Above: From left to right: Young, Crosby, Nash, and Stills in a publicity photo in 1970

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

Also known as Crosby, Stills & Nash
Origin Los Angeles, California, United States
Folk rock country rock soft rock

Crosby, Stills & Nash (CSN) was a vocal folk rock supergroup made up of American singer-songwriters David Crosby and Stephen Stills and English singer-songwriter Graham Nash. They were known as Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (CSNY) when joined by Canadian singer-songwriter Neil Young, who was an occasional fourth member. They were noted for their intricate vocal harmonies, often tumultuous interpersonal relationships, political activism, and lasting influence on US music and culture. Crosby, Stills & Nash were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and all three members were also inducted for their work in other groups (Crosby for the Byrds, Stills for Buffalo Springfield and Nash for the Hollies). Neil Young has also been inducted as a solo artist and as a member of Buffalo Springfield.

Prior to the formation of CSN, each member of the band had belonged to another prominent group. David Crosby played guitar, sang and wrote songs with the Byrds; Stephen Stills had been a guitarist, keyboardist, vocalist and songwriter in the band Buffalo Springfield (which also featured Neil Young); and Graham Nash had been a guitarist, singer and songwriter with The Hollies.

Due to internal friction, Crosby was dismissed from the Byrds in late 1967. By early 1968, Buffalo Springfield had disintegrated, and after aiding in putting together the band’s final album, Stills was unemployed. He and Crosby began meeting informally and jamming. The result of one encounter in Florida on Crosby’s schooner was the song “Wooden Ships”, composed in collaboration with another guest, Jefferson Airplane’s Paul Kantner.

Graham Nash had been introduced to Crosby when the Byrds had toured the United Kingdom in 1966, and when the Hollies ventured to California in 1968, Nash resumed his acquaintance with him. At a party in July 1968 at Joni Mitchell’s house, Nash asked Stills and Crosby to repeat their performance of a new song by Stills, “You Don’t Have To Cry”, with Nash improvising a third part harmony. The vocals gelled, and the three realized that they had a very good vocal chemistry. It is disputed by members of the group whether it was at the house of Joni Mitchell or Cass Elliot. Stephen Stills recalls that it was at the house of Cass Elliot – he would have been too intimidated to sing as a group in front of Joni Mitchell for the first time. Nash and Crosby insist that the location was Joni Mitchell’s home.

Creatively frustrated with the Hollies, Nash decided to quit the band and work with Crosby and Stills. After an unsuccessful audition with The Beatles’ Apple Records, they were signed to Atlantic Records by Ahmet Ertegün, who had been a fan of Buffalo Springfield and was disappointed by that band’s demise. From the outset, given their previous experiences, the trio decided not to be locked into a group structure.

They used their surnames as identification to ensure independence and a guarantee that the band could not continue without one of them, unlike both the Byrds and the Hollies. They picked up a management team in Elliot Roberts and David Geffen, who got them signed to Atlantic and would help to gain clout for the group in the industry. Roberts kept the band focused and dealt with egos, while Geffen handled the business deals, since, in Crosby’s words, they needed a “shark” and Geffen was it.

Stills was already signed to Atlantic Records through his Buffalo Springfield contract. Crosby had been released from his Byrds deal with Columbia, as he was considered to be unimportant and too difficult to work with. Nash, however, was still signed to Epic Records through The Hollies. Ertegun worked out a deal with Clive Davis to essentially trade Nash to Atlantic in exchange for Richie Furay (who was also signed to Atlantic by virtue of his membership in Buffalo Springfield) and Poco, his new band.

The trio’s first album, Crosby, Stills & Nash, was released in May 1969. The eponymously titled album was a major hit in the United States, peaking at #6 on the Billboard album chart during a 107-week stay that spawned two Top 40 hits (“Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” and “Marrakesh Express”) and significant airplay on FM radio. The album ultimately earned a RIAA triple platinum certification in 1999 and quadruple platinum certification in 2001. With the exceptions of drummer Dallas Taylor and a handful of rhythm and acoustic guitar parts from Crosby and Nash, Stills (accorded the moniker “Captain Many Hands” by his bandmates) handled most of the instrumentation (including every lead guitar, bass and keyboard part) on the album, which left the band in need of additional personnel to be able to tour, a necessity given the debut album’s commercial impact.

Above: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young outdoor stadum tour at Foreman Field, Old Dominion University, Norfolk VA, (August 17, 1974)

Retaining Taylor, the band tried initially to hire a keyboard player. Stills initially approached virtuoso multi-instrumentalist Steve Winwood, who was already occupied with the newly formed group Blind Faith. The perceptive Ertegün suggested former Buffalo Springfield member Neil Young, also managed by Elliot Roberts, as a fairly obvious choice; though principally a guitarist, Young was a proficient keyboardist and could alternate on the instrument with Stills and Nash in a live context. Stills and Nash initially held reservations; Stills because of his fractiously fraternal history with Young in Buffalo Springfield, and Nash because of his personal unfamiliarity with Young. But after several meetings, the trio expanded to a quartet with Young a full partner. The terms of the contract allowed Young full freedom to maintain a parallel career with his new band, Crazy Horse.

They initially completed the rhythm section with Bruce Palmer, who had previously played with Young and Stills in Buffalo Springfield, on bass. However, Palmer was let go due to his persistent personal problems following rehearsals at the Cafe au Go Go in New York City; according to Crosby, “Bruce Palmer was into another instrument and his head was not where it should have been.” The teenaged Motown bassist Greg Reeves joined in Palmer’s place at the recommendation of Rick James, a friend of the band.

With Young on board, the restructured group embarked on a four-leg, 39-date tour that ended with three European concerts in January 1970. Their first gig was on August 16, 1969, at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago, with Joni Mitchell as their opening act. They mentioned they were going to someplace called Woodstock the next day, but that they had no idea where that was.

Their one-hour second show in the early morning of August 18, 1969, was a baptism by fire at the Woodstock Festival. The crowd of industry friends looking on from offstage was intimidating and prompted Stills to say, “This is only the second time we’ve performed in front of people. We’re scared shitless.” Their appearance at the festival and in the subsequent movie, along with recording the Joni Mitchell song memorializing Woodstock, boosted the visibility of the quartet.

CSN&Y appeared at other prominent festivals that year. Footage from two performances from the Big Sur Folk Festival (held on the grounds of the Esalen Institute on September 13–14, 1969) appears in the movie Celebration at Big Sur. They also appeared at the violence-plagued Altamont Free Concert on December 6, 1969 alongside Santana, Jefferson Airplane, The Flying Burrito Brothers and the headlining Rolling Stones. At the band’s request, their performance was not included in the subsequent film Gimme Shelter (1970).

In consultation with other band members, Stills fired Reeves from the group shortly before the beginning of their second American tour in April 1970 “because he suddenly decided he was an Apache witch doctor.” He further opined that “ Reeves freaked too much on the bass and no one could keep up because he did not play one rhythm the same… he could play bass imaginatively, but he has to be predictable as well,” while “Greg also wanted to sing some of his songs on the CSN&Y show, which I thought was ludicrous, only because the songs weren’t great. We’ll sing any song if it’s great, but not just because it happens to be written by our bass player.” He was replaced by Calvin “Fuzzy” Samuels, a homeless Jamaican musician recently discovered by Stills at Island Records’ London studios.

Shortly thereafter, Taylor (who frequently clashed with Young over the band’s tempos during the first tour and Déjà Vu sessions) was also dismissed when Young threatened to leave the group following the first performance of the tour at Denver Coliseum on May 12, 1970; instead, drummer John Barbata (formerly of The Turtles) was hired for the remainder of the tour and associated recordings. A week before, Young and Crosby were staying at a house near San Francisco when reports of the Kent State shootings arrived, inspiring Young to write the protest song “Ohio”. Recorded and rush-released weeks later with the new rhythm section, it peaked at #14 in August 1970, providing another American Top 20 hit for the group.

As the 23-show tour progressed, the tenuous nature of the partnership was strained by Stills’ alcohol and cocaine abuse and perceived megalomania, culminating in an extended solo set not countenanced by the other band members at the Fillmore East when he was informed that Bob Dylan was in the audience. In this turbulent atmosphere, Crosby, Nash and Young decided to fire Stills during a two-night stint at the Chicago Auditorium Theatre in July 1970. Following his reinstatement, the tour ended as scheduled in Bloomington, Minnesota on July 9, 1970; however, the group broke up immediately thereafter.

Above:  Stills (left), Crosby and Nash in 1974.

Concert recordings from that tour assembled by Nash produced the 1971 double album 4 Way Street, which also topped the charts during a 42-week stay. Although they would continue to collaborate in various and largely ephemeral permutations, the four members would not come back together in earnest until their 1974 reunion tour.

After spontaneously reconvening for an acoustic set at a Manassas concert at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom in October, the quartet failed once again to commit to a reunion; however, three days later, the CSN configuration also performed an acoustic set at another Manassas Winterland show. Over the next few months, Roberts finally prevailed upon the group to realize their commercial potential, culminating in Stills announcing a CSNY summer tour and the projected studio album at a solo concert in March 1974. The quartet reassembled in earnest that summer, with sidemen Tim Drummond on bass, Russ Kunkel on drums, and Joe Lala on percussion, to rehearse at Young’s ranch in Redwood City, California before embarking on the two-month, 31-date tour.

The tour was directed by San Francisco-based impresario Bill Graham. Fresh off the large-scale indoor arena tour he had developed for Dylan’s return to the spotlight earlier in the year, Graham interspersed now-routine arena bookings (including Nassau Coliseum and Capital Centre) with large-scale concerts that exploited the capacity of baseball and football stadia (such as Oakland Stadium and Rich Stadium), directly presaging the “stadium rock” milieu that was rapidly normalized following the success of Graham’s Day on the Green series and Led Zeppelin’s 1977 tour. In line with the new scale of the performances, the band typically played three and a half hours of old favorites and new songs. Opening acts included such luminaries as Mitchell (who occasionally sat in during the acoustic and semi-acoustic interlude that bridged two electric sets), Santana, The Band and The Beach Boys.

In particular, Crosby was disillusioned by the bombastic nature of the performances, which he collectively dubbed the “Doom Tour”: “We had good monitors, but Stephen and Neil were punching well over 100 db from their half stacks. Graham and I simply couldn’t do the harmonies when we couldn’t hear ourselves. Also, when you play a stadium you almost have to do a Mick Jagger where you wave a sash around and prance about. I can’t quite do that. We did what we could, but I don’t know how many people in the audience really got it. A lot of them were there for the tunes. When we’d start them, they’d hear the records.” Graham Nash’s unreleased film of the Wembley Stadium show highlights the scope and quality of these performances. They opted at the time not to release any recordings of the tour for an album, with Nash maintaining that “[the] main feeling at the end of the tour was that we weren’t as good as we could have been.”[33] Finally, to mark the tour’s 40th anniversary, Nash and archivist Joel Bernstein selected songs from the five shows that had been properly recorded to release CSNY 1974 in 2014.

Less than a year after reforming, Crosby, Stills & Nash released CSN. Recorded at Criteria Studios in Miami, Florida under the auspices of Ron and Howard Albert throughout late 1976 and early 1977, the album exemplified the meticulously stylized soft rock production ethos of the epoch and contained the band’s highest-charting single, Nash’s “Just a Song Before I Go” (#7); Stills’ “Fair Game” also peaked at #43. The album peaked at #2 on the Billboard chart in the summer of 1977 during a 33-week stay, remaining at that position for the month of August and ultimately earning a RIAA quadruple platinum certification behind one of the best-selling LPs of all time, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours. As of 2017, it remains the trio configuration’s best-selling album, outselling their debut by 200,000 records.

On June 21, 1978, Crosby, Stills & Nash received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for their contributions to the music industry, located at 6666 Hollywood Boulevard.

In 2006, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young set off on their Freedom of Speech Tour in support of Living with War, a Young solo album written in response to the Iraq War. The long setlists included the bulk of the new protest album as well as material from Stills’ long delayed solo album Man Alive! and newer material from Crosby and Nash. On May 16, 2006, Crosby, Stills & Nash were honored as a BMI Icon at the 54th annual BMI Pop Awards. They were honored for their “unique and indelible influence on generations of music makers.” In February 2007, CSN were forced to postpone a tour of Australia and New Zealand due to David Crosby’s illness. Also in 2006, long-time manager Gerry Tolman died in a car accident.

Above:  2006 “Freedom of Speech” tour. One of the backdrops, as shown here, were the photos of American soldiers who had died in the war in Iraq.

Crosby, Stills & Nash toured the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Brazil in 2012 and released a 2CD/DVD entitled CSN 2012 on July 17, 2012. Further tours of the United States and Europe followed in 2013 and 2014.

The band has been continuously associated with political causes throughout its existence, the latest example being the song “Almost Gone (The Ballad of Bradley Manning)” which focuses on the length and conditions of Chelsea Manning’s pre-trial confinement.

Despite their estrangement, Crosby, Nash, and Young were all vocal in their support for 2016 Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.


David Crosby — lead and harmony vocals, guitar
Stephen Stills — lead and harmony vocals, lead and rhythm guitar, bass guitar, keyboards, percussion
Graham Nash — lead and harmony vocals, guitar, keyboards
Neil Young — lead and harmony vocals, lead and rhythm guitar, keyboards, harmonica


Studio albums

Year Album details Peak chart positions Certifications
(sales thresholds)

1969 Crosby, Stills & Nash
Released: May 29, 1969
Label: Atlantic Records
6 2 — — 25
US: 4× Multi-Platinum[7]
1970 Déjà Vu
Released: March 11, 1970
Label: Atlantic Records
1 1 11 5
US: 7× Multi-Platinum
France: Platinum
UK: Gold
Germany: Gold
Switzerland: Gold
1977 CSN
Released: June 17, 1977
Label: Atlantic Records
2 4 10 17 23
US: 4× Multi-Platinum
1982 Daylight Again
Released: June 21, 1982
Label: Atlantic Records
8 14 14 — —
US: Platinum[7]
1988 American Dream
Released: November 1, 1988
Label: Atlantic Records
Format: CD, CS
16 58 — 26 —
US: Platinum
1990 Live It Up
Released: June 11, 1990
Label: Atlantic Records
Format: LP, CD, CS
57 59 — — —
1994 After the Storm
Released: August 16, 1994
Label: Atlantic Records
Format: CD, CS
98 71 — — —
1999 Looking Forward
Released: October 26, 1999
Label: Reprise Records
Format: LP, CD, CS
26 15 7 26 54
“—” denotes releases that did not charts

Live albums

Year Album details Peak chart positions Certifications
(sales thresholds)

1971 4 Way Street
Released: April 7, 1971
Label: Atlantic Records
1 3 8 5
US: 4× Multi-Platinum[7]
1983 Allies
Released: June 6, 1983
Label: Atlantic Records
43 39 — —
2008 Déjà Vu Live
Released: July 22, 2008
Label: Reprise Records
Format: CD, LP
153 48 — —
2012 CSN 2012
Released: July 2, 2012
Label: CSN Records
Format: CD, DVD, Blu-ray, download
— — — —
2014 CSNY 1974
Release date: July 8, 2014
Label: Rhino Records
Format: CD, DVD, Blu-ray, download
17 13 — 37
“—” denotes releases that did not chart.

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