Follow TV Tropes


Music / Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

Go To
CSNY during their heyday.

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (or Crosby, Stills & Nash) are a Supergroup consisting of David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash originally until they were joined by a fourth member, Neil Young, and eventually became known under this name instead.

The band came about after David Crosby had left The Byrds due to internal conflict. Around the same time Stephen Stills' and Neil Young's old band Buffalo Springfield had split, they went their separate ways and they were on their own feet too. Graham Nash was a member of The Hollies in those days but had felt long frustrated about just being second violin to the group as a whole. When the three musicians came together in 1968 they realized they could start a new band by themselves and thus Crosby, Stills & Nash was born. They decided to use their own names because it would better showcase their individuality; they also hoped it would prevent the tensions they all had experienced by operating as an anonymous musician under a collective band pseudonym.

From the start, the band had immediate success. Their 1969 debut album, Crosby, Stills & Nash, spawned the Top 40 singles "Marrakesh Express" and "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" and got great reviews. In the summer of 1969, Stills brought his former Buffalo Springfield bandmate Neil Young aboard. Restructured, the band now became Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Writing for the Drake-Chenault produced History of Rock and Roll radio series in 1969, LA Times rock critic Pete Johnson described them as one of several groups of the period to have very "well-matched voices" and they were sometimes called "the American Beatles".

They played during the legendary Woodstock Music & Art Fair in 1969. Their recording of the Joni Mitchell song "Woodstock", written after the festival, became the unofficial anthem of the concert. They also played at the "free concert" at the Altamont Speedway in December 1969, but due to the violence and murder associated with the festival their performance was cut at their own request from the documentary Gimme Shelter (1970). 1970 also saw the release of Déjà Vu (1970), which generated the hits "Woodstock", "Teach Your Children" and "Our House", and the occurrence of the Kent State Shootings on May 4, when the Ohio National Guard gunned down students protesting Nixon's bombing of Cambodia.note  The tragedy inspired Young's stark song "Ohio". The boys feared the song would be banned, but radio stations throughout the country placed "Ohio" into heavy rotation before its actual release.

Each individual member released a solo album: Neil Young's After the Gold Rush from 1970 (his third album), Stephen Stills' Stephen Stills from 1970, David Crosby If I Could Only Remember My Name from 1971 and Graham Nash's Songs For Beginners from 1971. Crosby And Nash even started a duo together, with their first album being Graham Nash/David Crosby from 1972. Although they performed on each other's solo albums they started paying more attention to their own work than working together as a group. When they did come together, Creative Differences and drug abuse took their toll; but since none of their second solo albums had done very well, they agreed to manager Elliot Roberts' suggestion of a 1974 stadium tour. You can hear a montage of the best performances from these "Doom Tour" shows in the box set CSNY 1974, but this wasn't released until 2014.

The next collective studio album didn't come out until 1977, and by that point Young had already left the group, causing them to name the album CSN, short for the first names of the remaining band members. "Just a Song Before I Go" became a hit, with "Dark Star" receiving some attention and "Cathedral" popular on college radio.

During the 1980s the band kept performing. Daylight Again from 1982 had the hit singles "Wasted on the Way" and "Southern Cross," ("Turn Your Back on Love" and the title track were well received on college radio). One of the performances from the promotional concert tour was broadcast on PBS and has since been released on DVD. 1983's Allies had the theme to WarGames and some strong Crosby live performances, but in '82 Crosby had been convicted for drug and weapon charges and spent 8 months in jail. He decided to go into rehab after this and his 1985 arrest for DWI and concealed weapons.

Young rejoined the band briefly for American Dream in 1988. By that point, the band effectively became more popular as a concert experience and their social activism than for their newer albums. In 1997 they were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, though Neil Young was excluded.

In late 1999, the four released Looking Forward after Neil became interested in some new songs CSN had recorded sans record deal while he was working with Stephen Stills on a Buffalo Springfield box set. While well received at the time, the album didn't seem to have any lasting hits, and only Crosby's "Dream For Him" still got played at shows. The tour they did to promote it was called, of course, CSNY2K.

Principal Members (Founding members in bold, current members in italic):

  • David Crosby - lead vocals, guitar, keyboard, tambourine (1968–1970, 1973, 1974, 1976, 1977–2023, died 2023)
  • Graham Nash - lead vocals, guitar, piano, organ, keyboard, harmonica, percussion, sound effects (1968–1970, 1973, 1974, 1976, 1977–Present)
  • Stephen Stills - lead vocals, guitar, bass, keyboard, piano, synthesizer, banjo, timbales, maracas, percussion (1968–1970, 1973, 1974, 1976, 1977–Present)
  • Neil Young - lead vocals, guitar, harmonica, keyboard, piano, harmoniumnote , banjo, tiple, celeste, (1969–1970, 1973, 1974, 1976, 1988, 1991, 1999-2006, 2013)

Studio Discography (* = CSN, ** = CSNY):

  • 1969 - Crosby, Stills & Nash*
  • 1970 - Déjà Vu (1970)**
  • 1977 - CSN*
  • 1982 - Daylight Again*
  • 1983 - Allies*
  • 1988 - American Dream**
  • 1990 - Live It Up*
  • 1994 - After the Storm*
  • 1999 - Looking Forward**

Live Discography (* = CSN, ** = CSNY):

  • 1971 - 4 Way Street**
  • 1983 - Allies*
  • 2008 - Déjà Vu Live**
  • 2012 - CSN 2012*
  • 2014 - CSNY 1974**

"Trope Your Children Well":

  • A Cappella: "Find The Cost Of Freedom", often used as a concert closer. The a cappella portion was also turned into the last verse of "Daylight Again," leading to some confusion in online video labeling.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: "Helplessly Hoping". Not just an Alliterative Title, it carries into the verses (i.e. "Wordlessly watching, he waits by the window and wonders..."). The chorus isn't alliterative, though. It's numerative.
    • "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes", another Stills composition, brings us the lyrics, "Lacy lilting lady, losing love lamenting".
  • After the End: "Wooden Ships" is set after a nuclear apocalypse, as the survivors struggle through a poisoned landscape. The lyrics suggest that they're able to build wooden ships to leave the country by sea and restart civilization in a distant land.
  • Alliterative Title: "Helplessly Hoping", written by Stills.
  • Break-Up Song: Several of them, the best known being "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes," which Stills wrote about losing Judy Collins to another mannote , and "Southern Cross," about getting over a breakup by sailing.
  • Epic Rocking: "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes". It actually consists of four short songs jammed together, clocking in at a total of 7 minutes and 25 seconds.
  • Femme Fatale: "Fair Game", written by Stills, describes a woman who seduces and manipulates men, but with the twist that what makes her extra dangerous is that she thinks that she's not pretty: "The ugly duckling striking back, and she'll decide her fate."
  • Folk Rock: The genre the band played in.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble:
    • David Crosby was Choleric (outspoken and at times cranky and egotistical).
    • Graham Nash is Sanguine (cheerful and friendly, the more positive one).
    • Neil Young is Phlegmatic (reserved but fairly cheerful and spontaneous).
    • Stephen Stills is Melancholic (the more introverted and introspective one).
  • The Friends Who Never Hang: Although all four got along well—or, at other times, were sworn enemies—there were two significant axes of friendship within the band: Crosby/Nash (several years older than the other two, and both known for their skills in harmony singing and vocal arrangement) and Stills/Young (Vitriolic Best Buds who were regarded more for their talents in songwriting and guitar playing, and who had both been members of Buffalo Springfield).
  • Gratuitous Spanish: Stills' lyrics in Part IV of "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" are in Spanish. They aren't terribly important (they're basically a celebration of Cuba) and only exist to sound good.
  • The Insomniac:
    • The narrator of "4+20", written by Stills:
      Night after sleepless night
      I walk the floor and I want to know
      Why am I so alone?
    • There's another insomniac in "This Old House", written by Young. He's a farmer whose beloved property has been foreclosed upon. He and his family are about to lose everything.
  • Location Song: "Marrakesh Express", inspired by Graham Nash's journey on that train and what he saw there.
  • Misplaced Names Cover: on their first album, the photo used for the cover has from left to right: Nash, Stills, and Crosby. Somewhat Justified, apparently: According to The Other Wiki, the photo was taken at an abandoned house, and at the time, the three had not yet decided on a name. By the time they settled on "Crosby, Stills and Nash", the house had been torn down.
  • My Friends... and Zoidberg: Neil Young is not often seen as a part of the band, as he only contributed to three of their albums and effectively is the most successful solo artist in his own right of the four. However, at the same time, his name is still attached to Crosby, Stills and Nash.
  • Non-Appearing Title: "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes". The title doesn't appear in any of the lyrics.
  • One-Woman Song: The debut album includes two of them: "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" and "Guinevere". Daylight Again also features "Song for Susan," which Nash wrote about his wife.
  • Protest Song: The band is very well known for their social activism. "Ohio" was aimed at The Vietnam War, criticised Richard Nixon and soldiers shooting students during an anti-war demonstration at Kent State University in 1970.
  • Religion Rant Song: Nash's "Cathedral" criticizes religion.
  • Self-Titled Album: Their debut and their third album.
  • Sex as Rite-of-Passage: In “Panama,” the singer declares that “I was not a child, I was not yet a man” when he arrived in the country at age 15. He gets lost in the jungle with a Panamanian girl and they make love on a dry patch of ground when a storm begins to threaten.
  • Solo Side Project: All band members released solo albums while being part of this super-group simultaneously.
  • Supergroup: They are one of the most famous and longest-existing (if intermittent) super-groups in rock history.
  • This Is Your Song: Graham Nash's "Song for Susan" says it right in the title.
  • Uncommon Time: They used this from time to time, which Crosby has largely attributed to the Grateful Dead's influence. "Guinnevere" is one example; there are passages of plain 4/4 and 6/8, but other parts get quite complicated and disorienting. (The song is also in a strange tuning, and unusually, Stills doesn't appear on it at all.)
  • Wanderlust Song: "Southern Cross," written by Stills with Richard and Michael Curtis, in which a man deals with heartbreak by sailing widely around the Pacific.

Alternative Title(s): Crosby Stills And Nash