Known as the first so-called supergroup (because all three members came from successful acts), Crosby, Stills and Nash might never have come together if two of their three members hadn’t come together if two of their three members hadn’t become disenchanted with their previous groups, coincidentally, for the same reason. In 1964, David Crosby was a member of the Byrds, one of the first folk-rock groups. When Crosby wrote a song in 1967 called “Triad” that the Byrds did not feel enthusiastic about and didn’t want to record, he left. Graham Nash, a member of the Hollies, decided to move on when his group refused to record Nash’s “Marrakesh Express.” In 1968 both joined forces with former Buffalo Springfield member Stephen Stills to develop what became an immediately recognizable three-part harmony vocal style. Though all three were guitarists (Stills was the “hot” lead player), the concentration on tight vocals gave them a fresh, country-rock sound that seemed all the more original as the psychedelic era began to wind down in the early ‘70s. Ironically, “Marrakesh Express” became CSN’s first release and first hit in July 1969 (#28).
Neil Young (also of the now-defunct Buffalo Springfield) joined the group soonafter. Neil had been a member of a doo wop group known as Danny and the Memories (Valiant Records, 1964) whose recording of the standard “Can’t Help Loving That Girl of Mine” gave little indication of his future direction (though it had a solid group harmony sound).
Practically unrehearsed as a performing unit, CSN appeared at the legendary Woodstock festival in August 1969.
Their next five singles all did well, including “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” (#21), written by Stephen Stills for Judy Collins; “Woodstock” (#11), written by Joni Mitchell; “Teach Your Children” (#16) and “Our House” (#30), both written by Nash; and Neil Young’s tribute to those killed at Kent State University, “Ohio” (#14). “Our House” was the last chart single before their first breakup in late 1970.
Largely due to the new exposure medium of FM radio (playing mostly LP cuts in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s), the group enjoyed tremendous album success without the usual necessary top 10 record. They didn’t score one until they regrouped in 1977, with “Just A Song Before I Go.”
They continually regrouped and worked in various configurations through the ‘70s and ‘80s, sometimes recording as duos (Crosby and Nash LPs in the early ‘70s, Stills and Young’s Long May You Run LP in 1976, and so on). In 1982, the trio saw their Daylight LP yield their second top 10 hit, “Wasted on the Way” (#9).
– Jay Warner