David Browne has written the ultimate comprehensive guide to the history of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, whose partnership was rarely as harmonious as their legendary and influential vocal blend. These four volatile men would continually break up, reunite, and disband again--all against a backdrop of social and musical change, recurring disagreements and jealousies, and self-destructive tendencies that threatened to cripple them both as a group and as individuals.
Browne takes on the monumental task of summarizing a half-century’s worth of conflict, self-sabotage and, when the musicians managed to get out of their own way, music ... In the latter half of Browne’s book, there’s almost a numb inevitability to the musicians’ fumbling attempts in the ‘80s to contemporize their sound, Crosby’s ever-deeper descent into drug addiction that led to a stint in prison, and Young’s inability to stop dangling the possibility of a full-scale reunion in front of his bandmates, only to flake out nearly every time for inscrutable reasons of his own ... Much like the dream of the Woodstock generation, the tale of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young is awash in senseless vanity, squandered chances and potential left tragically unfulfilled. Yet it’s often hard to look away—just like with any car wreck.
David Browne takes the long and winding road to the present, when David Crosby insulted Neil Young’s girlfriend (now wife) Daryl Hannah in 2014 and gave the kiss of death to any more pension fund-friendly reunion tours. Doggett writes in the more engaging style, Browne takes the superfan’s approach of documenting everything whether interesting or not. Both biographies are likely to bring the reader to the same conclusion: these four men, all now in their seventies, however talented and well intentioned, were a tornado of dysfunction ... Both books, but Browne’s in a more comprehensive fashion, use the saga of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young as a metaphor for the Woodstock generation and their doomed mission to return to the garden.
The author appears to have talked to nearly every living soul with a part to play in the band’s long career, except for Stills and Young, who disagreed on nearly everything about the group but came together in keeping mum ... Though the narrative takes some of the bloom off the Flower Power rose, it also celebrates those fine moments when the band merged to make such epochal songs as Suite: Judy Blue Eyes and Ohio.. Fans of CSN(Y) may find this disenchanting, but Browne delivers an excellent portrait of a troubled partnership.