David Crosby (14 August 1941, Los Angeles, California, USA), Stephen Stills (b. 3 January 1945, Dallas, Texas, USA) and Graham Nash (b. 2 February 1942, Blackpool, Lancashire, England) joined forces in 1969 after parting with their previous groups, the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and the Hollies, respectively. Inevitably, they attracted considerable media attention as a supergroup but unlike similar aggregations of their era, they were a genuine team who respected each others work and recognized the importance of their contribution to American popular music. Their self-titled debut album was a superlative achievement containing several of the finest songs that they have ever written: Long Time Gone, Suite: Judy Blue Eyes, (with possibly the most joyous climax ever recorded), Lady Of The Island and the powerful, thought-provoking Wooden Ships. Strong lyrics, solid acoustic musicianship and staggeringly faultless three-part harmonies was the mixture that they concocted and it was enough to influence a new generation of American performers for the next decade. The need to perform live convinced them to extend their ranks and with the induction of Neil Young they reached an even bigger international audience as Crosby, Stills, Nash And Young.
Internal bickering and policy differences split the group at its peak and although Crosby And Nash proved a successful offshoot, the power of the original trio was never forgotten and only occasionally matched by its descendants. It was not until 1977 that the CS&N permutation reunited for CSN, a strong comeback album with such highlights as Shadow Captain, Dark Star and Just A Song Before I Go. The trio toured the USA and seemed more united than at any time since its inception, but subsequent recording sessions proved unsatisfactory and the individuals once more drifted apart.
A further five years passed, during which Crosbys drug abuse gradually alienated him from his colleagues. In a previously untried combination, Stills and Nash set about recording an album, but were eventually persuaded by Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun to bring back Crosby to the fold. He returned late in the sessions and although his contribution was not major, he did proffer one of the strongest tracks, Delta. The resulting album, Daylight Again, was disproportionately balanced as a result of Crosbys late arrival, but the songs were nevertheless good. The title track from Stills was one of his best, borrowed from the memorable live set of his 70s group, Manassas. Nashs offerings included the US Top 10 hit Wasted On The Way and provided the commercial clout to sustain CS&N as one of the major concert attractions of the day.
Following a tour of Europe, the trio again splintered and with Crosby incapacitated by cocaine addiction it seemed that their zigzag story had finally ended. Fortunately, imprisonment reached Crosby before the Grim Reaper and upon his release he reunited CSN&Y for an album and took CS&N on the road. 1990s Live It Up, their first recording as a trio in almost 10 years, boasted a tasteless sleeve of hot dogs on the moon, while the material lacked the edge of their best work. Now the doyens of the 70s rock circuit, their concerts still show flashes of the old brilliance while overly relying on former classics that occasionally come dangerously close to nostalgia at the expense of their finest quality: innovation.
A magnificent CD box set was put together by Nash in 1991. This collection included unreleased tracks and alternative versions and led to a critical reappraisal that year. Live concerts indicated that the trio were singing with more passion and confidence than ever, although their recent studio recordings have suffered from a lack of strong songs. This was highlighted on 1994s After The Storm, a disappointing collection to which the public reacted with indifference and that resulted in Atlantic Records cancelling the groups contract. After being inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1997, the trio reunited with Neil Young for a tour and new studio album. Nash had a serious boating accident in September 1999, resulting in two broken legs.
Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.