Turn Back The Pages – Celebrating Stephen Stills’ 75th Birthday

Turn Back The Pages – Celebrating Stephen Stills’ 75th Birthday

stephen stills, crosby, stills and nash
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young perform live on stage at Wembley Stadium on September 14 1974. Photo by Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns.

To celebrate Stephen Stills’ 75th birthday (Jan 3), we give you ten of our favourite tracks from one of the greatest and most popular, yet still somehow underrated, American musicians of the '60s and '70s.

Crosby, Stills & Nash | ”Suite: Judy Blue Eyes"

From Crosby, Stills & Nash (1969).

Hard to go past this one to start things off. One of the most striking and ambitious album openers of any era, this track set the tone and the bar that the famed trio – soon to be quartet – would be judged by. So much going on here – it's three brilliant pieces worked into one, with Stills' effortless but flawlessly mellifluous vocal as the shining centrepiece.

Buffalo Springfield | "For What It's Worth" 

Originally released as a single in 1966 then was added to the band's already-released first album, Buffalo Springfield in 1967. 

Any early rock protest song, inspired by police over-response to youth curfew protests on LA's happening Sunset Strip in 1966. The songs unforgettable refrain of "Stop, children, what's that sound? / Everybody look what's going down" is an undeniable classic moment of the era. It was Buffalo Springfield's biggest hit, and for a while at least, gave Stills pole position ahead of his bandmate Neil Young.

Stephen Stills |” Love The One You're With" 

From Stephen Stills (1970).

Stills' biggest solo hit, “Love The One You’re With” appeared on his debut solo album in 1970, released after CSN&Y's initial split. The album featured contributions from Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, old mates David Crosby and Graham Nash, amongst others. The conga's give it a summer/beachy vibe and the song delivers a message of acceptance and love disguised as "free love" jive.

Stephen Stills | ”Change Partners" 

From Stephen Stills 2 (1971).

Another one with "free love" undertones that no doubt related to the convoluted relationships that Stills was experiencing and witnessing. Taken from Stephen's second solo album, this one is a harmonically rich country-rock classic.

Stephen Stills/Manassas | "Colorado" 

From Manassas (1972).

Stills upped the country quota (while keeping the congas) somewhat when he teamed up with Chris Hillman of the Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers and others to form the band, Manassas. Barely remembered in comparison to CSN&Y and Stills' early solo work, the group did manage to come to Australia in 1972 (for the fledgling Mulwalla Festival), and their first album is a classic. "Colorado" is as good as harmonious country-rock gets.

Crosby, Stills & Nash | “Helplessly Hoping"

From Crosby, Stills & Nash (1969).

Okay, we're probably favouring Stills' melodic side more than his bluesy side. But how could we go past this beauty? Another highlight from CS&N's first album.

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young | "Carry On" 

From the second classic CS&N album – this time with an added Y – 1970's Déj Vu (1970).

Or this?? Although this one is darker in tone, the acoustic guitar thumps while Stills’ barely ceasing bluesy lead guitar adds a wilder edge.

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young | "Find The Cost of Freedom" 

From 4 Way Street (1971).

The powerful closer to the quartet's classic 1971 live album 4 Way Street is brief, stark and dark. Stills' deep folk roots and superb guitar playing are revealed in this forceful condemnation of war. The studio version of the song was recorded and released as the B-side of the better known "Ohio", which Neil wrote following the Kent State University massacre of war protesters by National Guards, and which CSN&Y released within weeks of the event happening.

Stephen Stills | "Marianne" 

From Stephen Stills 2 (1971).

Perhaps an unlikely pick, from Stills oft-chided second solo album. "Marianne" is atypical. Almost proto-glam thanks to its insistent rhythm and Stills' sweet, bubblegum vocals. It sort of sounds like how ex-Byrds frontman and Stills' fellow West Coast iconoclast, Gene Clark looks in his androgynous garb, circa his No Other album.

Buffalo Springfield | “Sit Down I Think I Love You" 

From Buffalo Springfield (1966)

Perhaps the earliest example of Stills' melodic brilliance, this lovely chamber pop number from Buffalo Springfield's first album was written well before the band started. It was never released as a single, but a 1967 cover by the Mojo Men charted and famously featured on Lenny Kaye's legendary collection of '60s garage rock Nuggets, in 1972.

Stephen Stills | "Spanish Suite" 

From Man Alive! (2005).

Jumping forward nearly 40 years from Buffalo Springfield days... Stills’ career as a solo artist started to wane in the mid-'70s, amidst endless pressure for more reunions with Crosby and Nash and sometimes Young. But Stephen didn't stop working and making records. After the acclaimed solo acoustic album Stills Alone in 1991 and becoming the first person to be inducted into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame twice (with both CSNY and Buffalo Springfield) in 1997, he released, surprisingly on a small UK indie label, the album Man Alive! In 2005, which included this masterful track. With help from Herbie Hancock on piano, the lengthy and sprawling "Spanish Suite" revisited the Latin music that first made its presence felt in "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" and showed that Stephen Stills’ skills, vision and musical ambition remained undiminished.    

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