Crosby, Stills, and Nash
Crosby, Stills, and Nash
The middle to late 1960s was a very tumultuous time all over the world. Students, women, and the disenfranchised were standing up to protest against what they felt were discriminating and oppressive societies. Culture, as a whole, was swept up and into the politically and socially relevant movements of the era. Pop music was no exception. Introspection and often times politically astute observations were not only the province of folk artists, they even managed to find homes in the works of such rock artists as Bob Dylan and Crosby, Stills, and Nash. What set Crosby, Stills, and Nash apart from other protest artists were their pure and clear harmonies. Their inspired lyrics and song writing helped to set the stage for the emergence of the singer-songwriter movement of the early 1970s.
There is some debate over the exact place where the trio first met and discovered their unique knack for creating three part harmonies. It was in late 1968, either at folk singer Joni Mitchell’s place or at Cass Elliot’s house. Each of the members of Crosby, Stills, and Nash had achieved a good deal of success before joining up with the others. David Crosby had played with the acclaimed folk influenced rock band the Byrds. He had been let go from the band because of his headstrong personality and because his musical direction had begun to differ from that of the rest of the band. Stephen Stills had rather recently disbanded Buffalo Springfield after much inter-band strife. Graham Nash, who had founded the English band the Hollies, was desperate to rid himself of that band amid similar musical differences. Crosby knew Stills and introduced him to Nash.
It was in Los Angeles, in late 1968, when the band first discovered their unique style of vocal harmonizing. As Nash related on their website, “When David and Stephen were singing ‘You Don’t Have to Cry’ they were singing the two parts and they started to show off because they wanted to show me that they had worked on it very diligently. It sounded great and I asked them to sing a second time. They looked at each other and sang it a second time. Then I asked them to sing it again and I had, by then, a rough idea of what my part would be. It turned out to be nothing short of musical magic. When we heard ourselves for the first time, it was truly astounding to us as musicians that three people from such diverse backgrounds can meld and come together with that sound.”
Not long afterward, David Geffen signed Crosby, Stills, and Nash to Atlantic Records. In December of 1968, Nash finally left the Hollies and began to practice in earnest with Crosby and Stills. In June of 1969, their debut album, Crosby, Stills, and Nash, was released. A mere two months later, Crosby, Stills, and Nash performed their second live gig at the infamous Woodstock Music and Art Fair. Neil Young joined them with additional guitar playing and occasional vocals.
Young would perform with Crosby, Stills, and Nash off and on for the next 20 years. Shortly after Crosby, Stills, and Nash performed at Woodstock, “Marrakesh Express,” their first single peaked, at number 28 on the American singles chart. In November, the second single, “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” just barely missed the American top 20. Around this time, Crosby, Stills, and Nash was certified gold in America. The band also opened for the Rolling Stones at the ill-fated Altamont Speedway concert in California, in December of 1969, where one fan was murdered.
In early 1970, Crosby, Stills, and Nash won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist. They also began to work on their second album. “Woodstock,” the first single from their soon to be released second album charted at number eleven. May of 1970 saw the release of Déjà Vu, recorded with Young as a full member. Deja Vu was certified gold in America only one week after its release. The killing of four students by the Ohio National Guard at Kent State University prompted Young to write the anti-war protestanthem “Ohio.” “Teach Your Children,” the second single from Deja Vu, peaked at number 16, in America, over the summer. “Our House,” the third
Members include David Crosby (born David Van Courtland, August 14, 1941, Los Angeles, CA) guitar and vocals; Graham Nash (born February 2, 1942, Blackpool, Lancashire, England) guitar and vocals; Stephen Stills (born January 3, 1945, Dallas, TX) guitar, keyboards and vocals.
Group formed in Los Angeles, CA, 1968; signed to Atlantic; released Crosby, Stills, and Nash, 1969; released Deja Vu, 1970; released 4 Way Street, 1971; released So Far, 1974; released CSN, 1977; released Replay, 1981; released Daylight Again, 1982; released Allies, 1983; released American Dream, 1988; released Live it Up, 1990; released Carry On, 1991; released After the Storm, 1994.
Awards: Gold certification for Crosby, Stills, and Nash, 1969; Grammy Award for Best New Artist, 1970; gold certification for Deja Vu, 1970; gold certification for 4 Way Street, 1971; platinum certification for CSN, 1977; platinum certification for Daylight Again, 1982; inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 1997.
single from Deja Vu, hit number 30 on the American singles chart.
By then, the group had, in effect, broken up. The stress of trying to balance such diverse and dominant personalities had taken its toll on the group dynamics within the band and each member had decided to go his own way. Commenting on the break up in their website, Nash said, “We wanted to let people know that we weren’t a band in the traditional sense, that we were individuals who would come together in a group dynamic and with whomever we felt like.”
Crosby, Stills, and Nash’s next album was the 1971 live double album, 4 Way Street, compiled from concert recordings from the previous year. It was certified gold upon shipment in America, and subsequently topped the charts there. There would not be another Crosby, Stills, and Nash album until the 1974 compilation So Far, which also reached number one in America. Late in 1976, Crosby, Stills, and Nash returned to the studio and recorded their first album of new material since Deja Vu. CSN was released in 1977, and it peaked at number two in America in August of thatyear. The first single, “Just a Song Before I Go,” peaked at number seven in America.
Replay, was released in 1981, and in August of 1982, Crosby, Stills, and Nash released Daylight Again, which would become their second platinum album. It peaked at number eight, while the first single, “Wasted on the Way,” made it to number nine. The follow up single, “Southern Cross,” peaked at number 18. A live album, Allies, was released the following year. 1989 saw the release of American Dream, where Crosby, Stills, and Nash had reunited with Young. It peaked at number 16. Two years later, Crosby, Stills, and Nash released Live it Up. Carry On came out in 1991, and After the Storm followed in 1994. In 1997, Crosby, Stills, and Nash were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Commenting on their relevance online, Nash said, “I hope our musical and social legacies go hand in hand … We only cared about being true to ourselves… I think we were willing to put our musical lives on the line and our physical lives on the line for things that we felt very strongly about. I think one reason why people love this band is that they see three people up there who are going through the same things and the same changes the audience are going through and doing it publicly and it takes a certain amount of courage to do that. What’s important is the emotional connection between us and our audience.”
Crosby, Stills, and Nash, Atlantic, 1969.
(with Neil Young) Deja Vu, Atlantic, 1970.
4 Way Street, Atlantic, 1971.
So Far, Atlantic, 1974.
CSN, Atlantic, 1977.
Replay, Atlantic, 1981.
Daylight Again, Atlantic, 1982.
Allies, Atlantic, 1983.
American Dream, Atlantic, 1988.
Live it Up, Atlantic, 1990.
Carry On, Atlantic, 1991.
After the Storm, Atlantic, 1994.
Helander, Brock, ed. Rock Who’s Who, second edition, Schirmer, 1996.
Rees, Dayfdd, and Luke Crampton, Encyclopedia of Rock Stars, DK, 1989.
“Crosby, Stills, and Nash,” http://www.alpha.nl/CSN/bio2.html (October 13, 1998).
“Crosby, Stills, and Nash,” http://www.rockhall.com/induct/csandn.html (September 9, 1998).
—Mary Alice Adams
"Crosby, Stills, and Nash." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 22, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/crosby-stills-and-nash
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