116. Crosby, Stills & Nash

Crosby, Stills and Nash are a folk rock group from Los Angeles, California. The group achieved worldwide success in the late sixties, a long-lasting, uneasy alliance of musical misfits who struggled to thrive in other well-known bands. The decision to identify the band with names reflects the highly individualistic nature of this alliance.

After dismissal from The Byrds in 1967, David Crosby established friendships with both Stephen Stills and Graham Nash. Stills had recently left the Buffalo Springfield, and Nash was dissatisfied with his role in The Hollies. The three men met at a party, at Mama Cass Elliot’s home near Los Angeles. While singing songs at the party, they mutually recognized a special quality to their vocal harmonies. Their first two albums, Crosby, Stills & Nash and then Déjà Vu, with guitarist Neil Young contributing as a fourth member, were commercial blockbusters, but future collaborations were not as successful. Over the years, the four members have performed and recorded both together and as individuals. All four men are members of the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame.


Photograph by Henry Diltz. His music photography can be found here: 

Crosby, Stills & Nash (& Young) Biography on Wikipedia

David Crosby (b. 1941), singer, songwriter, guitar
Stephen Stills (b. 1945), singer, songwriter, guitar, keyboards
Graham Nash (b. 1942), singer, songwriter, guitar, keyboards

Notable Contributors:

Neil Young (b. 1945), guitar, singer, songwriter
Dallas Taylor (1948-2015), drums

“Graham Nash Opens Up About Sex, Drugs and Music Behind Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young”, by Sherryl Connelly, New York Daily News, September 1, 2013

Like many groups, the group’s best songs are in the first albums. I can imagine each musician, eager to share new songs, but stifled or discouraged by their former bands. Finding beautiful vocal harmony as a tool to express those new ideas must have been exciting. Though David Crosby could play guitar and Graham Nash a little piano, Stephen Stills played most of the instruments on these early recordings. Over the years, David Crosby appears to have improved his skill over time, as shown in this 1991 rendition of “Guinnevere”:

Here Stephen Stills sings “4 + 20”, and then “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” with Crosby and Nash singing along, in a single YouTube video:

Graham Nash contributed a few of their best songs, including the sweet “Our House”. Take note of the standing ovation at the end, the fans heaping adoration on the trio:

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young At The Rose Garden

In February 2000, I saw Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young perform at the Rose Garden in Portland, with Booker T. Jones on keyboards, Duck Dunn on bass and Steve Cropper on guitar. It should have been a great show; to say Booker T. & the MGs are a fine supporting band is an understatement. But I thought it was disappointing. The performances were fine. Though they lacked the youthful singing prowess once possessed, every song was well executed.

Every time Neil Young took a turn playing a song, the show gained momentum and power. He was clearly the most compelling performer of the quartet. Stephen Stills is my next favorite of the bunch. Did you know that Stills once auditioned to become one of The Monkees? He’s a little bluesier than his band mates, and he can play his guitar, but that night he seemed out of practice. David Crosby was a pleasant surprise, playing well and singing powerfully. Graham Nash performed his songs admirably as well.

They weren’t a cohesive band; instead it was a series of performances by individual artists singing their own songs. And every time somebody finished a song, the crowd erupted in ovation for a song played the same way it had been played thousands of times before. The contributing artist soaked in the adoration as though he were a sponge, some more than others. As a result, the concert lacked continuity and some band members displayed a lack of humility. We left before the encore, three hours later, very impressed by Neil Young.

I found this glowing review of the concert while researching the concert date. A contrary opinion to my general disappointment, and perhaps more consistent with the typical attendee.

Glowing Review of February 2nd, 2000 Rose Garden Concert

Crosby, Stills & Nash found each other in the right place at the right time. Three liberal, conscientious men, drawn together by uncommon harmony, singing songs of love and protest that captured the heart of their generation. Their popularity exceeded their long lasting contribution to folk music. Few of their songs will be sung by future generations, but they were immensely popular for an aging subset of the population. Each of the three songwriters achieved personal fulfillment and fame. It seems harsh to portray Crosby, Stills and Nash as a trendy trio of hippie idols, but they are in the process of becoming a footnote in musical history, while their occasional partner Neil Young blossomed into one of the immortals.

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young Song Notes:

1. In the Related Songs section, “Go Back Home” by Stephen Stills features Eric Clapton with the closing guitar solo. “Old Times, Good Times” by Stephen Stills features Jimi Hendrix throughout.

2. In the Related Songs section, the two songs by Neil Young can be found on the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young album 4-Way Street. Since these are solo Neil Young performances, I felt it was appropriate to label them as such.

3. Almost all selected songs are from the first two albums. The exceptions are “Immigration Man” and “Wind On The Water”, Crosby & Nash collaborations from the early seventies. In addition, demo recordings of “Marrakesh Express” and “Almost Cut My Hair” from an album called CSN: Demos are recommended.

Crosby, Stills & Nash Songs:

Carry On, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young ✭✭✭
Ohio, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young ✭✭✭

Long Time Gone, Crosby, Stills & Nash ✭✭
Suite: Judy Blue Eyes, Crosby, Stills & Nash ✭✭
Wooden Ships, Crosby, Stills & Nash ✭✭
Guinnevere, Crosby, Stills & Nash ✭✭
Immigration Man, Crosby & Nash ✭✭
Teach Your Children, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young ✭✭
Helpless, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young ✭✭
Our House, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young ✭✭
Carry On, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young ✭✭
To The Last Whale…Critical Mass/Wind On The Water, Crosby & Nash ✭✭
Only Love Can Break Your Heart (Live), Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young ✭✭

Find The Cost Of Freedom, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Helplessly Hoping, Crosby, Stills & Nash
Marrakesh Express (Demo), Crosby, Stills & Nash
Déjà Vu, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Almost Cut My Hair, Crosby, Stills & Nash
Almost Cut My Hair (Demo), Crosby, Stills & Nash
4 + 20, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young ✭

Related Songs:

Cowgirl In The Sand (Live), Neil Young ✭✭✭
Don’t Let It Get You Down (Live), Neil Young ✭✭

Wooden Ships, Jefferson Airplane ✭✭

Woodstock, Joni Mitchell ✭✭
Woodstock, Matthews Southern Comfort ✭✭

For What It’s Worth, Buffalo Springfield ✭✭✭✭

Carrie Anne, The Hollies

Go Back Home, Stephen Stills ✭✭✭
Love The One You’re With, Stephen Stills ✭✭✭
Old Times, Good Times, Stephen Stills ✭✭
Church (Part Of Someone), Stephen Stills

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