Friday, November 28, 2014

Crosby, Stills & Nash (& Young), The #42 Artist of the Seventies*

At #42 for the Seventies*, we have this endearing and durable group formed from members of the 60's biggest acts.

Prior to the beginning of CSNY, rhythm guitarist David Crosby was with the Byrds, Stephen Stills and Neil Young were guitarists in Buffalo Springfield, and Graham Nash was a guitarist and vocalist with the Hollies.  A chain of events perhaps linked to destiny occurred that brought them together.  Crosby was dismissed from the Byrds in 1967.  The following year, Buffalo Springfield was no more, and Stephen Stills was without a job. 

The two began jamming together and writing songs.  Nash had become acquainted with Crosby when the Byrds toured the U.K., and Nash called David up in 1968 when he visited California.

At a party hosted by Joni Mitchell, the three performed "You Don't Have To Cry".  It didn't take the trio but a few bars to realize they shared a unique vocal chemistry.  Frustrated with the Hollies, Nash quit that group and joined his new friends.  Remarkably, they were turned down by Apple Records, so they signed instead with Atlantic.  Managers Elliot Roberts and David Geffen were instrumental in getting the trio signed. 

Crosby, Stills, and Nash released their self-titled album  as a trio in 1969 with Dallas Taylor on drums and sold over four million albums.  They then invited Neil Young into the fold for their first performances in 1969.  Initially, they sought a keyboardist and approached Steve Winwood, but Winwood was busy with the group Blind Faith.  So Young, also a client of Roberts, was an obvious choice. 

Young signed a unique deal, allowing him the freedom to have a parallel career with his group Crazy Horse.  Of the eight studio albums from Crosby, Stills, & Nash, three have included Young, and the four toured together in 1970, 1974, 2000, 2002, and 2006.

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young performed together for the first time on August 16, 1969 at the Auditorium Theater in Chicago, Illinois.  They announced that they were leaving for Woodstock the next day, though they had no idea where that was.

The Woodstock Festival made stars of many artists, and Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young definitely benefitted from the high-profile appearance there.  With Young onboard, the quartet soared with the 1970 album Deja Vu in 1970.  CSNY took a Joni Mitchell song, "Woodstock" to #11. 

The follow-up single, "Teach Your Children" only reached #16, making it one of The Top Unknown/Underrated Songs of the Rock Era*.

Deja Vu has now sold seven million copies, the finest work of their career.  The Top Track* "Carry On" is also a featured song on the album.

Another great track found on Deja Vu is "Almost Cut My Hair".

Young and Crosby were living at a house near San Francisco when reports of the shootings at Kent State University came on television.  Young was furious, and wrote the song "Ohio" immediately.  The song was recorded and rush-released within weeks--that alone speaks to the gifts given these four musicians.  At a peak of #14, not only is "Ohio" another Top Underrated Song*, but also obviously one of The Most Important Songs of the Rock Era*.

Another single, "Our House", was culled from Deja Vu and peaked at #30, another ridiculously low peak.  By the way, in compiling these rankings, we not only looked at each song that the artists recorded and its attributes; we also looked at how the song has done since its release and the ability to stand the test of time.  Plus, we look at the entire body of work by each Seventies artist, including album tracks.  Most of the material from CSNY has done rather nicely over the years.

But tension surfaced within the group, and they split after their 1970 summer tour.  Recordings from those shows would later appear on the double album Four Way Street.

Group members embarked on solo projects over the next several years.  Nash and Crosby recorded an album as a duo which was well-received.

Roberts finally convinced the group to resume, and rock promoter Bill Graham arranged a large outdoor stadium tour.  The band would often play for three and a half hours to thrilled crowds.

Meanwhile, Atlantic Records put together the compilation album So Far, which has now gone over six million in sales.  But common excesses of rock stars put a damper on the tour, and Young increasingly isolated himself from the other three.

When the tour ended, Crosby & Nash signed a separate recording contract with ABC Records and recorded two more albums.  They also became in-demand session musicians for artists such as James Taylor and Joni Mitchell.

Stills and Young made their own album, Long May You Run, in 1976.  After attempts at a CSNY reunion failed, Stills and Young erased the vocals of the other two when they had to leave to finish their album Whistling Down the Wire.  The Stills-Young tour ended when Neil abandoned Stills after a show in South Carolina.

After a Crosby & Nash concert in Los Angeles, Stills approached the two about reuniting, and this time, everything clicked.

One year later, the trio released the album CSN.  A single from the album, "Just A Song Before I Go", went to #5 on the Adult chart and #7 overall.

The album sold over four million copies for the group.  Only Fleetwood Mac's monumental album Rumours kept CSN from going to #1.

The trio has recorded several more albums together and music fans can still see one of the legendary groups of Woodstock on tour.

Crosby, Stills & Nash were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.  They are the only group in history to have all of its members inducted into the Hall twice--Crosby was inducted as a member of the Byrds in 1991, Stills as part of Buffalo Springfield in 1997, and Nash in 2010 as a member of the Hollies.  Young was also inducted for his solo career in 1995 and as part of Springfield. 

CSNY combined for 23 million in album sales in the 70's. 

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