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Music

Why didn't CSNY have any number one songs

@TylerGolsen

As the 1970s officially kicked off, you would have been hard-pressed to find any band with a bigger public profile than Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. Made up of four of the most popular singer-songwriters in the world, CSNY were the dictionary definition of a supergroup. That included fertile creative highs, but also the lows that came with egos, drug addiction, and artistic differences. But when they were at their peak, CSNY were dominating every area of music, both critically and commercially.

During their initial contemporary run, CSN (and later Y) only actually existed for two years: long enough to form in 1968, put out two records with 1969’s Crosby, Stills, and Nash and 1970’s Déjà Vu, play the Woodstock Festival, and promptly break up after just two brief US tours. Neil Young hardly got a chance to contribute, providing guitar for only roughly half of the songs on Déjà Vu along with writing the non-album single ‘Ohio’.

A strange sticking point for the original run of CSNY was that, despite being one of the biggest groups on the planet, they never actually had any top ten hits. The late 1960s and early 1970s saw a major schism between rock and pop music, with rock artists largely finding commercial success thanks to blockbuster albums rather than chart-topping singles. But this was also the era that saw Young land a number one song with ‘Heart of Gold’. It wasn’t the biggest focus, but it also wasn’t impossible for rock musicians to land chart hits.

Even though they had a true Englishman in their ranks with Graham Nash, CSNY only had one charting single on the UK Charts. Appropriately enough, it was a Nash song: ‘Marakesh Express’, the original trio’s first single. Topping out at number 17 in the UK and number 28 in the US, it was a strong start for a brand-new band. The trio would build on that success (at least in America) with their next single, ‘Suite: Judy Blue Eyes’, which peaked at number 21.

With Young officially on board, the singles from Déjà Vu saw a leap in popularity. A cover of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Woodstock’ would be the biggest hit of the band’s original run, topping out just outside of the top ten at number 11. Nash’s ‘Teach Your Children’ was a strong commercial single that landed at number 16, while Young’s non-album single ‘Ohio’ climbed to number 14 in 1970. The final single from CSNY’s original run was Nash’s ode to domestic bliss, ‘Our House’, which only reached number 30.

Even though it had been less than a decade since they were one of America’s foremost young musicians, the regrouped CSN were already in legacy mode when they put out their third studio album, CSN, in 1977. That LP contained what would be the band’s highest-charting single of their entire career, Nash’s ‘Just a Song Before I Go’, which peaked at number seven on the Billboard Hot 100.

CSN’s second run would be their biggest for chart success. Another top ten single would come from 1982’s Daylight Again in the form of Nash’s ‘Wasted on the Way’, which landed at number nine. The album’s other major single, ‘Southern Cross’, topped out at number 18, but that would turn out to be CSN(and Y)’s final top 40 single of their career.

All told, CSNY never managed to land a number one hit in either America or Britain. ‘Southern Cross’ managed to hit number one on Canada’s Adult Contemporary chart, while the 1989 single ‘Got It Made’ hit number one on what is now the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart. But in terms of pop charts, no CSNY song ever managed to top out at number one.

In fact, Young is the only member of the band with a number one song to his name with the aforementioned ‘Heart of Gold’. Crosby had two number one hits with The Byrds thanks to their covers of Bob Dylan’s ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ and Pete Seeger’s ‘Turn! Turn! Turn!’, but he was solely responsible for neither of them. Nash’s The Hollies scored a UK number one with ‘I’m Alive’, but they would top out in the US only after Nash’s departure thanks to the lurching swamp rock track ‘Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress’ hitting number two in 1972. Stills and Young’s previous band, Buffalo Springfield, topped out at number seven with ‘For What It’s Worth’ back in 1967.

The highest-charting single from each of the members’ solo careers is ‘Heart of Gold’ for Young, ‘Love the One You’re With’ for Stills (number 14 in the US in 1970), ‘Hero’ for Crosby (number 44 in the US in 1993), and ‘Chicago’ for Graham Nash (number 35 in the US in 1971). Now that it appears as though CSNY are done for good, it doesn’t appear as though another number one single is on the horizon, but a clever use in media could still cause a massive surge in streaming success… should the group ever return their music to Spotify.