The musical melodies of CSNY took over the rock and roll scene of the 70s. However, behind closed doors, things were far from harmonious. From arguments to aired secrets, it was only a matter of time before they called it quits.
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, otherwise known as CSNY, was one of the most famous folk-rock supergroups of all time. Formed in the late '60s, the multi-cultural rock band took the world by storm.
Originally made up of American singer-songwriters David Crosby and Stephen Stills and English singer-songwriter Graham Nash, the band was known as CSN. But when Canadian singer-songwriter Neil Young jumped on, they became known as CSNY. And the rest is history.
Rise to Fame
The famous group formed in 1968 after Crosby, Stills, and Nash all separately left their previous bands (for various reasons). The talented trio realized they actually all harmonized and vocally gelled well together, giving them the idea to start the soon-to-be amazing rock band group.
The new trio rock group released their first album, Crosby, Stills & Nash, shortly after in 1969 and saw major success. The album reached unbelievable strides and, in 2001, was certified as quadruple platinum. However, despite their effortless musical connection, the group argued more than anyone could ever imagine.
In the 60s, when David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash started the group CSN, they had all come from previous bands and were looking for a musical change. Crosby was kicked out of the Byrds over songwriting disagreements, Nash quit the Hollies after creative disagreements, and Stills' band disintegrated. Three free agents.
When Neil Young joined the band in the summer of 1969, making them CSNY, things just started to escalate. The already famous band had gotten a taste of the stardom as a group of three. But now that a fourth was joining their already cultivated band, things got complicated - and arguments as a group escalated.
"Will Never Be Another"
The mega-talented group fought so much that there were times when they were ready to throw in the towel at any moment and quit the biz. Despite having such a large fanbase worldwide, the talented musicians couldn't stop arguing. Things were on the edge of crumbling down.
"In my world, there will never, ever be a Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young record, and there will never be another Crosby, Stills, and Nash record or show," Nash told Billboard magazine in 2016, giving his opinion on the group's experiences together. So what went wrong?
As we already know, there were endless arguments and fights behind the scenes that continued for years. But let's rewind for a second. Before Young had even joined the band, the OG members had developed a worldwide fanbase that would reach new heights once their fourth member arrived.
Their fame grew and grew - and suddenly, they were one of the most influential and famous folk-rock bands in the world. But what many people don't know is that it was their music label's impresario that made them ultimately bring on a fourth member.
In 1969, the three-person folk-rock band became a four-person supergroup with the addition of their newest member, Neil Young. CSN soon added a Y to their name and became CSNY to fans worldwide. Despite being hesitant about adding a member, Young joined a year after they first formed.
The group was aware of Young's ability to shred on the guitar but didn't realize he was also a talented keyboard player. Safe to say, his talent was not what they were worried about - Stills and Nash were mostly concerned about adding a new member. However, their record company put their mind to ease, and they became CSNY.
The celebrated artist Neil Young joined CSNY in the 1960s after already playing in Buffalo Springfield with Stephen Stills! So the two already had a musical past, which could have made his transition into the band easier - and also more difficult for many reasons!
Born in Canada, Young grew up on rock 'n roll and jump-started his career as a solo artist before he was actually arrested for being AWOL from the Navy Reserve. Once he made it to L.A., he and three up-and-coming artists formed Buffalo Springfield. And upon their demise, he finally joined CSN.
Sure enough, the newly formed band landed even more fame when they scored a headlining spot at Woodstock - the same year that Young joined. Playing Woodstock was only the second show of their tour, which highlighted the group as the new quartet, catapulting them to universal new heights.
Woodstock is remembered as one of the greatest musical events of the last century. Held on a dairy farm 40 miles southwest of Woodstock in New York, the legendary festival brought together musicians and people from far and wide during a controversial time in America to focus on three days of peace, music, and love!
Starting a Movement
As the years passed, rock music became the official sound of the 60s. Music and style were changing, and CSNY was a part of shaping that change. From The Who to the Grateful Dead, Woodstock brought out countless rock legends, revolutionizing how the nation understood and played rock music.
So naturally, with the rise of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, there were plenty of other up-and-coming rock bands who were also touring and playing sold-out stadiums with a massive fan base. For example, The Rolling Stones formed in '62, The Who in '64, The Doors in '65, and Led Zeppelin in '68.
Their Political Activism
But performing wasn't the only time they turned heads. The rock band made a political stance early on in their careers, with music reflecting the counterculture in the late 60s and early 70s. With much protest against the Vietnam War, the music group (specifically Crosby) made it known where they stood.
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young recorded one song that specifically responded to political events occurring in the world. Ohio was written as a direct response to the deaths of four students at Kent State University after they were killed during an anti-war protest in 1970.
Reaching New Heights
From Woodstock to politics, the band's notoriety had reached new heights with Young now on board. The freshly formed group embarked on a 39-date tour from Woodstock to Europe, and they instantly became this electrifying rock band group people idolized.
With much anticipation following the band's success, CSNY released their first album, Deja Vu, which overtook the music charts. And just like that, the band became unstoppable... or so everyone thought. However, a lot of BTS arguing was happening, eventually becoming detrimental to the adored band.
The Rockstar Lifestyle
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young were thriving as artists - truly embracing the rockstar lifestyle. And from an outsider's perspective, the band was living the high life. However, behind the flashing lights, the group indulged perhaps a bit too much, taking illegal substances and fighting over women.
In fact, one lucky lady seemed to have caught the eye of two bandmates, causing tension in the group. Stills was dating the singer Rita Coolidge at the time, but his co-star, Nash, had his sights set on her - despite her relationship with Stills and his relationship with Stills. Safe to say, things got messy.
Broken Hearts & Broken Trust
Nash seemed to have a certain spell over the ladies and became notoriously known for being a ladies' man over time. Graham Nash was originally from the U.K., so maybe it was that British accent that drew the ladies in, but whatever it was, it definitely riled up his fellow band members.
Despite Stephen Stills dating Coolidge, Nash swooped in and started seeing his bandmate's girl. Unfortunately, the devasted Stills was heartbroken over the news and didn't take it very well. The newly single Stills checked into an L.A. hotel, where he took illegal substances and was eventually hospitalized.
More Drama With the Ladies
Unfortunately, this wasn't the only time Nash stepped in and stole a girl from a bandmember. It seemed like the rockstar lifestyle was taking him down a slippery slope, and his commitment to chasing after women outweighed his relationships with his bandmates. So who was next?
Following the Coolidge incident, Nash decided to go after another one of his bandmate's girls, Joni Mitchell. David Crosby was dating Joni Mitchell in the 70s, and the two were even living together - but Nash was determined to date her. However, things didn't end well for either man when Mitchell dumped Nash via a telegram.
Joni Mitchell is one of the most influential musicians in our lifetime. Her musical reign over folk, pop, rock, jazz, and classical music dominated the music scene during the 70s - and with her immense success came some pretty iconic romantic relationships!
Besides dating both David Crosby and Graham Nash, the Canadian-born singer dated a few more rockstars during her time. From Leonard Cohen to James Taylor, Jaco Pastorius, and more, Joni Mitchell was the center of attention for many musicians during her time!
Behind the Scenes
Besides their constant fighting over women, the bandmates succumbed to the rockstar party life. Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young all struggled with substance abuse - and unfortunately, it got to the point that it affected not only their personal lives but each other and their careers.
In David Browne's book, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young: The Wild, Definitive Saga of Rock's Greatest Supergroup, the author described the musicians' particular addictions and how they affected their careers. The bandmates fell into a deep addiction cycle from whiskey to tequila and many more hard-core substances past that.
During the midst of their arguments, partying, dating each other's girlfriends and all, they were still putting out hot records. The acclaimed Deja Vu album was released in 1970, and while the band was making music collectively, the artists were also producing their own solo records.
In the beginning phases of CSNY, each quartet member released their own solo projects while working on growing and making music as a rock band. The musicians all successfully put out music, but unfortunately, the time apart didn't help solve any animosity within the band... and their tours became full of drama.
Hard To Hide
The guys were fighting so much with each other while barely functioning due to the countless amount of substances they were consuming. The bickering continued on and on, and while the band tried to keep their personal life and disagreements on the down low, it was almost impossible.
CSNY couldn't continue to operate - and they were fed up with pretending. Young later opened up in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine in 2016 about that time in their lives. "We were together for a long time. We did some good work. Why should we get together and celebrate how great we were? What difference does it make?"
“It’s Not for Money”
The guys reached an uncomprehensible level of fame early on in their career as a quartet, and for some of them, perhaps that's where it should have stayed. Despite the constant argumentative state they were in, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young made some incredible music together.
Young felt incredibly passionate about making music only with the entire crew. "It's not for the audience. It's not for money, either. When you play music, you have to come from a certain place to do it, and everything has to be clear, and you don't want to disturb that," he said.
Slowly Drifting Apart
Despite Young's prior words, by 1973, the band struggled to stay together. And when they did get together to record a new album, the arguments set in, and they dispersed (again). As a result, throughout their careers, they often went from being a combination of four to several combinations of three or two.
It, unfortunately, didn't take long for this to happen. But as they were slowly becoming estranged from one another, they were working on individual solo projects. CSNY lost their (Y) early on, but Young agreed to join in 1988 if Crosby cleaned himself up. But things just remained... complicated.
Was Crosby the Cause?
Neil Young made it clear he was not ready to make more music with his ex-bandmates - but why? Apparently, his reluctance all fell on Crosby. However, Crosby claimed Young was "probably the most self-centered, self-obsessed, selfish person I know. He only thinks about Neil, period. That's the only person he'll consider. Ever!"
Nonetheless, Young's hesitance continued to trace back to Crosby. After reaching the pinnacle of success as a rock group, Crosby's health rapidly declined - and so did his career. The rock icon dealt with poorly negotiated contracts and the overall loss of his relationships with his bandmates.
"Why People Won't Talk to Me Anymore"
Neil Young felt so deeply about his personal and professional relationship with Crosby and wouldn't back down. Sure enough, the talented musicians had so much beef with one another that it eventually overtook the music and, evidently, their lives.
"Crosby should write an introspective book: Why People Won't Talk to Me Anymore. He made a lot of great music for a long time. I don't know what happened with David," he said in an interview with Far Out's music website in 2016. The two just couldn't handle one another.
Despite making such great music, it was apparent the band members needed a break from one another. Crosby had outspokenly shared his opinions and disparaging remarks on countless topics, and Young and the band couldn't help it anymore. Even decades later, Crosby commented on Young's girlfriend, Daryl Hannah.
Despite Young believing their demise as a group was due to David, in an interview with Crosby, he commented on Young's "self-obsessed" attitude. When asked if Young would agree, Crosby said, "Probably. He knows himself pretty well." He continued to add that any impression of Nash and Young getting along was also for show.
"Purely Poisonous Predator"
Crosby also commented on Neil Young's romantic life, and well, that never rolled off well! Following Young's thirty-plus year marriage to Pegi Young, the rockstar started dating Daryl Hannah, and the two married in 2018. However, Crosby got caught in the line of fire with what he soon said…
Crosby's relationship with Young only worsened in 2014 when he publically commented on Young's then-girlfriend to the Idaho Statesman, saying, "And I happen to know that [Young is] hanging out with somebody that's a purely poisonous predator now." Crosby continued, "And that's karma. He's gonna get hurt."
Is It Too Late Now To Say Sorry?
Despite all the band members having beef with one another, it appears Young made the final decision regarding the band's fate when he publically announced that CSNY would never tour again. Fans worldwide were deeply saddened by the news, but following them for decades, they knew all about the BTS drama.
Crosby publicly retracted his statement regarding Young's partner. In an interview on The Howard Stern Show, he said, "I've apologized… a couple of times publicly… and I said, 'I'm really sorry I shot my mouth off about your girlfriend. I really am.' But we've all been horrible to each other over the years.'"
Too Little, Too Late
It seemed like Crosby's relationship with the rest of the group just continued to downward spiral as time went on. The rock icon couldn't maintain any relationships successfully, and unfortunately, that affected the rest of the group and their musical careers.
Crosby reiterated his apology in an interview with Rolling Stone in 2015 - but the rest of the crew just wasn't ready for that yet. "Right now, I don't want anything to do with Crosby at all. It's just that simple," Nash told the magazine Lust for Life in 2016.
More Bad Blood
Unfortunately, for the band's followers, the hopes of a reunion seemed unlikely at the time. After hearing more and more about the band's relationship behind closed doors, people's curiosities started to rise - but evidently, there was too much damage done.
In an interview with Graham Nash, Young unveiled more information about his relationship with Crosby and what it meant for the band. "I've been there and saved… [his bacon] for 45 years, and he treated me… [badly]. You can't do that to me. … David has ripped the heart out of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young," he said.
From a New Perspective
After years of success in the music industry, it was only fitting for many authors to dive deep into the lives of these very famous musicians! Novelists were fascinated by their stories, from how they formed as a group to the heights of their success, their intricate relationships, and of course, their demise.
Two of the most famous accounts of the musician's journeys are written by Peter Doggett and David Browne. In both novels, the authors discuss the climax and downfalls of CSNY, but their writing is ultimately quite different. All in all, readers can indulge over the lives of CSNY.
Despite all their fallout, fans are hopeful for a reunion one day. Young told Far Out in 2016, "If a reunion happens, it would be a surprise. I won't close the door on anything," he said. "I can hold a grudge with the best of them, but only if there's a reason for it."
In a 2021 interview on CBS News Sunday Morning, Nash added, "when that silver thread that connects a band gets broken, it's very difficult to glue the ends together." He admitted reuniting with the band would be preferred "because of the loss of the music" - but no update, folks.
Despite all the fighting, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young are remembered as one of the most influential rock bands to come up in the 70s. Their electrifying musical connection touched the lives of millions and allowed rock bands in the future to create the music we know and love today.
CSNY was the first band to have all of its members inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice! CSN was also inducted for their work in other groups - ironically, Neil Young was inducted as a solo artist and as a member of Buffalo Springfield - but not under CSNY...