David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Neil Young were given a baptism by fire when they performed for only the second time together at Woodstock 1969. Even by rock and roll standards, their personalities were an intricate and delicate tapestry that would eventually make them one most famous and fractious groups of the 70s, coming together and breaking apart time and time again; all worthwhile for the sublime alchemy their union would produce when conditions were just right.
David Browne, author and Rolling Stone senior writer, took on the unenviable task of unravelling the past half-century of interpersonal drama in his new book, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young: The Wild Definitive Saga of Rock’s Greatest Supergroup, delving into their ironic history to examine whether the group have produced such peaceful, mellow and harmonious songs together in spite of their turbulent connection or because of it, and how it all adds up to a captivating story of functional dysfunction.
Inner-chaos was a part of their DNA. They sometimes dissed each in song lyrics (“Frozen Smiles” referenced Stills and his cocaine problems), sometimes surrounded each other with brotherly love (Neil Young wrote “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” about Nash's break up with Joni Mitchell), but together, few groups were as in-sync with their times as Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. The group embodied a generation hell-bent on experimentation, damning the man (Richard Nixon) and exploring the realms of human consciousness.
While the ups and downs weren’t always pretty, theirs is an inescapably honest story of four guys prepared to go through it all time and time again for the fleeting moments of magic that can only occur when faced with imminent disaster, a universal theme we’re all too familiar with.
Check out David Browne’s Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young: The Wild Definitive Saga of Rock’s Greatest Supergroup HERE.
For a more in-depth insight into the fascinating history of CSN&Y, check out this VH1’s Legends documentary from 2000.
Tune into CSNY's crystalline harmonies and reflections of wisdom on Spotify's This is Crosby, Still, Nash & Young playlist:
Check out all the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young Essentials on Apple Music: