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

Almost Cut My Hair

In Advocate by Jefferson Jay14 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.”

CROSBY, STILLS MASH & YOUNG PLAYING AT WOODSTOCK, featured in Almost Cut My Hair
CREDIT: MICHAEL PUTLAND/GETTY IMAGES
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.
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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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A community for guys with long hair, advocates, supporters and friends. We publish tips, advocate for hair equality, and celebrate men’s long manes with hair whips and high fives.
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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.

Comments

  1. happily, senator Mc Carthy is dead ( and retired in 1969); he should have charged of antiamerican activity all of those artists..lol
    and you have forgotten the music comedy Hair: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38ofWC6sajQ
    unhappily, 10 years later, came the disco movement which reestablished the barber’s dictatorship …
    ( a religious thinking to the memory of Olivia Newton Jones, disco popess, recently dead)
    in year 1970, i were arrested and detained for 2 hours as ” notorious beatnik; sings hippies songs of John ( sic) Baez)” by french police…the had then too less stolers and murderers and needed to deceive boredom!!!!

  2. One of the “good” things to come from the covid-19 shut-downs was an excuse to not cut get my haircut. More than two years later, my freak flag is still flying. So glad I found The Long Hairs, you guys and your products are the best!

    Long live the flow!

  3. From a child of the 60’s here, thanks so much for this! I didn’t start growing my hair out until a few years ago, just turned 60 this past summer, but this song has always been there in the back of my mind as having that long hair as an act of rebellion — even if it’s an act against what you personally have come to expect who and what and how you should be.

    Crosby has another great “hair cutting” reference from a few years earlier that relates here. It’s from the song Long Time Gone — which happens to be the song used to open the Woodstock movie. This song was written the day after Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. Here’s the verse:

    Speak out you got to speak out against the madness
    You got to speak your mind if you dare
    But don’t, no don’t, no, try to get yourself elected
    If you do you had better cut your hair

  4. I turned 61 the other day. Never did grow long hair, even in the 70s. Too busy working and fitting in. A few years back, I got a little sick. Backed off from the corporate dance. I tried the longhair experience, partly to look the part as an ancient Hebrew for Vacation Bible School. Well, that was months ago and the flag is still proudly flying.

    Happy to be a small part of the community. Young or old, be patriotic and fly your flag! Freaky.

  5. Grew up listening to this band courtesy of my dad. It was super rad to dive in to this classic, thanks boys!

  6. Let your freak flag fly, boys! Way to read between the lines on that legendary record.

  7. I retired from the Army in 2007 after 24 years. While trying to find the new me after being released from an institutionalized lifestyle. I went back to work for the Army as a civilian and slowly started to break the chains that bind you mentally. In 2019 my inner long hair came home to me and I haven’t cut my hair since. Not being a nonconformist, I have just applied my right to be me.

    1. Thank you for your service, Ken. That’s right! Your right to be you. Keep lettin’ it ride.🤘

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