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Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

Crosby, Stills & Nash's eponymous debut album marks the point where rock music transitions from the heady explorations of the 1960s into the burnished self-reflections of the '70s. Upon its release in 1969, the album ushered in a new era, one where revolutions turned inward as the music got quieter and softer, creating a soundtrack for a generation easing into adulthood. Maturation looms large in the collective work of David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash, who were occasionally joined by Stills' former Buffalo Springfield bandmate Neil Young, who was added to help fill out the band's sound as they headed out on a tour that wound up shattering all previous records for ticket sales. CSN(&Y) made music for grown-ups during their '70s heyday, an aesthetic that eventually evolved from folk-rock into adult contemporary pop in the '80s. The transition wasn't necessarily smooth. The members often quarreled, splitting into side projects -- Crosby and Nash worked as a duo for a while, Stills led a band called Manassas for a spell in the '70s -- but Crosby, Stills & Nash always reunited (sometimes with the assistance of Young), as the chemistry and cultural impact they had as a group proved too hard to resist. Crosby, Stills & Nash was a second act for all the participants when they formed in 1968: Crosby had been a member of the Byrds, Nash was in the Hollies, and Stills had been part of Buffalo Springfield. The resulting trio, however, sounded like none of its predecessors and was characterized by a unique vocal blend and a musical approach that ranged from acoustic folk to melodic pop to hard rock. CSN's debut album, released in 1969, was perfectly in tune with the times, and the group was an instant hit. By the time of their first tour (which included the Woodstock Festival), they had added Young, also a veteran of Buffalo Springfield, who maintained a solo career. The first CSN&Y album, Déjà Vu, was a chart-topping hit in 1970, but the group split acrimoniously after a summer tour. 4 Way Street, a live double-album issued after the breakup, was another number one hit. (When it was finally released on CD in 1992, it was lengthened with more live material.) In 1974, CSNY re-formed for a summer stadium tour without releasing a new record. Nevertheless, the compilation So Far became their third straight number one. Crosby, Stills & Nash re-formed without Young in 1977 for the album CSN, another giant hit. They followed with Daylight Again in 1982, but by then Crosby was in the throes of drug addiction and increasing legal problems. He was in jail in 1985 and 1986, but cleaned up and returned to action, with the result that CSN&Y reunited for only their second studio album, American Dream, in 1988. CSN followed with Live It Up in 1990, and though that album was a commercial disappointment, the trio remained a popular live act; they embarked on a 25th anniversary tour in the summer of 1994 and released a new album, After the Storm. The trio again reunited with Young for 1999's Looking Forward, followed in 2000 by their CSNY2K tour. David Crosby died on January 18, 2023 at the age of 81.
© Stephen Thomas Erlewine & William Ruhlmann /TiVo


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