Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

CROSBY, STILLS, NASH and YOUNG

A legendary and much-loved vocal/instrumental supergroup, at first a trio formed in 1968 by David Crosby (b David Van Cortland, 14 August 1941, Los Angeles), guitar, vocals; ex-Hollie Graham Nash (b 2 February 1942, Blackpool, England), harmony vocals; ex-Buffalo Springfield Stephen Stills, guitar and vocals, at the Laurel Canyon home of Joni Mitchell. The former two had chafed at restrictions in previous groups; their teaming threatened to produce milestones and did just that: the acoustic-based trio debut Crosby Stills And Nash '69 (with Dallas Taylor on drums; b 7 April 1948, Denver; d 18 January 2015, Los Angeles) displayed superb harmony, Stills's passionate love songs ('Suite: Judy Blue Eyes' about his doomed romance with Judy Collins), Nash's nursery-rhymish celebrations and Crosby's hippy politicking ('Wooden Ships'). Another ex-Springfielder Neil Young joined, multiplying the musical options (both he and Stills played piano as well as guitar) and adding another writer, but also another ego. Their second concert (with Young) was at the Woodstock Festival (they admitted they were 'scared shitless'). Their second album (the first with Young and ex- Motown bassist Gregg Reeves) was Deja Vu '70, the contrasts between the writers more evident. A cover of Mitchell's 'Woodstock' was one of several songs of hippy ideals, while Young's 'Ohio' (not on the album but released the same year) lamented the shooting of students at Kent State. Meticulous studio work was combined with the joyous stage act in two-disc live set Four Way Street '71, with former Turtle John Barbata on drums and bassist Calvin 'Fuzzy' Samuels replacing Taylor and Reeves; by the time of its release the quartet had gone their separate ways. Crosby made a solo album If I Could Only Remember My Name '71, then performed and recorded through the '70s with Nash, whose solo albums Songs For Beginners '71 and Wild Tales '73 lacked bones.

With the exception of Young (and Stills's first album; see their entries) the individuals paled beside the sum of their parts; they re-formed '74 but did not record. Crosby and Nash had briefly toured with Young '73, threw in with Stills '77 to re-form the original trio; Stills's partnership with Young resulted in Long May You Run '76 but Young walked out on the tour. The trio made CSN '77 and Daylight Again '82 but did not relight the fire. Nash made Earth And Sky '80 but described Innocent Eyes '86 as his first real solo album, including a shift toward high-tech (synths, etc). 'It doesn't have David or Stephen on it, and it doesn't sound like anything they might have done.' The younger generation of the post-punk era couldn't have cared less, but the old vocal mix could still thrill; the trio played Live Aid '85 despite Crosby's drug problem (which led to several months in jail '86). At their peak, their complementary talents combined commercial success with credibility: the best of Los Angeles and San Francisco all at once.

Crosby wrote an autobiography, and appeared in the film Hook; he nearly died again '94 and had a liver transplant; he toured with Stills and Nash '97 and released Croz 2014, his first solo studio album in 21 years. His collaborator was his son, pianist and arranger James Raymond, who he first met in 1995: after a fleeting relationshp in 1961, Raymond had been adopted. "His parents did an amazing job raising him," Crosby told Marc Myers for the Wall Street Journal. "He's a better musician than I am and he's better educated--he can read and write music. He's also a better lyricist. I wish I had been there when he was growing up, but I'm also glad he never knew the David who was always stoned."