Crosby, Stills & Nash

Greatly Appreciated

Crosby, Stills & Nash  (CSN) is a folk rock supergroup made up of David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash.  They are known as Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (CSNY) when joined by occasional fourth member Neil Young.  They are noted for their intricate vocal harmonies, often tumultuous interpersonal relationships, political activism, and lasting influence on US music and culture.  All four members of CSNY have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, though Young’s inductions were for work not involving the group.  (More from Wikipedia)



David Crosby had been a member of the Byrds but was forced out in late 1967 due to friction with others in the band.  By early 1968Stephen Stills was one of several musicians who began sailing with Crosby on his yacht and jamming with him.  One of the first fruits of these sessions was the apocalyptic tale “Wooden Ships”, composed by Stills, Crosby, and Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane


David Crosby met Graham Nash of the British Invasion band the Hollies when the Byrds toured England in 1966; when the Hollies came to L.A. in 1968, they reunited their acquaintance.  At a party given by Nash’s then-girlfriend Joni Mitchell in July 1968Stephen Stills and David Crosby performed a new Stills song called “You Don’t Have to Cry” with harmony vocals added by Graham Nash.  The three realized that they had a unique chemistry, and Crosby, Stills & Nash was born. 


As one of the few new bands, Crosby, Stills & Nash (Neil Young also played with them part of the time; the band was then called Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young) was a hit at the 1969 Woodstock festival, including their performance of Wooden Ships.  There was a renowned exchange between songs, where David Crosby notes that this is just their second gig, and then Stephen Stills says:  “This is the second time we’ve ever played in front of people, man, we’re scared s--tless.” 


Crosby, Stills and Nash wasn’t really as new as that quote seemed to indicate; the band had released their debut album Crosby, Stills & Nash in May 1969, three months before Woodstock, and the recording sessions began in June 1968.  I had always thought that Neil Young was the man peeking out of the door on the back cover of Crosby, Stills & Nash, but it was actually their drummer Dallas Taylor.  Young did join up for their next album, Déjà Vu; the album was released under the name Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (with drummer Dallas Taylor and bassist Greg Reeves also credited on the cover in smaller print). 


Neil Young continued to record sporadically with the group; also, David Crosby and Graham Nash have released several albums with just the two of them. 


Crosby, Stills, Nash and/or Young have released any number of cultural and counter-cultural touchstones over the years:  “Ohio” (about the Kent State University shootings); “Woodstock” (written by Joni Mitchell based on what Graham Nash told her about the festival – Matthews’ Southern Comfort had a Number 1 hit in the U.K. with “Woodstock”); “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” (written about Judy Collins); “Teach Your Children” (featuring Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead on pedal steel guitar; the song actually made the country charts); “Helpless” (one of Neil Young’s loveliest songs); “Southern Man” (on Neil Young’s excellent solo album, After the Gold Rush, with Lynyrd Skynyrd good-naturedly answering the song in their hit “Sweet Home Alabama”); “Love the One You’re With” (first released on Stephen Stills’ debut solo album, Stephen Stills – live versions of “Southern Man” and “Love the One You’re With” appear on the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young double album 4 Way Street); etc. 


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One of the problems with creating new rock bands out of old ones is recording contracts:  Just because a rock band breaks up doesn’t usually mean that the members of the band are no longer bound by them.  You might have noticed over the years that even guest musicians playing on someone else’s album appear “courtesy of” another record company. 


Poco became one of the earliest and most long-lived country-rock bands.  Several record companies were interested in signing the new act, but they hit a road block:  Richie Furay and Jim Messina were still signed to Atlantic Records as part of Buffalo Springfield.  Meanwhile, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young were having the same problem getting signed.  David Geffen, then a young talent scout, arranged for the recording contracts for Stephen Stills and Neil Young to be swapped for those of Richie Furay and Jim Messina, so that CSNY could be signed to Atlantic Records, and Poco could be signed to Epic Records


(April 2014)

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Last edited: March 22, 2021