Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young over five decades have been more off than on. Currently, they are off, and perhaps unlikely to ever work together again. Of all the internal strife, this time may be permanent.
The problem appears to be with David Crosby, who pissed off Neil Young over hurtful comments he made about Young’s now-wife, actress Daryl Hannah. Crosby has since apologized but to no avail. Crosby’s close friend Graham Nash apparently also finally had enough of Crosby, railing about how poorly Crosby had treated him through the years. Nash was Crosby’s lifeline during his years of addiction and narcissistic behavior. I’m not sure how Stephen Stills figures into these battles, he seems to be flying under the radar.
Over those five decades, CSN&Y have released only three studio albums, three live albums and one single (“Ohio”). Through the years it was primarily CS&N or C&N, Stills solo and Young solo. The specter of CSN&Y is larger than their recorded output.
The CSN&Y Discography
CSNY 1974 (2014) was recorded in 1974 but stayed in the vault for 40 years. In the early 1970’s there had been several aborted group reunions, and even the recording of some songs together. Strife within the group was common (familiar theme), and even harmony vocals were wiped from finished recordings. A summer tour of large stadiums did eventually happen and this three CD set is the result. It actually sold well and reached No. 17 on the chart.
Déjà Vu Live (2008) was recorded on the tour Neil Young planned to support his just released album, Living With War. It contained Young songs had written for that album along with older group and solo material from CS&N. The tour was marked with outcry from numerous fans who were angry about the political theme of the concerts and the anti-Bush rhetoric. Fans were expecting love and peace, and instead got screw war and impeach George Bush.
Looking Forward was the last studio album by the group, released in 1999. It started off as a CS&N project but incorporated Young as he joined the sessions first as a guest musician then contributed three songs intended for one of his own projects. Overall, not a bad effort but the album did not make much impact, but worth a listen.
Their second studio album, American Dream, was released in 1988. As the story goes, Neil Young had promised to make a group album if Crosby cleaned up his act and remained drug-free, following his stint in a Texas prison. The album was not well-received by the public, although it does have a few bright moments, mostly provided by Young. To be honest, the songwriting by CS&Y was pretty weak.
4-Way Street (1971) was recorded from shows the during their 1970 tour. The two-LP collection contained both acoustic and electric sets. The acoustic set featured each of the four individually and in groups, while the electric set was a full band. Songs were drawn from solo and group albums, even reaching back to the Byrds, Hollies and Buffalo Springfield. The album reached No. 1 on the charts, and the double CD release in 1992 contained songs not on the original albums. I found the electric set to be very ragged and not their best, but the acoustic set to be among their most heart-felt performances. The album is worth it just for the acoustic sides.
Acrimony during and after the tour contributed to the four not working together together, although CS&N did find a way to record and tour often.
Déjà Vu (March 1970) was the first group album. The album sold extremely well and made the No. 1 position on the chart, and had three Top 40 singles. It is ranked as one of Rolling Stone’s top 500 albums of all time.
The single “Ohio” was release in June 1970, after the student shootings at Kent State University. Young wrote the song reportedly after seeing an article and photos in Life magazine. The B-Side of the single was the beautiful “Find the Cost of Freedom.”
Neil Young. Young has always been the most prolific of the bunch with an endless stream of albums and projects. Young is the straw that stirs this drink. When he is in the mood, the group gets together. He released his autobiography Waging Heavy Peace: A Hippie Dream in 2012, and releases a new album every year on average. He oversaw the Buffalo Springfield boxed archive set, along with releasing his own archives of remastered albums and live recordings. Young has a variety of business interests including Lionel trains, and a digital streaming company.
In 2014, he dissolved his 30-plus year marriage and began dating actress Daryl Hannah, who he married this year. It was disparaging comments made by David Crosby about Hannah that set in motion the dissolution of CSN&Y, and to a lesser degree, CS&N.
Recently, Young released Life for Judy, a collection of songs recorded on his 1976 solo tour. He’s been mining the 1970’s for unreleased material and cleaning up the sound on his albums.
Stephen Stills. In 2013, Stills collaborated with Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Barry Goldberg as The Ride, releasing a CD and touring. It is a bluesy, rocking collection of songs. They released a follow-up CD in 2016. In 2017, Stills united with Judy Collins, his sweet Judy blue eyes, for the CD Everybody Knows, and tour. The CD contains folk covers, a few of their old songs and new ones.
Working with The Rides and Judy Collins has rejuvenated Stills, who had some health issues and his solo career seemed somewhat dormant as long as CS&N were active.
Graham Nash. This Path Tonight (2016) was Nash’s first collection of new songs in over a decade. He toured in support of it. In 2018, he released Over The Years, a two disc set featuring new mixes of old songs and home demos of early songs.
In 2013, he released his memoir, Wild Tales: A Rock & Roll Life. Nash has always been a photographer and has held exhibits and released collections of his photographs, and has a successful graphic printing business. In 2016, Nash and his wife divorced after 38 years. He moved to New York City to start a new life. I was glad to meet him at s book signing.
The split from David Crosby is the most dramatic in the group’s relationships. Nash and Crosby had a big discography and often lent their vocals to many other artists. Nash was there in Crosby’s dark years of drug addiction and destructive behavior.
David Crosby. Crosby has been very prolific in recent years, releasing four CDs since 2014, after not releasing any solo work for 20 years. He actively tours in support of his new music. His collaborations on Lighthouse, Sky Trails and Here If You Listen are exquisite. The one thing that has never deserted Crosby, despite his years of hard living, is his voice. His voice shows no sign of wear, it rises like the clouds and is soft like the morning light.
In recent years, Crosby has had a liver transplant, manages his diabetes, and reportedly has some heart issues. Considering his decades of alcohol and drug abuse, his body is holding up reasonably well. With the help of science, Crosby has fathered a number of children, so there is still lead in the pencil.
Crosby is the lightening rod for recent problems with his former bandmates who say they won’t work with him again. Stay tuned.