May 16, 2006
CSN: BMI Icons (Bio)
CROSBY, STILLS AND NASH
One of the most enduring and original musical partnerships of our time, Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Famers Crosby, Stills & Nash (CSN) have captivated the world with their peerless three-part harmony, inspired songwriting and brilliant musicianship for more than three decades. The only American band of the original Woodstock era to have a societal impact rivaling that of the Beatles, they have been called “the voice of an entire generation.” With an impassioned point of view as personal as it is message-oriented, CSN have always sung about socially relevant issues and universal values. Their songs have meaningfully chronicled the transformations of our time, and become inextricably woven into our cultural consciousness, touching the lives of millions of fans of all ages by way of timeless hits including “Marrakesh Express,” “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” “Helplessly Hoping,” “Guinnevere,” “Teach Your Children,” “Wooden Ships,” “Dark Star,” and “Just A Song Before I Go,” to name just a few. They have, in fact, become the voice of many generations.
CSN continue to enhance their legacy with new milestones and achievements, including a major concert tour in 2003. Potent as ever in holding an audience in thrall with their exquisite harmonies, Rolling Stone Magazine called a 1999 show at San Francisco’s venerable, Bill Graham-established Fillmore Auditorium “One of the concerts of the decade.” That same year, CSN released the fourth career album of their quartet incarnation, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s critically acclaimed Looking Forward, with musical brother Neil Young. In 2000, this artistically fearsome foursome toured the world with a hugely successful CSNY reunion tour, garnering rave reviews and conjuring up all the musical magic of their storied partnership everywhere they played.
In 1997, CSN was inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame, recognizing their massive contribution to the evolution of contemporary American music. The gala evening proved doubly special for Stephen Stills, who was the first artist to be enshrined twice on the same day, once with CSN and again for Buffalo Springfield… it also marked the second induction for David Crosby, who’d previously been ushered in with The Byrds. In fact, all three of CSN’s members claim such dual artistic citizenship. Upon its formation in 1968, the trio instantly became a phenomenon greater than the sum of its parts, and the term ‘Supergroup’ fit the new venture like a glove. Yet each partner already had their own substantial rock ‘n roll pedigree, having come from another hit-making band—Crosby from The Byrds, Stills from Buffalo Springfield, and Nash from The Hollies. Together, they forged something magical, made possible by the harmonic convergence of their great talents.
Native Californian David Crosby, son of an Academy Award-winning cinematographer, began his career as a folk singer. Although intending to become an actor when he moved from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles in 1960 at the age of 19, music prevailed and Crosby spent two years on the road, playing in clubs and coffeehouses throughout the country. Back in L.A. in ‘63, Crosby won widespread recognition for his songwriting and charismatic presence with The Byrds. Through his work with the seminal folk-rock band, Crosby helped co-invent an era-defining genre that influenced early ‘60s contemporaries Bob Dylan and The Beatles, and scores of musicians who followed. The Byrds—which also included Roger McGuinn, Chris Hillman, Gene Clark and Michael Clarke—brilliantly fused acoustic folk with electric rock and roll, and the success of the Dylan-penned “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “Turn! Turn! Turn!,” and their own “Eight Miles High” brought critical praise, worldwide fame, and financial prosperity. The latter allowed Crosby, a lifelong lover of all things nautical, to buy the 60-foot schooner The Mayan—ever since, sailing has been a refuge as well as a recurring metaphor in many compositions.
Born in Texas, Stephen Stills had a peripatetic childhood, growing up in Illinois, Louisiana, Florida, Panama and Costa Rica, where he graduated from high school, resulting in the Latin influences that pepper his music. Settling back to Florida, Stills played in a succession of bands, including The Continentals, with future Eagle Don Felder. After he moved to NYC’s Greenwich Village, he began performing with the Au Go-Go Singers, which also included Richie Furay. While touring in Canada with The Company, an Au Go Go’s offshoot, Stills happened to share the stage with Neil Young and the Squires. They hit it off and agreed to work together, but Young disappeared. Stills and Furay finally hooked up with him in L.A. in 1967, and after adding drummer Dewey Martin, Buffalo Springfield was born. Stills and Young were a fiery combination, their contrasting guitar styles giving Buffalo Springfield a unique sound that quickly made them a sensation. It was while with the Springfield that Stills, inspired by the riots between police and hippies on the Sunset Strip, wrote “For What It’s Worth,” one of the landmark anthems of the sixties.
Hailing from Blackpool, England, Graham Nash was inspired by songs he listened to on his parents’ radio. At the age of fourteen, he and pal Allan Clarke began singing in local pubs in a style heavily influenced by the Everly Brothers. Encouraged by their success, the pair decided to commit to a musical career and billed themselves as the Two Teens, who, after several evolutions and name changes, became The Hollies (named after Buddy Holly). With Nash singing high harmony, Clarke handling lead, and Tony Hicks underneath, The Hollies—- created some of the most stirring 3-part harmony ever in popular music… they also became one of the most commercially successful acts of the British Invasion era. In 1966, The Hollies released three hit singles went Top 10 in both the U.K. and the U.S.: “Bus Stop,” “Stop Stop Stop,” and “Carrie Anne.” That same year, Nash and The Hollies recorded the album Two Yanks In Britain with their idols, The Everly Brothers. It featured eight Nash-Clarke-Hicks compositions, the guitar work of a young session musician named Jimmy Page, and the harmonies of The Hollies. It’s an experience Nash still considers a highlight.
As the ‘60s progressed, the seeds of change were sown that would unite these three consummate singer-songwriters and musicians. By ‘68, Crosby had exited the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield had disbanded, and Nash, unfulfilled with The Hollies, was seeking new challenges. The planets fully lined up for CSN when, after Crosby produced Joni Mitchell’s auspicious debut album, he and Stills began collaborating. They invited Nash—whose vocal abilities they admired—to their Laurel Canyon home during an L.A. stop on a Hollies tour. They played two songs they were working on, “Helplessly Hoping,” and “You Don’t Have To Cry,” and Nash joined in. According to Crosby, “When we heard him put on that third harmony, I thought I was gonna die. I thought my heart was gonna jump right through my mouth. It was about the rightest thing I ever heard.” Nash concurs, “The minute I heard how our voices sounded together, I was physically and musically linked with David and Stephen from then on. It was a truly magical moment.” Soon after, true to the lyrics of “Helplessly Hoping,” David Crosby, Stephen Stills & Graham Nash became “three together.”
In 1969, the trio released their stunning debut album, Crosby, Stills & Nash. Along with “Helplessly Hoping,” Nash’s “Marrakesh Express,” Stills’ “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” and Crosby’s “Guineverre,” the album went straight to number one on the charts. What’s more, it captured the hearts and minds of an entire era. As Nash remembers, “We were all very much in love with each other; we were all very much in love with the music…obviously doing something we felt was totally unique. It was against the grain of most of the music that was out at that time, and we just managed to slip this acoustic-feeling record right through all the stacks of Marshalls and giant electric guitars.”
Their rich, contemplative LP masterpiece made musical history, as did the band themselves when, joined by Neil Young, they played for a half a million people at the epochal 1969 Woodstock Music & Arts Festival in upstate New York in what was only their second appearance together. CSNY’s stirring performance exemplified the spirit of the day, and is still treasured as a touchstone for many who came of age in the ‘60s (songs from their set later appeared on the Woodstock and Woodstock Two soundtracks in ’70 and ’71).
In 1970, CSN released the now-classic album Déjà Vu to great acclaim, generating three Top 40 singles: “Woodstock” (#11), and Nash’s smash double play of “Teach Your Children” (#16) and “Our House” (#30). It also introduced perennial favorites including Young’s “Helpless,” Stills’ “Carry On” and Crosby’s “Almost Cut My Hair.” Next up was 1971’s 4 Way Street, a double live LP that showcased both group dynamics and solo strengths, and delivered Neil Young’s “Ohio,” a rebellious memorial to the four students killed at Kent State in 1970. Although CSN–-and CSNY—drifted apart later in the ‘70s, they continued to perform and record, individually and in various configurations. Solo, Crosby released If I Could Only Remember My Name, and Nash followed with Songs For Beginners. Together, the pair recorded three albums, and the hit single “Immigration Man.” Stills released the platinum Stephen Stills, Stephen Stills 2, two LPs with Manassas, and Long May You Run with Neil Young.
And, while CSNY released the chart-topping multi-platinum compilation So Far in 1974, it wasn’t until 1977’s CSN that the trio delivered more new studio recordings. The album’s “Just A Song Before I Go” became their first multi-platinum single, and their highest-charting track, reaching #7 on Billboard’s Hot 100. The follow-up, 1982’s Daylight Again, added two more hits to the CSN songbook, Stills’ “Southern Cross” and Nash’s “Wasted On The Way.” Allies, in 1983, was a collection of live highlights from assorted concerts. At that point, after fourteen years together, CSN had put out only five albums of new material. Some critics attributed their limited discography to unresolved “creative differences,” but as Crosby pointed out, “We said up front when we started, ‘We’re gonna work in different combinations, in every combination that’s potentially there. You’ll see albums by two of us or by one of us…’ So, of course, they ignored it, and every time we did anything else, they said, ‘Oh, they broke up.’ And, every time we got back together, they said, ‘Oh they reformed.’ The truth is we’re gonna work in whatever combination that pleases us.”
Crosby’s words rang true with the 1988 release of CSNY’s American Dream, a platinum-plus album that brought the group full circle, reaching a new generation of listeners. They were further underscored with the release of Live It Up in 1990, featuring CSN along with guest appearances by artists including Peter Frampton, Branford Marsalis, Bruce Hornsby, and Crosby’s old Byrds-mate, Roger McGuinn. The following year brought the four-CD retrospective Crosby, Stills and Nash, now certified platinum. The deluxe compilation houses archival photos, extensive liner notes and 78 tracks chronicling their then-22-year history together, including 27 previously unreleased rarities. In 1994, CSN released After The Storm, featuring performances by Stills’ son Christopher and daughter Jennifer, among others. That same year marked CSN’s 25th anniversary, which they celebrated in grand style with a sixty-date tour, including a return visit to the most famous location of their performing career when they lent their special magic to Woodstock ’94.
The end of the ‘90s and the beginning of the new millennium brought a major renewal for CSN and compatriot Neil Young. In 1999, CNSY entered the studio to record Looking Forward, the acclaimed album preceding their full-scale 2000 reunion tour. Produced by the group, Looking Forward features new material from all four. Individually, and as a whole, their talents shone, and it was an admitted thrill for them to record in unison, gathered around a single microphone. The collaboration took off powerfully, and the ecstatic spirit of their music-making was clearly in evidence throughout the 2000 tour, where fans young and old experienced the house being brought down around them every night by spine-tingling harmonies and heart-wrenching contrasts. They reprised the experience for CSNY’s equally acclaimed 2002 ‘Tour Of America.’
Today, looking forward perfectly describes the separate and joint visions of David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash as they embark on their world tour of 2005. CSN continues to play major concerts together all over the world in support of the recently released Crosby*Nash album, the new Stills’ studio record, Man Alive!, and Crosby, Stills & Nash Greatest Hits. Their music was prominently featured in the stunning new IMAX feature Coral Reef Adventure—an unforgettable journey across the Great Barrier Reef—from Macgillivray Freeman Films, the creators of Everest. At the same time that their joint musical venture continues to thrive, each of the three is deeply involved with an array of individual projects.
David Crosby is collaborating with Graham Nash on a new album, their first studio effort as a duo since 1976’s Whistling Down The Wire. 2003 set the stage for a rare solo tour from Crosby, and recently, he has also recorded and toured with CPR, the jazz-inflected rock trio he formed with James Raymond, the biological son he was reunited with in 1995 after giving him up for adoption thirty years earlier. CPR’s third album, Just Like Gravity, was released in 2001, following ‘99’s Live At The Wiltern, recorded in Los Angeles. Crosby is also an ardent activist for campaign finance reform, organizing a major citizens’ rally in Washington, D.C. prior to the November 2000 elections. He regularly performs benefit concerts in support of a number of causes near and dear to his heart.
Stephen Stills is also set to release his new solo album, Man Alive!, the follow up to his most recent solo disc, 1991’s acclaimed Stills Alone. Set for release this summer, the album—produced by Stephen and Joe Vitale—features outstanding performances with Herbie Hancock, Graham Nash and Neil Young, and will be preceded by the track, “Feed The People”, for which Stills received the 2004 UNICEF Children’s Champion Award. Recently, Stills was deeply entrenched—along with Neil Young—in putting together Box Set, the critically revered, comprehensive, 4-CD, Buffalo Springfield retrospective issued on Elektra-Rhino Records in 2001.
In addition to recording with Crosby, for the new Crosby/Nash album featuring 18 new Crosby/Nash recordings released earlier this year and followed by a Crosby/Nash tour of Europe in February and March, Graham Nash is underway with the 5.1 mix—for DTS Entertainment—of Another Stoney Evening, capturing a 1970 Crosby/Nash concert, and is involved with an upcoming DVD project filmed and recorded while Crosby/Nash were on tour in Dublin in March. In 2002, Songs For Survivors came out, Nash’s first solo album in many years, which he co-produced with Russ and Nathaniel Kunkel. Released in DVD-A on DTS, and on CD by Artemis Records, it marks the first time a major artist premiered a new album in 5.1 prior to its stereo release. The disc won the DVD Association’s prestigious ‘DVD Excellence Award,’ and Nash himself was named ‘Surround Music Artist of the Year’ at the first annual Surround Music Awards in December ’02. Also in 2002, Off The Record: Songwriters On Songwriting—a coffee-table volume featuring interviews with 25 composers—was published. Accompanied by an audio CD, the deluxe book was co-presented by Nash and Manuscript Originals, which he founded in 1993 to commemorate classic songs via museum-quality artworks designed around handwritten lyrics. Also in the visual arts arena, Nash oversees Nash Editions, a world-renowned digital fine arts press. A gifted photographer with an increasingly high-profile, his ‘New York Portfolio’ recently had its debut showing in New York City.
Solo commitments notwithstanding, Crosby, Stills and Nash have always been about community. Both as world citizens speaking out on causes they believe in (and perform on behalf of, including No Nukes, Live Aid, and AMFAR concerts, and countless more), and as artists who believe in the music they make in unison, their dedication is unwavering. Just as they will always address the important issues facing our society, CSN will forever—in song—remain three together.