Crosby Stills Nash and Young playing on stage. Photo Credit: John Maginnis

Almost Cut My Hair

In Advocate by Jefferson Jay15 Comments

Forefathers of Long Hair

It wasn’t always "cool" (i.e. socially acceptable) to have long hair, but Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young were pioneers of counterculture in a generation that was told to cut their hair. Fifty years later, we are still moved by the message in their all-time track, “Almost Cut My Hair,” which strikes an emotional chord for longhairs old and young.

Here we dive into this timeless classic, what it meant for men with long hair in the 1960s and 70s, and its lasting cultural impact on the present.

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Neil Young are each legendary musicians in their own right. They were in numerous other classic rock bands, including The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and The Hollies, before uniting as one of the first musical supergroups.

Their second show ever was at Woodstock (the actual Woodstock), the festival that launched all festivals. The intimidating scene in the early morning hours of August 18, 1969 prompted the now-famous remark from Stills into the microphone, “This is the second time we've ever played in front of people, man. We're scared shitless.”

Scared as they may have been, they stood in the face of fear, merging the righteous anger of late 1960s idealism with angelic three and four-part harmonies, sparking intense cultural sentiment that would be carried on for decades.

Almost Cut My Hair

Each musician wrote songs, but David Crosby wrote “Almost Cut My Hair.” Released on the 1970 classic, Deja Vu, Crosby’s vocal personifies a young man pulled over by the police for having long hair, and embodies the outrage with injustice that defined the late 1960s.
CROSBY, STILLS MASH & YOUNG PLAYING AT WOODSTOCK, featured in almost cut my hair
Copyright: Atlantic Recording Corp / Cover Photography: Tom Gundelfinger
In a time when long hair was worn by hippies, and others, as a symbol of non-conformity and individuality, men with long hair were recognized as members of the counterculture.

Freak Flags & Paranoia

Having long hair was dangerous back then, and there was a price for making this choice. The danger is tangible in Crosby’s searing plea, “I feel like letting my freak flag fly,” while the paranoia, “like looking at my mirror and seeing a police car,” is troubling and pervasive.

CROSBY, STILLS MASH & YOUNG PLAYING AT WOODSTOCK, featured in almost cut my hair
Photographer: Michael Ochs | Credit: Getty Images

“But I'm not giving in an inch to fear” asserts defiance in a literal and figurative sense, offering hope and courage for the preservation of personal freedom.

News Traveled Differently in the 1960s

In the pre-internet days when information spread more slowly, through magazines, newspapers, TV and the radio, the subtle but profound message in “Almost Cut My Hair” reached every corner of the country.

The emotional pain channeled through Crosby’s voice was delivered to millions, crystallizing the deeper meaning of being a longhair.

Speaking to a generation, it asked a question we still ask today:

Should we cut our hair in order to conform?

Hair Is To Wear

The answer today is the same as in 1970: the choice is yours. While cultural trends have shifted over the past 50 years, and wearing long hair may not hold the same connotation, it is still a rebellious choice.

Prohibited in many schools, a disqualifier for many jobs, there remains an abundance of people and institutions who think you should cut your hair.

For those who chose long hair in the 60s and 70s, “Almost Cut My Hair” assured a sense of identity and belonging, galvanizing a community that refused to conform. Crosby’s promise holds true even today: if you let your freak flag fly…you won’t be alone.

“Almost Cut My Hair” laid the groundwork for a thriving longhair community, a precursor as it were, to The Longhairs. Far removed from the shame and shadows of the past, with confidence and humility we carry on the stewardship of this community.

We didn’t start it. We don’t own it. But we’re gonna carry the freak flag for as long as it flies.

This post is written in appreciation for Mr. Crosby and his bandmates for being among the first. Thank you.

Master of Ceremonies Jefferson Jay

Jefferson Jay is a musician, comedy host and content creator. He was the legendary emcee for The Great Cut, tirelessly hosting The Longhairs’ record-breaking event for over 14 hours. Jefferson Jay records are available on Spotify, iTunes and Jefferson Jay. His animated series, The Hunt for The Holiday Spirit, will change the way people experience inclusivity. All his amazing projects live at The Good Vibe.

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What does “Almost Cut My Hair” say to you? Let your freak flag fly in the comments—include your age!
Jefferson Jay sinks his soul into Crosby’s emotional lead
vocal and the ultimate longhair anthem, karaoke-style.