Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (CSNY) is a folk rock supergroup made up of David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash and occasional fourth member Neil Young. Initially formed by the trio of David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash, the genesis of the group lies in two 1960s rock bands, The Byrds and The Hollies, and the demise of a third, Buffalo Springfield. Crosby had been a member of the Byrds before being dismissed in 1967. Stills had been a member of Buffalo Springfield before their demise in 1968. Nash had been a member of The Hollies before leaving after a series of successful hits.
The trio's first album, “Crosby, Stills & Nash,” was released in May 1969 and was an immediate hit, spawning two Top 40 hit singles in “Marrakesh Express” and “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” and receiving key airplay on the new FM radio format. The album itself peaked at #6 on the Billboard Top Pop Albums chart. With the exception of drummer Dallas Taylor, Stills had handled the lion's share of the instrumental parts himself, which left the band in need of additional personnel to be able to tour, now a necessity given the debut album’s commercial impact.
Retaining Taylor, the band decided initially to hire a keyboard player. Atlantic label head Ahmet Ertegün suggested Canadian singer/songwriter Neil Young. After several meetings, the trio expanded to a quartet with Young a full partner. The terms of the contract allowed Young full freedom to maintain a parallel career with his new back-up band, Crazy Horse.
Their second gig was a baptism by fire at the Woodstock Festival. CSNY's recording of the Joni Mitchell song memorializing Woodstock would later become a hit and the recording most associated with the festival.
Great anticipation had built for the newly-expanded supergroup, and their first album with Young, “Déjà Vu,” arrived in March 1970 to zealous enthusiasm, reaching #1 on the Pop Albums chart and generating three Top 40 singles, “Teach Your Children,” “Our House,” and “Woodstock.”
Young and Crosby were staying at a house near San Francisco when reports of the Kent State shootings arrived, inspiring Young to write his protest classic “Ohio,” recorded and rush-released weeks later and providing another Top 20 hit for the group. However, the deliberately tenuous nature of the partnership was strained by its success, and the group imploded after their tour in the summer of 1970. Concert recordings from that tour would end up on another #1 album, the 1971 double live album “Four Way Street,” but the group would never completely recapture momentum as years would pass between subsequent trio and quartet recordings.
After individually pursuing solo efforts, the quartet reassembling once again in the summer of 1974 to embark on the first-ever outdoor stadium tour, arranged by San Francisco impresario Bill Graham. An attempt at the new CSNY LP in the fall was scrapped, with the label issuing the compilation album “So Far“ to have something to promote during the tour. Shipping as a gold record and peaking at #1 on the Billboard Top Pop Albums chart, “So Far“ was the band's third chart-topping album in a row.
Individual solo pursuits continued after the release of “So Far” with Stills and Young pairing up for recordings and a tour and Nash and Crosby teaming up to form Crosby & Nash, touring and releasing two albums.
In 1977 the trio reformed and released “CSN,” which peaked at #2 on the Billboard Top Pop Albums chart. Two singles taken from the album, Nash's “Just A Song Before I Go“ peaked at #7 and Stills' “Fair Game” peaked at #43 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Crosby was dealing with drug addiction problems when the trio recorded 1982’s “Daylight Again.” The album was initially undertaken by Stills and Nash alone owing to Crosby’s subsequent decline in productivity. However, Atlantic Record executives refused to release the latter LP until Crosby was reinstated. Crosby joined his partners for the track “Delta,” and the album contained three hits on the Billboard Hot 100, “Wasted on the Way“ which peaked at #9, “Southern Cross“ which peaked at #18, and “Too Much Love to Hide” which peaked at #69. The album peaked at #8 on the Billboard Top Pop Albums chart, the final time the band made the Top 10 to date.
The trio continued to tour, but the bottom fell out for Crosby, arrested and jailed on drug and weapons charges in Texas in May 1982. Having recorded a potential title song for the film “WarGames “that was never used, the band released it as a single and hastily assembled concert recordings around two studio tracks for the live album “Allies,” their lowest charting record to date. Crosby was sentenced to two terms, but the conviction was overturned. Arrested several more times, he finally turned himself in to the authorities in December 1985. He would spend eight months in prison, and Nash and Stills released another round of solo albums in the mid-1980s.
Based on a promise he made to Crosby should he clean himself up, Young agreed to rejoin the trio in the studio upon Crosby’s release from prison for “American Dream“ in 1988. It peaked at #16 on the Billboard Pop chart.
CSN recorded two more studio albums in the 1990s, “Live It Up“ and “After the Storm,” both low sellers by previous standards and mostly ignored by all except for their remaining core fans.
In 1994, CSN collaborated with Suzy Bogguss, Alison Krauss, and Kathy Mattea to contribute “Teach Your Children“ to the AIDS benefit album Red Hot + Country produced by the Red Hot Organization.
By the late nineties CSN found themselves without a record contract.. They began financing recordings themselves, and in 1999 Stills invited Young to guest on a few tracks. Impressed by their gumption, Young increased his level of input and turning the album into a CSNY project, 1999’s “Looking Forward,” was released on Young's label Reprise Records.
CSN was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. CSNY is the only band to have all its members inducted into the Hall twice. Crosby has also been inducted as a member of the Byrds in 1991 and Stills as a member of Buffalo Springfield in 1997. In 2010, Nash was inducted as a member of the Hollies. Young has been inducted for his solo work in 1995 and for Buffalo Springfield in 1997, but has not been inducted with CSN.