The Origins of the Iconic Trio Crosby Stills and Nash

The voices of David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash have helped define history through music. Joining forces as Crosby, Stills & Nash in the late 1960s, the trio became one of the most influential acts in music history through their songwriting genius, stunning harmonies and political activism. Before they expanded to a foursome with the addition of Neil Young, each artist had time to grow as part of other famous bands.

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Throughout the 1960s, each bandmate had already made their mark in music as part of a different group. Crosby was a guitarist, singer, and songwriter for the Byrds, while Nash had the same roles in the British pop-rock band, the Hollies. Both Stills and Young were prominent members of Buffalo Springfield as singers and musicians. After Crosby was let go from the Byrds in 1967, he had a brief stint with Buffalo Springfield after Young quit. A year later, Buffalo Springfield disbanded, but that didn’t stop Stills and Crosby from having impromptu jam sessions.

Nash and Crosby had also crossed paths when their bands traveled through the United Kingdom and California where they were respectively based. After Nash left the Hollies in 1968, he, Stills, and Crosby experienced a pivotal moment when at a dinner in Los Angles, the three performed Stills’ composition “You Don’t Have to Cry” and realized the natural fluidity of their harmonies.

A year later, they were officially the trio Crosby, Stills & Nash and signed to Atlantic Records. They released their self-titled debut album in 1969 that proved they had a winning formula, peaking inside the Top 10 on the Billboard 200. It contained the career-defining single, “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” which hit No. 21 on the Billboard Hot 100. Later that same year, the trio became a quartet with the addition of Young, who signed on as a keyboardist. One of their first major shows was at the legendary Woodstock Festival in August 1969 and took their career to the next level.

In 1970, they released their groundbreaking and best-selling album, Deja Vu, which spawned three hits “Woodstock,” “Teach Your Children” and “Our House.” The protest song “Ohio” written by Young in response to the shooting at Kent State University in 1970 became one of the group’s signature tracks. But that same year, a clash of egos and Stills’ drug abuse caused the band to go on hiatus, with each member pursuing solo projects.

“I wanted to do this thing that was focused on what the songs were about, the look on the people’s faces who came to see us and how we connected with them,” Young explained on The Howard Stern Show about why he left the band. “To me, that was the holy grail. That’s all that mattered to me. Once we started drifting away from that, I was gone.”

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young reunited throughout the 1970s and onward until their final performance together in 2015. The trio was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. Crosby passed away in January 2023 at the age of 81.

Photo by Richard E. Aaron/Redferns

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