned it into a hit record.”

Deja Vu was the first album the band recorded with Neil Young, but Young did not play on this.

According to the 2019 book Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Nash wrote the song while under the influence of hash. He taught it to the rest of the band in one day in the studio.

In Laurel Canyon: The Inside Story of Rock and Roll’s Legendary Neighborhood, Graham Nash is quoted as saying, “When I wrote ‘Teach Your Children’ and ‘Our House,’ we didn’t know what we were doing. ‘This sounds pretty fun, we can sing this, let’s do it!’ And then all of a sudden people are singing it back to me forty years later.”

An updated version with a new arrangement was used in a 1985 TV commercial for the Apple II computer. Bill Siddons, then manager for CSNY, told BAM magazine: “The whole idea of the spot was to show how to prepare your kids for the modern world, which is part of what ‘Teach Your Children’ is about.”

Shortly after writing this, Nash visited an art gallery and saw two photographs that crystallized the meaning of the song: Diane Arbus’ “Child with Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park” and Arnold Newman’s portrait of German industrialist Alfried Krupp. The singer told the news website Truthdig: “I put the ‘Hand Grenade’ photograph next to a picture of Krupp, who was the German arms magnate whose company was probably responsible for millions of deaths. It was an eerie photograph, a portrait, and the lighting is weird and his eyes are dark – a great image. And looking at them together I began to realize that what I’d just written [‘Teach Your Children’] was actually true, that if we don’t start teaching our children a better way of dealing with each other we’re f–ked and humanity itself is in great danger.”

At the end of The Office episode “Take Your Daughter To Work Day” (2006), Michael and Dwight perform this for the staff and their kids.

Teach Your Children

You who are on the road
Must have a code that you can live by
And so become yourself
Because the past is just a good-bye.
Teach your children well,
Their father’s hell did slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams
The one they picks, the one you’ll know by.
Don’t you ever ask them why, if they told you, you will cry,
So just look at them and sigh
And know they love you.

And you, of tender years,
Can’t know the fears that your elders grew by,
And so please help them with your youth,
They seek the truth before they can die.

Teach your parents well,
Their children’s hell will slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams
The one they picks, the one you’ll know by.

Don’t you ever ask them why, if they told you, you will cry,
So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

42 thoughts on “Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young – Teach Your Children”

  1. I never knew this was pulled due to Kent State. I was a little kid but remember when this first came out, and the radio dj saying, “Here’s a new song from Crosby Stills & Nash.” I liked it from the start and have played it to death at times. The ‘tender years’ verse makes me emotional; it’s so insightful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In Nash’s book…the record company told him…are you crazy? This is going to be number 1 but Nash said yea pull it because Ohio is a more important song at the time because of what happened.
      I’m not sure about #1 but it would have made the top 10 I’m sure.


      1. I did it on memory but then I went back and double checked… and he did stop it… I don’t understand though why they couldn’t have two songs? I guess one might cancel the other out I guess.


  2. Great song, one of the classics of the “60s” we think of, even if it actually came out in 1970! I knew “Ohio” was rushed out as a single soon after but didn’t know the company “pulled” this one to do so…odd business decision. why not have both out on the shelves?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yea I read his bio…I don’t remember him talking about this song being directly influenced by that but it probably played some kind of part.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s really different than slide. Lots of strings and you have to use feet and knees to change notes/chords/keys. It was way too much to do at once. Made me feel like an inept octopus

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yea I would sound the same…they make it look so easy. It’s the pedals that would get me…even with slide you have to be precise… you can’t go too far one way or another….yea I’m sure it’s difficult.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s an iconic tune that will survive forever. Maybe one day we will learn. I had no idea of the GD and CSNY collaborations (or had forgotten it.) Turning it into a country tune with Jerry on steel guitar is iconic in and of itself!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. You probably don’t like Graham Nash’s songs…I don’t think you liked Our House…right?
        Yea I like those better that you mentioned


      2. It’s funny….he wrote the most simple songs of all of them and probably wrote more hits for CSNY than the rest


      3. Eh. I just liked him better as a Hollie but, I know that group made him miserable.

        And, yeah, I’m not a fan of Neil Young in general terms but, some of his pieces, I like…Heart of Gold I have loved since I was s kid. Didn’t he write Ohio? He certainly sang it. Keep On Rockin’ in the Free World… It’s rare that I don’t find at least one song from all/any performers that I like, even if the body of their work is ho-hum to me. The music and/or voice blending (I like instrumentals, too) has to appeal to me, regardless of lyrics.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Oh yea he wrote it. My favorite by uncle Neil is Down By The River and My Love is like a Hurricane.


      5. You are coming up in the world! Oh do you remember this one? One of the oddest things I’ve heard him do in a way…I love it…neil in the 1950s


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