CSN&Y: Squabbling Troubadours

Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young
By Peter Doggett
Atria Books, 2019, 359 pages

5 Stars

My five older sisters always had the record player or radio constantly playing in the house when I was growing up, but I began listening to AM Top 40 in earnest for myself in 1969 at the age of thirteen with my inexpensive Panasonic AM radio/cassette player combo. My oldest sister happened to be in college that year and she came home for winter break with a box of her roomate’s LPs in tow. Flipping through the albums, I was intrigued by three grungy looking hippies; David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash, on the cover of their eponymous debut and gave it a spin. Wow! I was captivated by the trio’s songcraft and soaring vocal harmonies. No more Top 40, bubble-gum pop music for me. Neil Young joined the group before they went on tour and I became a hardcore fan of CS&N and CSN&Y and all of their various solo and collective permutations and faithfully bought ALL of their albums (see far below) for the next eight years. I was such a dedicated fan that I even collected the back catalogs of their previous bands – the Byrds (Crosby), Buffalo Springfield (Stills and Young), and, to a lesser extent, the Hollies (Nash) – and would subsequently become a lifelong fan of the Byrds. CSN&Y had a huge fanbase, which began with their appearance at the 1969 Woodstock festival from whence they were subsequently crowned the “voice of a generation.” 

However, after the release of their “CSN” album in 1977, I lost interest in the group. Why? Their music seemed to grow stale and their never-ending political rants began to grate. In recognition of the group’s 50th anniversary, a couple of biographies were just published, including this one by music journalist, Peter Doggett, who focuses mainly on the first five years of the band (I’m currently reading the second biography). I thought I knew all the stories pretty well, but Doggett provides a lot of interesting new information.

It’s tough enough when a group has one prima donna, but CSN&Y had four by design. Although they were the #1 rock group in the world after the release of their second album, “Déjà Vu,” their demise was already guaranteed. These guys made millions by singing about peace and love, but after their initial start, they couldn’t stand being in the same room together. Copious drug intake and hyper-inflated egos fueled the interpersonal animosity and the declining quality of the music. The internecine squabbling within CSN&Y was symbolic of the false promises of the Woodstock Nation. Yes, there is peace eternal and perfect brotherhood, but they are only found in salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

CS&N (and occasionally with Y) periodically joined together to pay the bills from 1977 until 2015, although they had largely devolved into an oldies band. Crosby then permanently alienated his bandmates with some rather infelicitous remarks. However, freed from the restricting confines of CS&N, Croz has recorded four interesting solo albums in the last five years.

Just for grins, I plugged my memory battery into my CPAP machine and came up with the list below of all of the CSN&Y records that I bought between 1969 and 1977. Rather than spend a lot of time reviewing the albums, I’m providing just a simple 1-to-5 star rating:

  • Crosby, Stills, and Nash (1969) – CS&N  5 Stars
  • Neil Young (1968, remixed and re-released in 1969) – Young  3 Stars
  • Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (1969) – Young  4 Stars
  • Déjà Vu (1970) – CSN&Y  5 Stars
  • Stephen Stills (1970) – Stills  4 Stars
  • After the Gold Rush (1970) – Young  4 Stars
  • 4 Way Street (1971) – CSN&Y (live)  4 Stars
  • If I Could Only Remember My Name (1971) – Crosby  3 Stars
  • Songs for Beginners (1971) – Nash  4 Stars
  • Stephen Stills 2 (1971) – Stills  3 Stars
  • Graham Nash/David Crosby (1972) – Crosby and Nash  4 Stars
  • Stephen Stills/Manassas (1972) – Stills and Manassas  5 Stars
  • Harvest (1972) – Young  5 Stars
  • Wild Tales (1973) – Nash  2 Stars
  • Down the Road (1973) – Stills and Manassas  1 Star
  • Time Fades Away (1973) – Young (live)  1 Star
  • Byrds (1973) – Crosby and the other four original bandmembers 2 Stars
  • On the Beach (1974) – Young  2 Stars
  • Wind on the Water (1975) – Crosby and Nash  4 Stars
  • Stills (1975) – Stills  3 Stars
  • Stephen Stills Live (1975) – Stills (live)  3 Stars
  • Tonight’s the Night (1975) – Young  1 Star
  • Zuma (1975) – Young  3 Stars
  • Whistling Down the Wire (1976) – Crosby and Nash  2 Stars
  • Illegal Stills (1976) – Stills  2 Stars
  • Long May You Run (1976) – Stills and Young  1 Star
  • CSN (1977) – CS&N  4 Stars
  • Live (1977) – Crosby and Nash (live)  3 Stars

Yup, twenty-eight albums was A LOT of recorded output for four guys in eight years. They cranked ’em out like pizzas.

18 thoughts on “CSN&Y: Squabbling Troubadours

  1. What a fun post! I love a lot of the music by CSN&Y. Have you heard of a couple of young ladies who call themselves “Larkin Poe”? They did a beautiful cover of Helplessly Hoping in the past year.

    I saw Y in concert in 1984 with several of my closest friends. It was so much fun. I was squished up against the stage, pretty much looking right up Neil’s nose. It was just him and his guitar.

    Then a few months ago, I heard Neil was touring again. Several of my kids were wanting to go, but when we found out the concert at the nearest venue, six hours away by car, is on a Wednesday – my older kids can’t get two days mid-week off work for a non-emergency trip – and the tickets were some crazy amount, that would mean an extended fast for all of us and possibly no fuel for our vehicles, we opted not to go. Besides, looking at some samplings of his recent concerts on YouTube, it doesn’t look worth it even if it were closer to home and cheaper.

    I am so glad to see this post. I have had a few in my drafts to do with my beloved Led Zeppelin and hope to finish one someday. Not that they’re overly long, but I feel something is missing in what I’ve written so far.

    “Internecine” – a word I had to look up. Seems you’ve done that before and gave an explanation of blogging being the best place to get to use such fancy words. 🙂 Love it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the kind comments and also for relating some of your own experiences! Over the years I’ve mentioned how the the Lord used the music of CSN&Y and especially the music of the Byrds (along with many other things of course) to lead me to Him. That might sound strange to a believer raised in a very conservative Christian background, but that’s what happened to me. In the 70s, I got to see C&N twice, Stills solo, CSN&Y in 1974, and then CS&N twice in the 2010s. I think I’m done with concerts at this point. All of the survivors of the Byrds and its offshoots are now in their mid-70s.
      RE: internecine – Yup, I think it’s fun to use those types of non-conversational words in blog posts – providing a sentence-full of very descriptive meaning in one concise word.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting that the Lord used the music of CSN&Y to lead you to Him. I totally get it. The music of Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath played a role in me starting to seek God in the mid-to-late 1980s. I pray that the band members will also seek Him, hear His voice as they read Scripture, and accept Jesus.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. One of the Byrds, Roger McGuinn, accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior in 1977 and was public about it. That threw me for a loop. I thought, Oh, no!, McGuinn has become one of THOSE born-agains.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha! Well, praise be to our Lord for that man coming to trust Him!

        Funny how the things we once thought were foolishness are now clear to us as life-saving. It gives me hope for those I know who currently think the Gospel is foolishness.

        I once quoted 1 Corinthians 1:8 to an atheist. He got offended. “You’re calling me a fool?” he said.

        Don’t shoot the messenger.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yesterday I heard “Country Girl” by CSN&Y on the radio. You popped into my head. You are henceforth associated with that band for me. So I came here to dig out this post and leave this comment.

        Blessings to you, brother!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Thanks for delivering a smile! 😊 That was an excellent song! I’m currently writing a review of an album from another Byrd’s offshoot band, the wonderfully-named Flying Burrito Brothers. Blessings to you today!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. They had one very good album that the general public didn’t buy but other artists (especially the guys who would go on to form the Eagles) were paying attention.

        Like

    1. Thanks, Bonnie! There was a lot of optimism back then about “changing the world,” but nothing’s really changed. People are still sinners in need of the Savior.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You never know what things you can learn from your blog that’s useful for ministry on here. I’m so glad I knew the Bryds have a song based upon Ecclesistates 3 and was able to converse with others in a BIble study from reading your blog!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey, glad you could use the Byrds info! I can look back now with a lot of gratitude for the way the Lord used the Byrds’ music as one of the things that drew me to Him. The Byrds recorded seven Gospel songs over the span of twelve albums, a very strange thing for a rock group to do.

      Liked by 1 person

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