Friday, July 3, 2015

The Birth Of Crosby, Stills, And Nash

CSN's first album, released May 1969

Music flows like water coursing through shoals, eddy lines, and pools in an ever-changing pattern. One could say those who make the music follow similar and often bumpy routes that leave little time for thought about destinations. By 1968 that was the case with three young musicians. The Byrds had already fired David Crosby, Buffalo Springfield broke up leaving Stephen Stills without work, and Graham Nash felt far too restrained working with the Hollies. They knew each other through the music scene in Los Angeles and networks that develop naturally among like-minded folks. Crosby and Stills had already been jamming in Florida and elsewhere. Both knew Crosby through his American tours.

The fourth name in our post today is singer-songwriter, Joni Mitchell, the catalyst in our story. She shared Laurel Canyon, a neighborhood just north of Hollywood, with many other music industry notables and up-and-comers. Mitchell's home was described (Mark Volman) as "a little different...not so much maternal but about holding court in terms of songwriters who could find themselves there on any given night...and present their music to a kind of inner circle of people." On July 3,1968, circumstances brought Crosby, Stills, and Nash together at the house. "Nash asked Stills and Crosby to repeat their performance of a new song by Stills, “You Don't Have To Cry”, with Nash improvising a third part harmony."  In a Daily Mail interview, Nash recalled, "That night, while Joni listened, the three of us sang together for the first time. I heard the future in the power of those voices. And I knew my life would never be the same."

Neither would music for millions around the world. Crosby, Stills, Nash, and later, Neil Young, would go on to phenomenal success and influence in folk rock and popular music, a force very much with us today.

N.B. Among the principals, there is disagreement about the location of this monumental event; however, Mitchell, Crosby, and close friend, Elliot Roberts, insist it was at Mitchell's home. The official CSN biography by Dave Zimmer and Henry Diltz concurs.

Sources:, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, "An Oral History of Laurel Canyon, the 60s and 70s Music Mecca"," March 2115


"You Don't Have To Cry" quote is from
Nash quote,
Volman quote: Hotel California: The True Adventures of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, Barney Hoskins. Wiley, 2007

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