John Hall Still the One

No Nukes: Music's Biggest Stars Gather for Environmental Awareness

Written by: John Hall

Backstage was a mixture of excitement, pride, and nerves.

What we were doing was an unprecedented statement and show of strength by the musical community. Thousands of little encounters in the dressing rooms and hallways reminded us what star power was being brought to bear. When we realized that David Bowie was sitting on a road case backstage, Graham and I went over to welcome him and did our best to convince him to do a cameo of any song with any of our great house band backing him up. Steven Tyler joined us for a chorus of “Power,” and while I was backstage teaching him the lyrics with Carly Simon, I realized I was looking at two of the widest, toothiest smiles in pop history. We plotted to get them on the same mic, side to side. I also had the honor of performing the song with the Doobie Brothers, with Michael McDonald and James Taylor singing the verse and adlibbing the repeat choruses. 

One moment stands out in my mind from the No Nukes Rally at Battery Park on the fifth day of the concerts at the Garden. I had already performed “Power” with my band, joined by Carly Simon, Graham Nash, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, and all the great musicians we could squeeze on the stage. A quarter of a million people sang along, “Just give me the warm power of the sun...” After my part of the show, I was standing stage left, with my six-week-old daughter, Sofi, in a Snugli on my chest as Crosby, Stills & Nash started their set. The sloop Clearwater tacked back and forth in the sparkling Hudson just off shore to the west, with a long topsail bearing a beaming yellow sun flying above the huge, gaff-rigged mainsail. The Clearwater belonged to an organization of the same name that was dedicated to cleaning up the environment in the Hudson River Valley and that had been conceived by one of my heroes, Pete Seeger, whose music I used to listen to at my grandmother’s house in Providence when I was young. I would later bring my kindergartner to the Clearwater’s Pumpkin Sails to see puppet shows and hear the crew talk about the fish and microorganisms living in the river. Still later, I would serve on the board of directors. I didn’t know that at the time, nor did I know that I would resign from the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater board the night before I announced my candidacy for Congress. All I knew was that a sea of people were singing “Teach Your Children” with David, Graham, and Steven, my child was sleeping on my chest in the sunshine, and tears were rolling down my face as I tried to sing along. It was the perfect confluence of where I had been and where I was going: the nexus of music, family, environmental awareness, and politics—the axis around which my life would continue to spin. 

Best known as the founder of the band Orleans, with hits including “Still The One,” and “Dance With Me,” John Hall co-wrote Janis Joplin’s “Half Moon,” Steve Wariner's #1 country hit "You Can Dream of Me," and also “Power,” which became the theme of the NO NUKES concerts in the 1970s. John has collaborated in the studio or on the stage with Little Feat, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Graham Nash, Chet Atkins, and Carly Simon, among others.

His environmental concerns led him into community activism, which got him on the road into politics, first serving in the Ulster County, New York legislature, then as trustee and president of the Saugerties school board. Hall won a seat in Congress in 2006, and returned to music in 2011 with Orleans.

John’s optimism comes through in stories from his life in the musical and political worlds in Still the One: A Rock ‘n’ Roll Journey to Congress and Back