Laughing

Album: If I Could Only Remember My Name (1971)
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Songfacts®:

  • David Crosby wrote "Laughing" after George Harrison told him about a guru from India he had met who seemed to have the answers to life's big questions. That guru was Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Harrison and his fellow Beatles went to India study transcendental meditation with him in 1968. Paul McCartney, John Lennon and Ringo Starr quickly grew skeptical, but Harrison believed in the teachings.

    Crosby was also skeptical, and used this song to express his thoughts in a way that didn't come off as condescending. In the song, he concludes that the only person who knows the truth is "a child laughing in the sun."
  • In a Songfacts interview with David Crosby, he recalled the conversation that led to this song. "I was very taken with George," he said. "I liked him a lot. He was very friendly to me. He invited me over to his house, we had dinner together, we talked a lot. Paul was very friendly to me, John was very friendly to me, Ringo was very friendly to me, but the one that I had the relationship with was George.

    So, George gets a hold of me one day and he says, 'I met this fellow in India. A teacher, a guru that I like a lot.' And I said, 'Really? No s--t?' And he said, 'Yeah. I think he's got something.' And I said, 'Well, that's wonderful.'

    And what I wanted to say - the exact words I wanted to say - were, 'Take it with a grain of salt.' Because I am a skeptical person about religious teaching. I don't believe in God and I'm not really a big fan of religion... any of them. Buddhism isn't exactly a religion, it's a philosophy, and I did not want to come off like a snot to my new friend who I really respected hugely, so I didn't say anything.

    But I had it in my head: 'Take it with a grain of salt. Don't just accept it at face value.' So I wrote that song to tell him that. That the person I thought was the wisest I had met was a child laughing at the sun. And that I thought I could learn more from that child laughing at the sun than I could from anybody teaching."
  • "Laughing" is a track on David Crosby's first solo album, If I Could Only Remember My Name. It came at a time when his Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young bandmates were all working on separate projects. After recording two albums (the first without Young), the group members found themselves with too many songs to share, so they need to find other outlets.

    "Laughing" was recorded on October 24, 1969 but wasn't released until February 22, 1971 on Crosby's album. It could have been a CSN&Y cut if they had room for it.
  • Crosby's backing band on this track was members of the Grateful Dead: Jerry Garcia on pedal steel guitar, Phil Lesh on bass, and Bill Kreutzmann on drums. Garcia is quoted in the CSN boxed set compilation as saying of Crosby: "Boy, he's fun to work with. He's an inspiration. I think some of the finest playing I've done on record is on his solo album. As far as being personally satisfied with my own performances, which I rarely am, he's gotten better out of me than I get out of myself."
  • The members of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young often contributed to each other's albums. On "Laughing," Graham Nash sings harmony vocals, and Joni Mitchell comes in at the end of the song singing, "In the sun."

    When they recorded it, Nash and Mitchell were living together. Previously, she and Crosby were a couple.
  • Crosby considers the guitar sound this song's secret sauce. He explained in the CSN boxed set: "Stephen Barncard was my engineer and he did a lot of work to get that acoustic guitar sound. I don't thing anybody's ever gotten a better one, frankly. The key to the whole enterprise was great instruments, incredibly well tuned. You can't even attempt this music any other way. And Garcia was wonderful because he's always trying to push the edge of the envelope. He always wants to play something that he hasn't played before."
  • Crosby often performed "Laughing" in concert, including with his Lighthouse Band in a version that was released as a DVD called Live At The Capitol Theatre in 2022.

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