“If you can remember the sixties then you weren’t really there…”
Shortly after singer-songwriter and guitarist David Crosby called it quits after three years with the Byrds, he met Stephen Stills in early 1968 and the pair began to practice and hold jam sessions. They were soon joined by Graham Nash, who had left behind his extremely successful group, the Hollies, to play with Crosby and Stills.
From the beginning, in light of their previous wranglings with record labels and other management types, the trio decided to not be locked into a group structure. They used their last names as the band name to ensure independence, to provide that the band could not continue without any one of them, in contrast to the situation encountered by both the Byrds and the Hollies. After failing to make the cut during auditions for Apple Records, the group signed a deal with Atlantic Records that was orchestrated by an up-and-coming music agent named David Geffen.
Their first gig was on August 16, 1969, at the Auditorium Theater in Chicago, with Joni Mitchell as their opening act. They told everyone that they were headed to Woodstock the next day, but other than that they had no idea what was on the horizon. Their sixty-minute early morning show at Yasgur’s farm on August 18, 1969, was a ‘sink or swim’ proposition, and the crowd of music-insider friends offstage was intimidating. Their appearance at the festival and in the subsequent movie and their performance of the Joni Mitchell song memorializing Woodstock boosted the visibility of the quartet.
The 1969 debut album from the trio, Crosby, Stills & Nash, was an immediate hit. The record spawned two Top 40 hit singles – “Marrakesh Express” (number 28 on the Hot 100) and “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” (number 21) – which found extended airplay on the new FM radio format. The pioneer days of album-oriented rock featured high times on high frequency, with unrestrained disc jockeys who had the option of playing an entire album without interruptions.
The second album from Crosby, Stills & Nash, and the first from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Déjà Vu, was released in March 1970 by Atlantic Records. In fact, the record first appeared in stores on March 11th and was certified as a Gold Album exactly two weeks later.
It rose on the charts and topped the popular album chart for one week, and it spawned three Top 40 singles: “Woodstock”, “Teach Your Children”, and “Our House”. It was released again in 1977 and the cover was changed from black to brown. In the 2003 debut of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, the album was ranked number 148. The same year, the TV network VH1 named Déjà vu the 61st greatest album of all time. The album ranked at number 14 for the Top 100 Albums of 1970 and number 217 overall by Rate Your Music. Certified 7x platinum by the RIAA, the album has currently sold over 7 million copies, and today it is the best-selling album of each member’s career.
During the fall of 1970 and throughout the first half of 1971, the band members immersed themselves in solo projects, and they all put out high-profile albums: Neil Young’s After the Gold Rush was the first to hit record stores in September of ’70. A month later Stephen Stills was released, with David Crosby’s If I Could Only Remember My Name debuting in February of ’71. The final solo album was Songs for Beginners from Graham Nash in May 1971. The four LP’s landed in Top 15 territory on the Billboard 200, with Stills’ solo disc making it into the Top Three. Stills released another effort in 1971, Stephen Stills 2, which also found itself in Top Ten listings. The duo of Crosby and Nash undertook a well-received acoustic tour, accompanied only by their own guitars and piano. Portions of the concerts and off-stage activities were captured for the 1998 documentary Another Stoney Evening.
The songs and the musicians of the late 1960’s were on a mission to save this country, and the lyrics and themes were tied to the events and the people of the times. While we listened to these great audio distractions our military was trying, with college kids, to end a war that killed 58,000 of our sons and fathers. Today, after almost two generations, there are people that still act as if the young soldiers were the criminals, not those in high places who ultimately were responsible for the meaningless deaths of our troops.
The music takes us back to the days – and nights – of the peaceniks, civil disobedience, hippies in the parks, pop-up communes and coffee-shop poets. The ‘San Francisco’ sound, the soggy road to Woodstock, the haunting tragedy brought to a song in”Ohio”, or the friends who got fed up with their parents and just split, in search of new values to positively change their lives. The lyrics of these songs represent those unsettled individuals, those restless Americans–the ones who ‘rejected the program’ and grew into their own version of values and beliefs.
“…every once in a while, somebody does something really brave out in the real world. Muhammad Ali stood up to the American government and said, “You can’t make me kill a bunch of farmers in Southeast Asia that did nothing to me.” That’s bravery. That’s the real shit.” – David Crosby, from a 2016 Rolling Stone interview
This very rare and immensely popular collection of music does not withstand “the test of time” – it defines it!
For neat images and more info visit our Pinterest friends and the vast CSN&Y Fan Page. The band also has a website and is profiled – minus Neil Young – at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Additionally, David Crosby has a second spot in the ‘Rock Hall’ for his work with the Byrds. Mr. Young is also found in the web world, doing quite well with Peace Trail, released last year. And Graham Nash is still a force to be reckoned with at his page on the network, while Stephen Stills is quite active and his latest news page has more info.