Crosby, Stills & Nash's 15 greatest songs, ranked

10 July 2024, 17:17

Folk-rock supergroup Crosby, Stills & Nash in 1969.
Folk-rock supergroup Crosby, Stills & Nash in 1969. Picture: Getty

By Thomas Curtis-Horsfall

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They're the supergroup synonymous with the late sixties and early seventies.

Crosby, Stills and Nash provided the countercultural movement with a timeless soundtrack, blending gorgeous harmonies with songs about revolution.

In an age of idealism and shifting opinions of people's place in society, the trio's music remains a signifier of the era.

They also became one of the first notable musical supergroups - David Crosby was formerly of The Byrds, Stephen Stills was of Buffalo Springfield, and Graham Nash of The Hollies.

Of course, it'd be remiss not to mention the major influence of Neil Young on the group - cannily changing the band name to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - who dipped in and out of the formation despite contributing some of their greatest songs, understandably given the calibre of his songwriting.

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young in 1970. (Photo by Tom Copi/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young in 1970. (Photo by Tom Copi/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images). Picture: Getty
Crosby, Stills, & Nash continued performing together until 2015 - occasionally with Neil Young - despite not releasing an album since 1999's Looking Forward. (Ron Pownall/Getty Images)
Crosby, Stills, & Nash continued performing together until 2015 - occasionally with Neil Young - despite not releasing an album since 1999's Looking Forward. (Ron Pownall/Getty Images). Picture: Getty

Their music very much bridged the gap between the tail of the end of the optimistic '60s and the disillusionment of the subsequent seventies, influencing countless artists along the way.

Seamlessly straddling rock, folk, and country, the group became figureheads of the countercultural generation, alongside their Laurel Canyon associate in Joni Mitchell.

All three members of the group were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame both as Crosby, Stills & Nash, and for their individual former bands.

Sadly there will never be a full reunion on the horizon due to David Crosby's death in 2023, but their influence will no doubt endure.

That said, we've ranked the fifteen greatest Crosby, Stills & Nash songs. Read on to see which tops the list:

  1. 'Wooden Ships'

    Wooden Ships (2005 Remaster)

    David Crosby was often a cantankerous chap, who fought frequently with his bandmates, despite saying his best quality was "my ability to work with other people" in 2022.

    He had a point on 'Wooden Ships' from CSN's first album together however, an apocalyptic anti-war anthem that "imagined ourselves as the few survivors, escaping on a boat to create a new civilisation."

    Sharing lead vocals with Stephen Stills, the song is one of Crosby's most creatively harmonious efforts, despite its dystopian imagery at a time when fear of a nuclear fallout was rife.

  2. 'Southern Cross'

    Crosby, Stills & Nash - Southern Cross (Official Music Video HD)

    With the countercultural movement well done and dusted by the time the eighties came around, Crosby, Stills & Nash still had plenty of creativity left in the tank.

    For the 1982 single 'Southern Cross' - which featured on the album Daylight Again - Stephen Stills sought inspiration from the fabled constellation of stars and The Curtis Brothers who he cited as co-writers.

    After his painful divorce, Stills explained the soft rock song was "about using the power of the universe to heal your wounds".

  3. 'Just A Song Before I Go'

    Crosby, Stills & Nash - Just A Song Before I Go

    For the AM Radio-ready pop-leaning 'Just A Song Before I Go', Graham Nash's source of inspiration was forced out of a bet with his drug dealer at the time.

    Crosby later explained: "Graham was at home in Hawaii, about to go off on tour. The guy who was going to take him to the airport said, 'We've got fifteen minutes, I'll bet you can't write a song in that amount of time.' Well, you don't smart off to Nash like that, he'll do it. This is the result."

    The first single released from their 1977 reunion album, CSN, 'Just A Song Before I Go' is one of only two songs to break the top ten of the US charts for any iteration of the supergroup.

  4. 'Turn Your Back On Love'

    Turn Your Back on Love (2005 Remaster)

    The world had changed considerably in the five years since Crosby, Stills & Nash's previous album before 1982's Daylight Again, and the trio proved they weren't left behind with 'Turn Your Back On Love'.

    Opening the album, the track showcases their trademark lush harmonies as well as an upgraded groove, the production is the slickest they've ever sounded.

    Despite David Crosby's contributions to the album diminishing due to his rampant drug abuse, the group indicated that they were as 'super' together as they'd ever been.

  5. 'Teach Your Children'

    Crosby, Stills & Nash - Teach Your Children (Live Aid 1985)

    On the surface, 'Teach Your Children' might sound like a saccharine message of promoting peace and love to future generations, with the idea of treating fellow humans with more respect.

    But it's in fact a response to Nash's difficult relationship with his own father, who was frequently in and out of prison throughout his childhood growing up in Salford, Manchester.

    In 1991, Nash explained that the idea of 'Teach Your Children' was to "write something so personal that every single person on the planet can relate to it." Given the way it was chanted back at them during their Live Aid set, he achieved his aim.

  6. 'Helpless'


    Featuring on the 1970 album, Déjà Vu - the first Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young album - 'Helpless' could be a Neil Young solo song, likely why he's carried it closely throughout his career since.

    Harking back to hazy memories of his childhood and adolescence, Young contracted polio, his parents divorced, but he relocated to the serene surrounds of Omemee in Ontario.

    Describing Omemee as "a nice little town. Sleepy little place... Life was real basic and simple in that town. Walk to school, walk back. Everybody knew who you were," likely inspired Young's bittersweet lyrics, typical of his songwriting style.

  7. 'Long Time Gone'

    Long Time Gone (2005 Remaster)

    Like the bulk of Crosby, Stills & Nash's songs, their optimism was often counteracted by the violence of the era, showcased on their country-tinged rock jam 'Long Time Gone'.

    David Crosby explained that he wrote it on "the night Bobby Kennedy was killed", having another pillar of hope eradicated from the US political system.

    "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 - cats who made their deals years ago with the special interests in this country in order to gain power. I thought Bobby, like his brother, was a leader who had not made those deals. I was already angry about Jack Kennedy getting killed and it boiled over into this song when they got his brother, too."

  8. 'Marrakesh Express'

    Marrakesh Express (2005 Remaster)

    'Marrakesh Express' could be single-handedly responsible for Graham Nash departing the Hollies and relocating to California's Laurel Canyon.

    The autobiographical song about Nash's trip to Morocco was rejected by his then-bandmates for not being commercially viable. "After a couple months of that, a man is liable to go insane," Nash said about having his songs batted away, "especially being the only one who was smoking grass at the time."

    As fate would have it, Stephen Stills and David Crosby loved the song, and made it the supergroup's debut single. The rest, as they say, is history.

  9. 'Almost Cut My Hair'

    Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young : Almost Cut My Hair (Live 1974)

    'Almost My Cut My Hair' became David Crosby's signature song in many ways, but it was also swiftly adopted as an anthem for the countercultural generation - or hippies - that didn't conform to society's standards, despite their spirit being broken from time to time.

    Crosby's then-girlfriend Christine Hilton died in a car accident just days before he recorded his vocal part, and his usually delicate coo was replaced with a crackling anger, clearly still grieving.

    On the positive side, 'Almost Cut My Hair' has been encouraging people to let their "freak flag fly" for more than fifty years since it was first released on Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's Déjà Vu.

  10. 'Carry On'

    Carry On

    Opening Déjà Vu, 'Carry On' was also the introduction to Neil Young's stint alongside Crosby, Stills & Nash - and what an introduction.

    Formed of two distinct sections which ostensibly sound like two different songs, they're bridged by the proclamation "Carry on, love is coming, love is coming to us all," which is both a generational plea and a call to arms for themselves given each individual member were struggling with the band's cohesion.

    'Carry On' in fact capped off the album's writing process, tying Déjà Vu together having realised there was a missing piece.

    Stephen Stills recalled in an interview with Mojo magazine: "I went back to my room in this horrifying hotel and the next morning I knocked on Graham's door and said, 'OK, how's this?' And I played him 'Carry On' and he went nuts. So we got everybody together in the studio and recorded it."

  11. 'Helplessly Hoping'

    Helplessly Hoping (2005 Remaster)

    "This song was inspired a long time ago by my 10th grade English teacher in Tampa, Florida," Stephen Stills said of 'Helplessly Hoping'.

    "She was a real knockout, so much so that she got all the football players to stand up and read poetry, trying to impress her with how sensitive we were and how much we loved this awful stuff. Some of it must've rubbed off on me."

    Evidently her style of teaching did, with Stills utilising alliteration throughout the song straight from the first lyric: "Helplessly hoping / Her harlequin hovers nearby".

    Appearing on the supergroup's 1969 debut album, 'Helplessly Hoping' was a precursor to their future lineup, with Neil Young providing additional guitar tracking in the studio.

  12. 'Ohio'

    Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - Ohio - 11/3/1991 - Golden Gate Park (Official)

    One of the all-time great protest anthems, 'Ohio' is also the song Neil Young felt was his greatest contribution to his time with Crosby, Stills & Nash.

    Written for their 1970 album Déjà Vu, Young penned the lyrics as a direct response to the Kent State shootings where four unarmed students were shot dead by the US National Guard after an anti-war protest.

    After reading about the story in Life magazine, "he was silent for a long time, then picked up his guitar and 20 minutes later had this song," David Crosby recalled.

    'Ohio' was then adopted as an anti-war protest song of the era, due to the growing disillusionment around the needless Vietnam War and the genuine outpouring of emotion from that generation's youth and liberals.

  13. 'Woodstock'


    If there was a song that encapsulated Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's imprint on popular music, it'd be 'Woodstock', given they are figureheads of the countercultural happening having performed there.

    Though the song wasn't actually an original - 'Woodstock' was written by Graham Nash's then-partner Joni Mitchell.

    Having been scheduled to perform at Woodstock, Mitchell eventually couldn't make it, writing it from the idealist outside perspective of the festival's importance to that generation of hope and optimism.

    "I was the deprived kid who couldn't go, so I wrote it from the point of view of a kid going," Joni later said. "If I had been there in the back room with all the egomaniacal crap that goes on backstage, I would not have had that perspective."

  14. 'Suite: Judy Blue Eyes'

    Crosby, Stills, & Nash--Suite: Judy Blue Eyes

    Written by Stephen Still's girlfriend at the time, Judy Collins, 'Suite: Judy Blue Eyes' swiftly became one of Crosby, Stills & Nash's most beloved songs.

    "It started out as a long narrative poem about my relationship with Judy Collins. It poured out of me over many months and filled several notebooks," Stills later revealed, who documented the frequent ups and downs of their romance.

    Collins later admitted to Mojo magazine that hearing Stills playing it to her convinced her to stay together with him: "He sang me 'Suite Judy Blue Eyes' and, you know, broken hearts are a very good inspiration - and I just caved in and I suppose I made promises I couldn't keep. We both had personal struggles."

    'Suite: Judy Blue Eyes' (the double of meaning hints at both "sweet" and a classical music suite due to its continual musical changes) established the trio's harmonic expertise which would become their trademark, and has since remained a fan favourite.

  15. 'Our House'

    Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young - Our House (Official Video)

    Given their propensity for revolutionary thinking and rejecting society's norms, 'Our House' indicated that beneath their radical exteriors, the supergroup wanted home comforts just like everyone else.

    Written by Graham Nash, the sentimental folk-rock ballad from 1970 album Déjà Vu paints a portrait of his own domestic bliss, having recently moved into his Laurel Canyon home together with Joni Mitchell.

    The antithesis of the 'rock star lifestyle' that later permeated guitar music in subsequent decades, Nash penned a "portrait of our life together" for his muse in Mitchell, after a gentle afternoon together basking in each other's love and creative success.

    With their typically serene harmonies, and "la la's" replacing a potential guitar solo, 'Our House' peaked at just number thirty in the US charts in 1970, not that chart success was an ambition of the band's.

    Strangely enough, 'Our House' has endured as a snapshot of Laurel Canyon's hippie heyday, and has soundtracked people's happy households ever since, becoming their most streamed song to date.