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Best Crosby, Stills & Nash (& Young) Songs: 10 Harmonious Rock Classics
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List & Guides

Best Crosby, Stills & Nash (& Young) Songs: 10 Harmonious Rock Classics

Definitive 70s supergroup classics, the best Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young songs range from political diatribes to countercultural anthems.

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One of the seminal folk-rock groups of the 20th century, Crosby, Stills & Nash were comprised of US singer-songwriters David Crosby and Stephen Stills, and English singer-songwriter Graham Nash. In 1969, they were joined by Canadian singer-songwriter Neil Young to make up the supergroup Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Their music is full of intricate vocal harmonies, blistering guitar solos and lyrics that span political activism, love and US culture. Here is our pick of the ten best Crosby, Stills & Nash (& Young) songs.

Listen to the best of Crosby, Stills & Nash here, and check out our best Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young songs, below.

10: Our House (from ‘Déjà Vu’, 1970)

This harmonically pretty “ode to countercultural domestic bliss” was written by Graham Nash when he was living with his then girlfriend, Joni Mitchell, in Laurel Canyon, in Los Angeles’ Hollywood Hills. After returning from a shopping trip to Ventura Boulevard, where they had breakfast and bought a vase, Nash suggested singer-songwriter Mitchell collect some flowers from the garden. “That meant she was not at her piano, but I was,” Nash told NPR in 2013, “and an hour later Our House was born, out of an incredibly ordinary moment that many, many people have experienced.” Nash played harpsichord on the recorded version, which also featured Motown session musician Greg Reeves on bass.

9: Helplessly Hoping (from ‘Crosby, Stills & Nash’, 1969)

Stephen Stills met Judy Collins in 1968 after Stills’ then band, Buffalo Springfield, had collapsed and Collins was preparing to record a new solo album. Though their love affair collapsed, Stills wrote the tender love song Helplessly Hoping, which is full of alliteration and wordplay, on which Stills, David Crosby and Nash sang gorgeous harmony vocals. One of the best Crosby, Stills & Nash songs, it appeared on the group’s eponymous 1969 debut album. Years later, Stills joked about the language in the song. “It was a lot of alliteration for a cautious cowboy,” he said. “When I did the first few lines, I thought, How long can I keep this going? It’s basically a country song, and it sings like that. It wants brushes on the drums.”

8: Carry On (from ‘Déjà Vu’, 1970)

Carry On, the opening track from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s 1970 album, Déjà Vu, was put together in just eight hours from start to finish in Wally Heider’s Studio in California, after Nash told Stills that they did not have an opening track for the album. Emerging as one of the best Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young songs, the upbeat tune was written by Stills on the spot. Drummer Dallas Taylor, who also worked with Van Morrison, recalled in the liner notes of the band’s 1991 box set, CSN, that Stills had combined two unfinished songs “and stuck them onto a jam we’d had out in the studio a few nights before, me on drums and Stephen on a Hammond B3 organ”. The result was a compelling track that was issued as a single. Led Zeppelin credit it as a true inspiration.

7: Teach Your Children (from ‘Déjà Vu’, 1970)

Graham Nash wrote Teach Your Children when he was still a member of The Hollies – and he first cut his own acoustic demo version in 1968. The song, which was inspired by a photograph by Diane Arbus of a child with a toy grenade, dealt with Nash’s views on the danger of messages given to children about war. The version cut by Crosby, Stills and Nash in 1970 featured Grateful Dead star Jerry Garcia on pedal steel guitar. The song’s relevance remained clear more than half a century later, when Nash released a new version inspired by “March for Our Lives” gun-control protests about Donald Trump. “We teach our children the best way we can, but we have to learn from our children, too, or else we are making a big mistake,” Nash said in 2018.

6: Long Time Gone (from ‘Crosby, Stills & Nash’, 1969)

David Crosby’s 2007 autobiography, Long Time Gone, was named after the potent song he wrote hours after the assassination of US Senator Bobby Kennedy in 1968. “I believed in him because he said he wanted to make some positive changes in America, and he hadn’t been bought and sold like Johnson and Nixon,” said Crosby. The track is a moody classic among the best Crosby, Stills & Nash songs – the chorus refrain is “It appears to be a long time before the dawn” – and it was a song the band loved performing live. There is a fine version on 4 Way Street, the band’s second album as Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, which was live recorded in New York and Los Angeles in June 1970.

5: Just A Song Before I Go (from ‘CSN’, 1977)

Just a Song Before I Go is one of the sweetest songs about what it is like for travelling musicians to leave loved ones behind when they go on the road again. It was written in Hawaii by Graham Nash when he was challenged to see if he could write a hit song at speed. It took about 20 minutes and was recorded with the celebrated Russ Kunkel on drums. The hypnotic two-minute song was released as a single and reached No.7 on the Billboard Hot 100 in August 1977.

4: Suite: Judy Blue Eyes (from ‘Crosby, Stills & Nash’, 1969)

Crosby, Stills & Nash raised the bar in terms of soulful, heartfelt harmony – and the richness of their singing brings out the full power of one of rock music’s best breakup songs, Suite: Judy Blue Eyes, which was written by Stills following the collapse of his romance with Collins. The original version lasts more than seven minutes. “I never worried that Suite: Judy Blue Eyes was too long. I’d been to school and had played lots of overtures and things like that. I grew up on Rhapsody In Blue and things like that. So this was just doing the same thing with words,” said Stills.

3: Déjà Vu (from ‘Déjà Vu’, 1970)

Déjà Vu came at a traumatic time in former Byrds co-founder Crosby’s life, soon after his girlfriend, Christine Hinton, was killed in a car crash while taking their cats to the vet. Crosby had to identify her body, and the event was part of the reason his drug addictions increased in the early 70s. Déjà Vu, another of the best Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young songs, is full of ambiguous lyrics, including the lines, “Do you know? Don’t you wonder/What’s going on down under you?” The track was painstakingly produced by the four bandmates. “The track Déjà Vu must have meant 100 takes in the studio,” said Stills. The album also includes the excellent Crosby-penned counterculture anthem Almost Cut My Hair.

2: Helpless (from ‘Déjà Vu’, 1970)

It was obvious from the start that Neil Young was a major songwriting talent. His moving song Helpless, which was originally cut with Young’s band Crazy Horse in early 1969, was re-recorded by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young for Déjà Vu. Young’s own solo career was about to take off at the time, and he cut a particularly memorable version of the song on his classic concert album Live At Massey Hall 1971. The song, which is in part about growing up in Ontario, has been covered by numerous top musicians, including kd lang, Patti Smith and Elton John.

1: Ohio (single A-side, 1970)

Crosby inadvertently inspired one of the best protest songs of all time when he handed Young a copy of Life magazine containing photographs of the brutal killing of four anti-Vietnam War student protestors by the Ohio National Guard at Kent State University on 4 May 1970. Young picked up a guitar and wrote Ohio in just 15 minutes. Crosby and Young flew to Los Angeles the following day to join Nash and Stills, and they recorded the song in a few takes. After the single’s release, it was banned from some radio stations, including in the state of Ohio, because of its inherent criticism of President Nixon’s administration. Topping our list of the best Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young songs, Ohio soon became a word-of-mouth hit, and a song recorded again and again by the band.

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