Top 10 Crosby, Stills & Nash Songs
David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash helped bridge the ‘60s and ‘70s with their harmonies and songs about peace and love during a time of war. The group formed after the three distinct singer-songwriters parted ways with their former bands: Crosby was in the Byrds, Stills was in Buffalo Springfield and Nash was in the Hollies. Later, Stills’ old bandmate Neil Young joined. They’ve been off and on, in various forms, over the years. Our list of the Top 10 Crosby, Stills & Nash Songs collects cuts from their golden era.
Crosby, Stills & Nash’s first single — and the first song most fans heard by the new superstar trio — was originally written by Graham Nash for his previous band the Hollies. They recorded ‘Marrakesh Express’ but never released it, so Nash dragged it out for CSN’s debut album. The bouncy rhythm and playful spirit reflects Nash’s trip to the Moroccan city in the mid-’60s.
‘Just a Song Before I Go’
Seven years after Crosby, Stills & Nash’s last group album, and first as a trio since 1969’s self-titled debut, 1977’s ‘CSN’ was a much-anticipated showcase for the singer-songwriters, collectively and individually. It was also the last time they would write all the songs themselves for almost 20 years. The highlight is the AM pop of Graham Nash’s ‘Just a Song Before I Go,’ the group’s highest-charting single (it peaked at No. 7).
‘Teach Your Children’
Like ‘Marrakesh Express’ (see No. 10 on our list of the Top 10 Crosby, Stills & Nash Songs), ‘Teach Your Children’ was written by Graham Nash for the Hollies. They never recorded it, so he resurrected the cut for CSN’s second album, and first with Neil Young, ‘Deja Vu.’ Jerry Garcia agreed to play pedal steel on the song if the trio would teach the Grateful Dead how to sing harmony for their upcoming album, ‘Workingman’s Dead.’
In 1969, Graham Nash hooked up with Joni Mitchell, and the couple shared a home in California for a brief period. ‘Our House,’ which reached No. 30 the following year, is about their cozy relationship and pictures a domesticated singer-songwriter coupling that’s as hippie idealistic as it is mom-and-dad traditional.
‘Long Time Gone’
David Crosby’s standout song from Crosby, Still & Nash’s self-titled debut album was written in response to the 1968 assassination of Robert Kennedy. The group would get even more political (and timely) on ‘Ohio’ (see No. 2 on our list of the Top 10 Crosby, Stills & Nash Songs) led by Neil Young, but Crosby’s impassioned vocal makes ‘Long Time Gone’ one of his very best tracks.
The opening track on the second album by the group, now a quartet with Neil Young as a full-time member, was written by Stephen Stills, whose guitar and lead vocal guide the song. But it’s the glorious group harmonies throughout ‘Carry On,’ especially before it breaks off into another direction, that make it soar.
Joni Mitchell heard about Woodstock from boyfriend Graham Nash (see No. 7 on our list of the Top 10 Crosby, Stills & Nash Songs), who was there with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young — it was only their second performance. She took his recollections and feelings about the three-day hippie fest and wrote ‘Woodstock,’ which she recorded as a stripped-down track on her ‘Ladies of the Canyon’ album in 1970. That same year, CSNY electrified it and gave the song its definitive reading.
When Neil Young joined Crosby, Stills & Nash on their second album, he contributed two songs (he also had a hand in Stephen Stills’ LP-closing ‘Everybody I Love You’). ‘Helpless’ is the keeper and one of his all-time greatest cuts, a mournful ballad featuring heavenly harmonies by his bandmates. Young originally recorded the song with Crazy Horse, but it ended up with CSN. Good move.
Neil Young wrote ‘Ohio’ not long after the National Guard fired on protesting students at Kent State University on May 4, 1970, killing four of them. The next month, the song was released as a single by Crosby, Still, Nash & Young and eventually reached No. 14. The original studio version (found on various compilations) is one of the angriest and timeliest songs ever recorded. An essential document of early-’70s social turmoil.
‘Suite: Judy Blue Eyes’
Like Graham Nash, Stephen Stills had a famous folksinger girlfriend (see No. 7 on our list of the Top 10 Crosby, Stills & Nash Songs). And like his bandmate, he wrote a song about her. ‘Suite: Judy Blue Eyes’ may be about Judy Collins, but the twists and turns the song takes over four distinct sections and seven and a half minutes are as rocky as the relationship’s final days. But they serve as a great introduction to the trio’s classic debut album.