For years Judy Proffer has cherished one particular piece of framed art in her Encino home: Graham Nash’s hand-written lyrics to “Our House.” She and the musician met years ago through Judy’s husband, music producer Spencer Proffer. “I treasure that piece,” she says. “I love the preciousness of home that the song conveys. Given I’m a publisher [Padaro Press, which she runs with Spencer], it was inevitable that I would want to somehow capture the essence of the song in book form.”
With the tune approaching its half-century milestone, Judy felt the timing was right to reach out to Graham. Turns out, he was game. “There was no convincing me. The idea was a great one,” shares Graham.
Hugh Syme, who has designed album covers, film posters and logos for Judy’s husband, was brought on board as illustrator, and the project quickly took flight.
Even though it was five decades ago, Graham says he clearly remembers the day the song was written. He and singer Joni Mitchell had just shared breakfast at Art’s Deli in Studio City. “We passed an antique store, and Joni saw a small vase that she loved. She bought it, and it was a miserable day when we got into Joni’s car and drove to our house in Laurel Canyon. We went through the front door and I said, ‘Hey Joan, why don’t I light a fire while you put some flowers in the vase you just bought?’”
At the time the British native was part of the budding, folk rock band Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. “The days were full of sunshine and music. I felt free for the first time. All I had to do was realize that the sound that David [Crosby], Stephen [Stills] and I had created when we made our three voices blend into one was about to change my life. My heart told me to follow that sound, and so I did.” The foursome’s first album was Déjà Vu, which arrived in stores in March 1970, topping the charts and generating three hit singles: “Woodstock,” “Teach Your Children” and “Our House.” More than 8 million copies of the album were sold, and it remains the highest-selling album of each band member’s career.
Graham, who cites “Adagio for Strings” by Samuel Barber as an example of what he likes to listen to these days, raised his three kids in Encino. The singer/songwriter, who is also an accomplished photographer, now lives in New York’s Greenwich Village, which the 76-year-old describes as “filled with art and music all day long.”