All at sea with my hero Crosby

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - TES­TI­MONY VIV CREEGOR

HAVE YOU ever won­dered whether it’s pos­si­ble to com­bine your favourite type of hol­i­day with see­ing a band that you’ve loved for 40 years, but never seen live, ac­tu­ally per­form? Well I’ve just done it cour­tesy of Cu­nard’s Queen Mary 2. In a ter­rific coup for the com­pany, which is cel­e­brat­ing its 175th an­niver­sary this year, Crosby, Stills & Nash were on board for a transat­lantic cross­ing from New York to Southamp­ton. I didn’t think at my age I’d ac­tu­ally be gid­dily ex­cited at the prospect but I was. CSN are cur­rently on a Euro­pean tour so, for them, it was a great way to get across the At­lantic with­out jet lag (the clocks go for­ward an hour a day on the ship which makes it pain­less) and with their many tons of equip­ment and their 41-strong crew safely on board with them.

It’s easy to slip into a rou­tine on a ship. Break­fast in your cabin is al­ways a treat and, as the weather was kind for the first three days, I was able to sit on my bal­cony watch­ing the sea, a very grey At­lantic, slip­ping by. Then I’d go to line-danc­ing to work off the calo­ries, some­thing which another 150 or so pas­sen­gers also chose to do. Crowded, then, but fun.

I had pre­con­ceived ideas about Queen Mary 2, mainly think­ing I’d be daunted by the sheer size of her. Once on board, though, you’re mostly un­aware of it, although I was late for a beauty treat­ment in the spa, firstly be­cause I got lost which is in­ex­cus­able af­ter five days on board!

But the real ex­cite­ment came with the CSN con­certs, four days into the cross­ing. There were three in all. Each was a one-hour set with the band play­ing what they knew we wanted to hear — the much-loved songs from the ’60s and ’70s, Mar­rakesh Ex­press, Teach Your Chil­dren, Our House, Love the One You’re With.

I’ve been to many shows on cruise ships and the ap­plause is mostly po­lite and some­what sub­dued but this was tu­mul­tuous. David Crosby looked a lit­tle be­mused a cou­ple of times when —how to put this po­litely? — older peo­ple got out of their seats to bop en­thu­si­as­ti­cally as close to the stage as pos­si­ble.

All three are in their 70s now but the sound they’re still mak­ing is sen­sa­tional. As the ship rolled, Nash said that the last time a stage had moved like this they’d all been high!

I spoke pri­vately to Crosby and Nash. Not Stills, alas, but I did watch him work the crowd beau­ti­fully at a spe­cial ques­tion and an­swer ses­sion with pas­sen­gers. All three of them were charm per­son­i­fied when they did a cou­ple of spe­cial au­to­graph ses­sions, at which ea­ger fans queued pa­tiently, lines snaking through the ship. I asked Graham Nash if he was able to move around the ship and not be ac­costed. “It’s all part of the job,” he said, “you can’t ex­pect not to re­act when peo­ple come up to you”.

David Crosby, who still has a re­mark­ably sweet singing voice at the age of 74, is known to be an Is­rael sup­porter. I’d read a quote of his in which he said: “The Is­raelis don’t need us” and I’d orig­i­nally thought it was a lit­tle am­bigu­ous but that turned out not to be the case. “I like un­der­dogs, so I’ve been root­ing for them all the way along,” he told me. “They don’t want to be de­pen­dent on us, they don’t want to be de­pen­dent on any­body. I side with them over and over again.” He went on to qual­ify that fur­ther. “Ev­ery­body around them is ma­nip­u­lat­ing the sit­u­a­tion for their own pur­poses and they put out a load of pro­pa­ganda. There are plenty of peo­ple who buy into it. I don’t.”

Crosby’s fa­ther was an Os­car-win­ning cin­e­matog­ra­pher — he worked on High Noon — who went to Palestine in 1946 and made the doc­u­men­tary My Fa­ther’s House to show the plight of dis­placed Jews as well as pro­mote the no­tion of a per­ma­nent Jewish state. “My fa­ther loved the re­gion so much he went back with my mother. At that point it was ide­al­ism, or­ange groves out of the desert, kib­butzim. It was a dream com­ing alive and a sanc­tu­ary for peo­ple who’d been abused be­yond belief. They were there in 1948 and saw Is­rael be­ing born”. For more in­for­ma­tion visit www.cu­nard.co.uk

Charm­ing:

Viv Creegor

with David Crosby on board the Queen Mary 2

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