The folk rock super-group Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young formed in 1969, although their story began in 1966 with the legendary folk protest band Buffalo Springfield. The story, which in itself is one of the great 1960's rock legends, goes something like this: Guitarist and vocalist Stephen Stills (1945), was driving down Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles with some friends when he spotted the Canadian singer, Neil Young (1945) driving a hearse, as was his custom in those days. After hailing the hearse, Stills invited Young to meet him at a bar down the street for a drink, which they did, and over beers and who knows what else, that night Stills and Young became friends and Buffalo Springfield was established.
Additional band members of Buffalo Springfield included Richard Furay, Bruce Palmer and Dewey Martin, however it was the musical collaboration and friendship between Young and Stills that was of particular significance. Although the group was only together 19 months they produced three very important albums in that time deeply impacting the social awareness of a generation."For What It's Worth" became the group's most popular single and was considered the anthem for social change of the Vietnam era.
Following the disbanding of Buffalo Springfield in 1968, Neil Young pursued a solo career with the backing group Crazy Horse, while Steven Stills formed his own new band. Encouraged by friend and folk singer Joni Mitchell to play at the Woodstock Festival, Still's new group featured Graham Nash (1942) of the Hollies, and ex-Byrds member David Crosby (1941).
Woodstock established Crosby Stills and Nash's credibility as vocalists, songwriters and social activists, while the well-received performance led to a record contract with Atlantic and their 1969 self titled debut release. Within one year the three decided to approach Neil Young about joining the group and soon after his acceptance released "Déjà vu" in 1970.
Within the same year CSN&Y released what would be their most significant contribution to the cannon of rock history, the folk protest anthem "Ohio". The song was written by Neil Young just days after the killing of four Kent State Students and wounding of 9 others, at a protest rally on campus (read more ...). With protests occurring throughout the nation, a concerned President Nixon ordered out the National Guard, who opened fire on the young protesters to the horror of onlookers and an entire nation. Just four days after the song was penned by Young, it was recorded and released as a single.
Although the band was nearly certain the song would be banned due to its explicit subject matter (it explicitly blamed Nixon for the tragedy), radio stations throughout the country had "Ohio" in heavy rotation before its actual release. The song documents the tragedy and transcended other protest anthems, with its cut to the bone honesty. The studio recording of the single wasn't released on an album until the release of "So Far" in 1974.
CSN&Y, like most supergroups, didn't stay together very long and the broke up as a performing group in 1972, although they occasionally get back together.
The group went on to release their fourth album "American Dream" in 1988, which remained their final project until 2000 with the highly anticipated and critically acclaimed reunion tour and recording, "Looking Forward."
Part of the reason why Crosby Stills, Nash and Young retained their surnames as the title of the group was to allow freedom for the individual members to pursue solo careers. All the members have achieved success, however the most notable has been the career of Neil Young, whose grizzly social penchant and refusal to conform to pop culture and the music industry itself have earned him the title "godfather of grunge."
CSN&Y have endured as one of the most celebrated and timeless folk rock groups in history. Their unique brand of folk rock is created by the extraordinarily elegant four-part harmony supported by a sturdy lyrical backbone of socially concerned themes.
Page author: A.E.