Personalities | Stephen Stills | Crosby, Star & Nash | Guitar Heroes

Stephen Stills (b. 1945) turned acoustic guitar into a fiery blues instrument as a solo artist and performer.

That alone might have made him a rock icon, but of course Stills was also busy producing, composing and singing with the most popular rock vocal group of all time, creating hit singles on his own, teaming up with individual members of his band and forming new groups for successful albums, and enjoying a 40-year career in the rock spotlight.

An oft-travelled military child, Stills gravitated to California in 1965 after stints with New York-based groups The Au Go Go Singers, which included a young singer named Richie Furay, and The Company, a folk-rock group that toured Canada, where Stills met Squires guitarist Neil Young. In California, Stills recruited the relocated Furay and Young to form Buffalo Springfield and make his first international splash as the composer, singer and guitarist of the socially conscious ‘For What It’s Worth’ (1967). But the Springfield dissolved after two years.

A jam session at the home of Joni Mitchell united Stills and former Byrd David Crosby with Hollies singer Graham Nash. As Crosby, Stills & Nash, the trio made a landmark appearance at Woodstock in 1969, and their eponymous debut album from the same year, featuring ‘Marakesh Express’ and ‘Suite: Judy Blue Eyes’, became an international smash. The band added Neil Young for the second album Déjà Vu (1970), and have continued to perform together in various combinations into the twenty-first century.

Along the way, Stills branched off with projects such as Manassas, a collaboration with another former Byrd, Chris Hillman. The Manassas albums allowed Stills to show his songwriting mastery in hard rock and Latin genres as well as acoustic and country rock. Stills’ first two solo albums spawned the hits ‘Love The One You’re With’ and ‘Change Partners’ (both 1970). As a guitarist, Stills was famous for wild experimentation, and CSNY’s sound is identifiable for the rich acoustic guitars utilizing D5 (D-A-D-D-A-D) and Drop D tunings, as well as the iconic ‘Suite: Judy Blue Eyes’ with its E-E-E-E-B-E tuning. Stills’ solos on songs like the CSNY hit ‘Woodstock’ (1970) and the bluesy solo turn ‘Black Queen’ (1970) show the fire in the playing of this soft-rock superstar. Stills continues to tour and record sporadically as a solo artist, to mixed reviews. His new blues band, The Rides, released an album, Can’t Get Enough, in 2013.

Essential Recordings

Crosby, Stills & Nash: Crosby, Stills & Nash

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young: Déja Vu

Solo: Stephen Stills

Manassas: Manassas

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