When Stephen Stills Hit a Parked Car
With a new album on top of the charts and a major tour on the horizon, the spring of 1970 should have been a terrific time for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Behind the scenes, however, the foursome's infamously combustible chemistry was already boiling over.
Though their issues with each other would tear CSNY apart soon enough, there were also outside factors darkening what should have been a jubilant time for some of the group's members. David Crosby, for one, was tormented by the recent death of his longtime girlfriend Christine Hinton in a freak car accident, and decided to set sail on a seven-week ocean odyssey with Graham Nash by his side — and plenty of drugs on board.
As Nash later detailed in his memoir Wild Tales: A Rock & Roll Life, he and Crosby were far from alone in their indulgence of illegal substances. Stephen Stills' own habits threatened to impact CSNY's tour plans on April 14, 1970. "Stephen in particular was pushing the limits of cocaine madness," wrote Nash. "Driving to rehearsal one afternoon, he was distracted by a cop in his rear-view mirror and veered into a parked car, fracturing his wrist."
Stills, in Los Angeles to track some parts for Neil Young's After the Gold Rush solo LP, quickly decamped to Hawaii with photographer and band associate Henry Diltz to heal — but the time off didn't necessarily tone down the growing tensions between the members of CSNY. In fact, Nash went on to recall a dispute over singer Rita Coolidge that ended in a physical altercation which may have irrevocably altered his friendship with Stills.
"She ended up living with Stephen for a couple of weeks, but I didn’t think her heart was in it," Nash recalled in his book. "‘I really like this woman,’ I told him. ‘I think I like her more than you do, and I think she likes me more than she likes you. So having told you this, I’m going to be with her.’ Stephen didn’t say a word. Then he spat at me. This was hardly going the way I’d hoped, so I made a beeline for my car, Rita on my heels. She grabbed her clothes and left with me. Stephen and I didn’t speak for a while. I’m not sure he’s forgiven me to this day."
As fans no doubt recall, the quartet dissolved after the 1970 tour, spinning off into various solo and duo projects. They would reunite in 1974 for an ill-fated tour before paring down to a trio toward the end of the decade. "We were our own worst enemy," wrote Nash. "Put the four of us in a room, and anything could trigger a fatal blast. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young wouldn’t tour together again for 26 years."
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