Darlings of the post-Woodstock nation, the superstar line-up of David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash (and later Neil Young) brought together ex-members of Buffalo Springfield, The Byrds and The Hollies.
Dubbed The ‘American Beatles’, CSNY’s songs told tales of past lovers, political unrest and a rocky road ahead - often while battling inter-band discord in their quest for pure vocal harmony.
Here are 10 of their best songs.
10) Long Time Gone (1969)
Written as a reaction to the assassination of Bobby Kennedy in 1968, this moody David Crosby song on Crosby, Stills & Nash’s debut album was a warning of darker days ahead. The chorus refrain, ‘It appears to be a long time before the dawn’, echoes the foreboding atmosphere. With the tragedies at Altamont and Kent State ahead, it was not too far off the mark.
9) Déjà Vu (1970)
The title track of their second album – their first with Neil Young – opens in jazzy 4/4 time before moving into a dreamlike tempo befitting the lyrical content. Crosby delves into a past life, reflecting ‘I feel like I’ve been here before’. The song inspired them to appear in retro Civil War garb for the album’s cover shoot.
8) Teach Your Children (1970)
One of a handful of songs Nash bought with him from the latter days of The Hollies. Frame-worked by the steel guitar of guest player Jerry Garcia, Nash’s plea for youthful understanding touched the post-Woodstock generation. CSN&Y, and their audience, were growing up. Inspiration for the song came from Nash viewing a photograph by Diane Arbus titled Child With Toy Hand Grenade In Central Park (opens in new tab).
7) Helpless (1970)
The addition of Canadian singer-songwriter Neil Young in mid-1969 added an extra creative dynamic to the band. Originally recorded with Young’s Crazy Horse, the country-tinged lilt of Helpless was one of the highlights of CSN&Y’s Déjà Vu. Meanwhile, Young’s own solo career was about to take off big time with the After The Goldrush album.
6) Our House (1970)
This ode to domestic contentment was written by Nash during the time he lived with Joni Mitchell in Laurel Canyon. The song’s spiralling melody is a perfect foundation for them to layer on the harmonies and counter harmonies. It’s one of their most durable songs and you’ll often hear it in TV ads and film soundtracks.
5) Marrakesh Express (1969)
Another Hollies remnant of Nash’s that would find a home on their self-titled debut album, Marrakesh Express captures a bright and breezy spirit of adventure, driven along by a Hammond organ played by Stills. Nash derived the idea for the song on a 1966 vacation that saw him travel by train from Casablanca to Marrakesh.
4) Carry On (1970)
Here Stephen Stills brings elements of three different songs into one concise package. He draws on Questions from his old band Buffalo Springfield, plus there’s a jam session with drummer Dallas Taylor tagged on as a delightful free-form coda. And, of course, the yearning harmonies are to die for.
3) Wooden Ships (1969)
Co-written by Jefferson Airplane’s Paul Kantner (their version appears on the Airplane’s Volunteers album), this captivating tale of survival in a nuclear holocaust is wrapped around an arrangement that mirrors the ominous undertones of the subject matter. Both Jefferson Airplane and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young performed the song in their respective sets at Woodstock Festival.
2) Ohio (1970)
Composed by Neil Young in pained reaction to the Kent State shootings of May 4, 1970, Ohio was rush-released as a single, scoring them a Billboard Top 20 hit. Its hard-hitting lyrical message was in sharp contrast to the peace-and-love vibes of the Woodstock era. Crosby’s fear and loathing is plainly evident during the fade as he bellows ‘Four, why? Why did they die? How many more?’.
1) Suite Judy Blue Eyes (1969)
Another deft amalgamation - as the title implies, this is a suite of four short songs written by Stills and seamlessly interwoven. Lyrically it refers to his relationship with folk singer-songwriter Judy Collins. Opening with glistening acoustic guitars, it builds to a searing, Latin-flavoured climax, ending on a repeated ‘doo-doo-doo-da-doo’ refrain of life-affirming joy.
What hits did Crosby, Stills and Nash have?
Crosby, Stills and Nash wrote enough hits (or at least firm fan favourites) to fill a compilation album – check out Greatest Hits which was released in 2005 through Rhino – but had a number of top 30 singles in the early part of their career: their first single, Marrakesh Express (1969), peaked at 28 in the US charts and 17 in the UK. Suite: Judy Blue Eyes, Woodstock, Teach Your Children, Ohio, and Just a Song Before I Go were all hit singles in the US.
What is Crosby, Stills and Nash's most famous song?
Suite: Judy Blue Eyes and Just a Song Before I Go are two of of Crosby, Stills and Nash's most recognisable songs. The former was taken from their 1969 self-titled debut; this single was a tribute penned by Stephen Stills as a tribute to his former girlfriend, folk singer Judy Collins. It reached number 21 in the Billboard Hot 100 and fared even better in Canada, where it placed at number 11. 1977 single Just a Song Before I Go – from the album CSN – reached number 7 in the Billboard chart. Digitally, Spotify tells a different story. Helplessly Hoping – a song from their debut – has racked up over 112 million streams.
Why did Crosby, Stills and Nash fall out?
Graham Nash says he will not consider any further Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young activity after falling out with David Crosby. In a 2022 interview with The Guardian, Nash says that he grew tired of Crosby's barbed comments about him online. “My patience, my love for him, it all just stopped,” he explained. "When he goes on social media, says I wasn’t his friend, and all I was in it for was the money, that’s fucking heartbreaking for me.”
Did Crosby Stills and Nash remove music from Spotify?
The band removed their music from Spotify in early 2022, in a show of solidarity with their bandmate Neil Young, who pulled his catalogue from the streaming service in protest of Spotify podcaster Joe Rogan's alleged misinformation on the coronavirus.
The band issued a statement to NPR, which read: "David Crosby, Graham Nash, and Stephen Stills have requested that their labels remove their collective recordings from Spotify. In solidarity with their bandmate, Neil Young, and in support of stopping harmful misinformation about COVID, they have decided to remove their records from the streaming platform including the recordings of CSNY, CSN, and CN, as well as Crosby's and Stills' solo projects. Nash has already begun the process to take down his solo recordings.
"We support Neil and we agree with him that there is dangerous disinformation being aired on Spotify's Joe Rogan podcast," it continued. "While we always value alternate points of view, knowingly spreading disinformation during this global pandemic has deadly consequences. Until real action is taken to show that a concern for humanity must be balanced with commerce, we don't want our music – or the music we made together – to be on the same platform."
Rogan later countered that he was not trying to promote misformation, but merely wanted to hear different perspectives on the deadly pandemic.
Crosby, Stills and Nash made their music available on Spotify again later that summer, with the band donating streaming royalties to charity for a month.