Biographies & Memoirs


The first stop on the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young tour—Tuesday, May 12, at the Coliseum in Denver, Colorado—began as if nothing was awry on any fronts. Keeping with their particular tradition, the original trio walked onstage first, without Young, tuning up and eventually launching into one of their signature songs, “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.” In concert, the song was both a warm-up and a high-wire act: Would their harmonies be in tune? Would someone forget a lyric? Tonight, the singing was a little sharp and Stills rushed the tempo in the first verses, but they made it through.

Before Young joined them, Stills finally made the reference everyone knew was coming. “If the Army guys show up, just get outta the way,” Stills said, using the same half-serious, half-supercilious tone he’d used to inform the Woodstock masses that the band was “scared shitless.” Nash quickly interjected, “Right!” When the applause died down, Stills added, “Just move out so fast that they wouldn’t even believe that you were ever here.” Neither Stills nor his bandmates specified what they were talking about, but they didn’t have to. Everyone knew what had taken place five states east and a mere eight days before, on the campus of Kent State University.


Twenty-one-year-old senior Jerry Casale was in his drawing course when he heard classes would be cut short. He wasn’t surprised. All weekend, tensions had been building on Kent State’s campus and in the neighborhood nearby. Now, on the late morning of Monday, May 4, rumor was that the Army or National Guard were on their way, and a noontime rally at the Commons seemed an appropriate way for students like him to vent their displeasure.

By his own admission, Casale was an “art hippie” who’d grown up in Kent and was now double-majoring in contemporary English literature and art. When he’d started as a freshman in the fall of 1966, his hair was short, his wardrobe leaning toward herringbone jackets and ties. By now, his hair fell past his earlobes, reflecting his admiration for Brian Jones, and he took his fashion tips from Dylan photographs. Like many of his fellow undergrads at Kent State, Casale was a radical in theory more than in practice. The images of Vietnam on TV every night freaked him out, but he didn’t know what to do about any of it. After hearing Mark Rudd of the Students for a Democratic Society speak on campus, Casale had joined SDS in the winter of 1967. He was starting to question the war and the American culture that promoted it, but his main contribution was making fliers and posters for SDS meetings, then listening to students debate at each one.

On April 30, everyone, including the kids at Kent State, learned about a surprise American bombing campaign. “U.S. Aids Saigon Push in Cambodia with Planes, Artillery and Advisers,” blared a jarring New York Times headline. Unexpectedly, America was invading yet another country, supposedly to help thwart the North Vietnamese troops who’d taken refuge in Cambodia. As the University of California at Santa Barbara had shown months before, campuses were already exposed nerves, but the all-new military offensive pinched those nerves doubly hard. Schools shut down, and heads of colleges warned the Nixon administration to expect a wave of protests by at least some portion of the millions enrolled in American colleges.

Kent State remained open but hardly calm. On Friday, May 1, a rally protesting the Cambodian invasion took place, and at night, the Water Street bar area became home to a handful of bonfires, hurled bottles, and police tear gas, all thanks to a motley gathering of students, bikers, and rowdy jocks. From his apartment on Water Street, Casale witnessed some of the disruptions on Friday night and heard about soldiers on campus. The next day, as news broke that the United States’ bombings of North Vietnam were also increasing, an ROTC building on campus—the most obvious symbol of the Army’s Kent presence—was set afire. The National Guard arrived soon after, and a second student rally was scheduled for Monday.

When Casale arrived for class on Monday, the sun-drenched conditions announced spring had finally arrived after a prolonged winter. Casale heard the ring of a bell—the rally had begun—and headed toward it. A loudspeaker or bullhorn barked out some sort of command, but the crackly words were impossible to understand. By then, almost three thousand had congregated in the Commons.

In the crowd, Casale saw a familiar face: Jeffrey Miller, a new transfer from Michigan State University. As part of his work-study scholarship, Casale had been awarded a summer campus job, helping out incoming students with paperwork and class signups. There, Casale had met Miller along with Allison Krause, a friendly, dark-haired nineteen-year-old freshman from Maryland.

For Casale and others around him, the next twenty-five minutes were a blur one moment, a slow-motion nightmare the next. First came the soldiers and the Jeeps, then the tear gas and the sight of bayonets on rifles. Then yelling, followed by tear-gas canisters being lobbed back at soldiers by a few students. Then the Guard, who, after pushing forward, appeared to head back toward the Commons. Then the seventy gas-masked soldiers in the G Troop of the 107th Calvary stopping, turning around, squatting, and pointing their bayoneted rifles.

At that point, Casale began running up the hill and to the right of Prentice Hall, on the apex of a hill; since the Guard had sealed off the front of the campus, it seemed the only way out. Then he and everyone around him headed back down the hill toward the student parking lot. At one point, Casale looked back in the direction of the Guard, now on a ridge. From where he stood near the parking lot, the formation was a frightening sight—and doubly so when it looked to be preparing to lock and load. He couldn’t imagine the guns were loaded; he assumed, if anything, they’d use their bayonets.

As Casale began running toward the parking lot, a rapid succession of what seemed like firecracker pops rang out: One after another, then multiples.

At that point, the screaming began. The bullets had flown over the heads of Casale and those in his vicinity, but they’d clearly landed somewhere. He turned to his left and, about forty feet away, saw a body slumped on the ground. At first, he didn’t know who it was, but then he looked around and recognized someone—Miller, whom Casale identified from the clothing he had on at the rally. Shot in the mouth, he lay on his stomach, blood pouring out on the roadway. Soon enough, Casale realized the other body was Allison Krause.

None of it made it any sense or could be processed; mostly Casale felt as if he were going to throw up. Professors trying to mediate between students and soldiers told everyone to sit down, so Casale slumped down on the grass on the hill. Around him, people wept; others were practically shell-shocked. Eventually, the students were shepherded off campus through a corridor of soldiers. Walking home to Water Street, Casale and the other students were taunted by frat boys on the front porches of their fraternity houses. Once home, he turned on the TV and radio to find out what had happened; to his shock, initial reports claimed the students had attacked soldiers. Casale learned that two other students, William Schroeder and Sandra Scheuer, were also dead.

The school was shut down, Casale’s graduation ceremony postponed.

Even when it was rescheduled, Casale wasn’t allowed to attend because of his connection to SDS, and a plan to transfer to the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor fell through when his scholarship was revoked for similar reasons. With the help of a sympathetic professor, he landed a job back on the Kent State campus that fall, where he met another fellow student, Mark Mothersbaugh. Both agreed that nothing—from the hippie culture to the government—seemed to be working anymore. Society was no longer evolving; it was, they thought, devolving into chaos and numskulledness.

Since Casale didn’t have the guts to join the Weathermen, the best retort he could conceive was music. He’d never been a fan of softer bands like Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, what he called “taffy” music. But with Mothersbaugh’s brother Bob, he and Mothersbaugh eventually began pounding out rudimentary blues—“devolved” music for a devolving country and era. Different times called for a different, more discordant soundtrack. Eventually, they called themselves Devo.


At their concerts, Crosby and Nash always addressed the crowds more than Stills and Young combined. Without any prompting, they’d explain what mood they were in or why they were choosing to sing a particular song; maybe they’d crack a barbed joke at the expense of the Byrds or the Hollies (neither of whom were faring as well without Crosby and Nash) or make a reference only one or the other would understand. They were determined to engage, a tradition Nash continued in Denver. “If you knew what happened to us in the last two days,” he told the audience, “you wouldn’t believe it.”

The mishaps and bad omens actually dated back at least a month. With the CSNY tour looming, Stills had flown back into Los Angeles from London on April 14. After running his own show for nearly two months, he wasn’t eager to return to California and the people who’d made him a star, but obligations were obligations. Driving back to Laurel Canyon from the airport, Stills glanced in his rearview mirror and saw a squad car. The moment was unintentionally comical, as if he was parroting the words to Crosby’s “Almost Cut My Hair (“It increases my paranoia, like looking in my mirror and seeing a po-lice car” indeed). Whether out of paranoia or carelessness, Stills skidded into a parked car. When the patrolman approached his vehicle, Stills was holding his left hand in pain; somehow, his hand had slipped off the wheel and bashed into something inside the car. Stills wound up with a ticket and a fractured left hand, right beneath his fingers.

To everyone’s aggravation, the CSNY tour was postponed for a month to allow Stills several weeks to heal. Embarrassed to tell his friends how he’d hurt himself, Stills called photographer and friend Henry Diltz two days later: “Hey, man, you wanna go to Hawaii with me?” By the next day, both were in a beach house on the North Shore, owned by a friend of Diltz’s. There, they drank, played pool at the local pool hall, and gossiped about Crosby, Nash, and Young. Stills, who could only move two fingers on his hand thanks to his cast, periodically checked in with management from a pay phone at the pool hall. Girls came in and out of the house on the beach. (Coincidentally, Diltz was reading Groupie, a trashy cult novel called “a sex-rock odyssey.”) “My fingers hurt so bad, it’s got me grinnin,’” Stills wrote in a new song, “Singin’ Call,” whose chorus, tellingly, went, “Help me now, I got to slow down.”

But there wasn’t much time for slowing down, and no one was particularly interested in doing it anyway. On April 29, his injury healed, Stills returned to Los Angeles. The new starting date for the tour was May 12, in Denver, which left precious little time to rehearse thoroughly, something Stills always goaded the others into doing. If that weren’t trying enough, other, more personal complications arose. Just a few weeks before, Nash had been in he and Mitchell’s shared home on Lookout Mountain Avenue when a telegram arrived from Mitchell, then vacationing in Greece: “If you hold sand too tightly, it will run through your fingers,” it read. The relationship, which had been teetering on collapse for months, was over. Although it wasn’t a complete surprise—Nash had felt distance between them when Mitchell had visited him and Crosby during the boat trip the month before—the delivery was still devastating. In an unnerving coincidence, Déjà vu, complete with Nash’s ode to their life together, “Our House,” had just been released.

The calamities—creative, emotional, and physical—kept coming. No sooner had he repaired his hand than Stills had a skiing accident, tearing a knee ligament. Greg Reeves’ mental state also had to be dealt with. When he’d first hooked up with the band barely a year before, Reeves was shy and unassuming, as well as a fluid, sublime bass player. But something had gone awry. When he appeared at Young’s home studio in Topanga for the After the Gold Rush sessions, he was, well, a different shade. “Greg would show up with a yellow-painted face, like pigmented or something,” guitarist and keyboardist Nils Lofgren, also playing on the album, recalled. “David Briggs [Young’s coproducer] would say, ‘Yeah, Greg’s an Indian.’ As far as I could tell, he had African-American blood in him.” When CSNY would arrive at airports, Reeves would act anxious around security and mutter, “Don’t search my bags—I’ve got my medicine in there.” As his bosses stood around waiting impatiently, airport officials would search Reeves’ bags and find beads, bits of fur, and rabbit entrails—Reeves, it turned out, truly did think he was a witch doctor. When he began lobbying to sing his own songs during CSNY sets, his tenure in the band finally ended. “We said, ‘We’re sorry, but this is insane,’” Nash recalled. “‘Just keep it all to your fucking self—just play bass.’” Reeves was promptly fired. “Things just started happening,” Dallas Taylor recalled. “It was like someone was putting a jinx on us, one thing after another.”

With only two days before the first show, Stills suggested a replacement. While recording at Island Studios in London, he’d met Calvin Samuels, a Caribbean-born bass player nicknamed “Fuzzy” for the way he played his instrument through a fuzz box. Homeless at the time—and often sleeping on a couch at the studio—the easygoing, gap-toothed Samuels had played in ska and reggae bands like the Equals. When he heard one of his friends was jamming with Stills, Samuels came down to watch, saw no one was playing bass, and sat in. “I heard Stephen kicked out a lot of people,” Samuels recalled. “Obviously he heard something he liked. I didn’t get thrown out of the room.”

Ron Stone of Lookout Management, along with Stills’ friend and assistant Dan Campbell, were dispatched to London to hunt down Samuels and fly him back to L.A. to replace Reeves. Given that Samuels often slept on the streets, it wasn’t easy finding “a bass player named Fuzzy,” as Stills described him, but somehow they did. According to Stone, a visa for Samuels was obtained at the last minute, although Samuels claimed he was turned down for a visa and had to sneak aboard a States-bound plane by confusing the attendants. Either way, he arrived in Los Angeles and was immediately driven to a rehearsal space to meet the band and audition, all in the same day. A bemused Young introduced himself, saying he wanted to meet the crazy character who’d flown all the way from London for a chance to play with them.

With his black bowler hat, black suit, and roller-skating shoes stripped of wheels, Samuels more than fit the wacky-character mold. He’d barely made the acquaintance of the others (or learned their repertoire) when, two days later, he was hustled aboard a plane for Denver with the rest of the band. It was madness, but by then, madness was becoming CSNY’s normal.


“We’re real loose,” Young told the crowd after he came onstage in Denver and joined the trio. “This is the way it is in our living room.” Nash chimed in on the same subject, with far more bluntness, but in his lilting British accent: “We decided we weren’t going to rehearse too much.”

At times it showed. The trio seemed shaky and under-rehearsed on the second song, “Teach Your Children,” during which Stills flubbed a guitar solo and Crosby joked, “I swallowed my gum.” At one point, Crosby introduced Stills’ solo spot in the set while his bandmate was still in his dressing room, not emerging for a mysterious five minutes.

None of it mattered to the ten thousand who’d gathered in the arena and shouted “Right on, right on!” at the start and finish of every song. “Well, it sure is groovy that all you folks could come out tonight,” Young aw-shucked, eliciting a loud “Outta sight!” from the audience. With Stills at the piano, they did a lovely version of “Helpless,” and the Crosby and Nash harmonies snugly wrapped around Young’s “Tell Me Why,” another new, unreleased song. Crosby hushed the crowd with a quietly intense version of “Everybody’s Been Burned,” a song from the Byrds days, and Stills, alone at the piano, debuted “We Are Not Helpless,” inspired by Fail Safe, the nuclear-war novel, and casually told the crowd he was recording his own album.

After a break, they returned for the electric set. With Stills on crutches and Samuels still stunned at the sight of more people than he’d ever beheld in an audience, the performance was bound to be peculiar. As usual, Crosby yapped the most, asking about a group of war protesters the band had passed on the way to the venue and mischievously playing the opening twelve-string riff to “Mr. Tambourine Man” to kill time while the band laboriously tuned up. Nash introduced the first performance of “Chicago,” a song written a mere two weeks before, after CSNY had been invited to play at a benefit for the Chicago Seven. When Stills and Young declined, Nash wrote an impassioned plea for them to “please come to Chicago just to sing.” Nash hadn’t yet told Young and Stills that his lyrics were directed pointedly at them.

Matters quickly deteriorated onstage. Their lack of rehearsal time and Samuels’ unfamiliarity with the songs were apparent in slack versions of “Pre-Road Downs” from Crosby, Stills & Nash, “Carry On,” and a new Young song cut without them for After the Gold Rush, “Southern Man.” (“A song is a song,” Samuels recalled. “I bluffed it. I fumbled my way through. You do what you have to do.”) Crosby and Young complained openly about the sound system during the acoustic set, when loud popping disrupted the music, and the P.A. only grew worse with amplification.

Although the audience didn’t pick up on it, the group began acting out its internal psychodrama onstage. Using his crutches, Stills pretended to conduct the band like an orchestra and in general hammed it up, much to the increasing annoyance of his bandmates. “He was milking it for all it was worth,” said Nash. “He was being a jerk.” Of the four of them, it was Stills who snagged the lion’s share of songs during the electric set—four out of nine—due, he said, to Samuels being more familiar with Stills’ tunes.

Stills’ stage moves were partly an extension of his take-charge manner and military-academy year. (“He approached life in a military, organized way,” recalled Diltz, who went to see the movie Patton with Stills during their trip to Hawaii.) But Stills, who’d seen his domination of the group diminish during the Déjà vu sessions, was now struggling to regain control of the band in any way he could. Young wasn’t happy Reeves had been sacked and replaced with one of Stills’ cohorts; it meant Young, who liked to be in charge himself, was put in a position of playing with Stills’ choice of rhythm section, not his own. As the electric set carried on, Young—who only contributed one song, “Southern Man”—quietly stewed. Finally, he had had enough. As Stills sat down at the organ to begin “Long Time Gone,” Young unplugged his guitar—which had been having hookup problems anyway—threw it down, and stalked off.

“Where’s Neil?” Crosby asked openly. “He . . . ran?” Crosby sounded genuinely surprised, as if Young’s unpredictability hadn’t fully dawned on him. Nash told the crowd they were dealing with badly functioning guitars and that a fix was on the way.

But Young didn’t return. The trio, with Samuels and Taylor gamely backing them, made it through the song. When it ended, Nash said a quick, “Thank you—good night,” and the show abruptly ended.

Immediately after, Taylor received a call to come up to Young’s hotel room. Crosby and Nash, already there, told Taylor in the bluntest terms they’d had enough of Stills. He was too crazy and domineering, and they’d decided to return to Los Angeles and scrap the tour, or maybe fire him and tour without him. Was Taylor with them or with Stills?

Taylor was stunned: He thought the show had been patchy but not terrible, and he’d been surprised when Young stormed off. Since Taylor considered Stills his friend, he told them he was staying with Stills. As they threatened, Crosby, Nash, and Young flew back to Los Angeles the next day, while Stills, unaware of their action, went onward to the next date, in Chicago, only hearing the show was canceled when he arrived at the venue for a soundcheck. “Crosby was furious at me, and Neil was disgusted,” Stills recalled. “They wanted to fire me because I probably barely knew the songs.” After fully realizing what had happened, Stills, with Taylor and Samuels, also returned to California. On the way, Taylor told him to screw the others; they’d form a group of their own. One show into their tour, CSNY had evaporated.


Three days later, on May 15, the four of them reunited, not onstage but at the Lookout Management office on La Cienega Boulevard. Roberts and Geffen laid it on the line. The tour was a big, potentially profitable one. The band was receiving an unusually high $25,000 per show. If the tour was canceled, promoters wouldn’t be happy; in fact, they’d probably sue.

Atlantic had already begun preparing a press release that denied the group was disbanding. Word of the canceled Chicago show was jeopardizing ticket sales for concerts already announced; hearing the band was falling apart, fans were wary of forking over cash for shows that might not take place. The cancellations, the statement said with a degree of truth, were attributed to “knee and wrist injuries sustained by Stills and recurrence of throat problems by Graham Nash.” The press release also disclosed for the first time publicly that Reeves was gone.

The meeting was a sobering experience, with grievances aired all around. “We never ran anything by our managers,” Nash said. “They had to clean up the mess. But we had to face the consequences. It was a lot of money. We had to make sure the promoters weren’t hurt. And the threat of lawsuits probably woke us up a little.” Whether the group would actually be sued or whether the threat was a savvy management tactic to get them back together, the end result was that the four agreed to regroup and resume their tour.

Not every conflict had been resolved. That morning, Dallas Taylor had received a call from his friend and producer Paul Rothchild, who’d worked on Doors and early Crosby, Stills & Nash sessions. Rothschild asked Taylor if he was okay. Taylor didn’t know what he meant. Hadn’t Taylor heard or read he’d been sacked? Taylor jumped in his Ferrari and drove over to the Lookout office just as the combination group therapy session and tongue-lashing was winding down. None of them looked at him, and he knew right then it was over: Young had issued an ultimatum that Taylor, whose drumming he’d never been especially fond of, had to be replaced.

Although Taylor had never caused the band the type of consternation Reeves had, Nash felt Taylor had deluded himself into thinking he was a more integral part of the band than he was. “Because Dallas had been Stephen’s hang buddy during the first record, Dallas began to think it should have been CSNYT,” Nash recalled. “He wanted more presence and more money. It took us a little bit of explaining that he was never going to be one of us. He was a great drummer, but in CSNY there was nobody else as far as I was concerned.” Taylor admitted there was disagreement over whether he should be paid as a sideman or full-time band member or whether he’d receive points on Déjà vu, which would represent a substantial windfall.

Onstage at Denver, Crosby had introduced Taylor, as he often did, as “our permanent drummer.” But the meeting exposed the wobbliness of those words. Taylor and Stills had bonded from the earliest days of the band, but business had cleft them apart. “I never dreamed Stephen would throw me under the bus,” Taylor said. “I showed my loyalty to him, but that pissed off Neil. He didn’t want that camaraderie against him. I thought Stephen was my advocate. But everybody folded at that time.” When Atlantic finally issued its press release, the statement now read that both Reeves and Taylor were out of the band; no replacements were mentioned. The tour would resume at the Boston Garden on May 29, roughly two weeks later.

In case anyone needed a reminder of their responsibilities, Déjà vu became the number 1 album in the country the day after the meeting, displacing Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water. The album was released to reviews both glowing (“there’s no group in the country making better music than this,” raved the Chicago Tribune, while the Los Angeles Times’ Robert Hilburn dubbed it “easily the best rock album of the new year”) and skeptical (“a lightweight collection of medium-pretty tunes, adequately performed by talented people,” said the Washington Post, and Rolling Stone dubbed it “too sweet, too soothing, too perfect and too good to be true”). Nonetheless, Déjà vu began sailing out of stores, particularly in colleges: At the stores at the University of Boulder and the Madison branch of the University of Wisconsin, it leapfrogged over Abbey Road and Bridge Over Troubled Water to become their top seller. The fact that the names “Dallas Taylor & Greg Reeves” were embossed in gold on the cover was now a haunting memento of what had been.


Inconceivably, it was happening again, a mere ten days after Kent State.

In the immediate aftermath of the shootings, campuses either shut down or exploded. Students occupied buildings: one hundred at the University of Connecticut, protesting a no-amnesty policy toward any demonstrators, and another large group at Loyola in New Orleans. Twenty students at Eastern Michigan University were tossed in jail after pelting police. A bronze statue on the Columbia University campus in upper Manhattan wound up with a gaping hole when a makeshift bomb went off. In an unintentionally comic sidebar to events of the moment, even the music business was rattled. “Youth Unrest Cuts Disk Sales,” reported Billboard, with one store owner grousing that students were so busy giving money to “defense funds” that they didn’t have money left to buy LPs. At least, some said with relief, students weren’t trashing record stores.

Like many campuses around the country, Jackson State College—a primarily African American school in the southwest section of Jackson, Mississippi—was a jumble of panic, fear, and indignation after the massacre in Ohio. On Wednesday, May 13, students took over a construction site, setting a dump truck on fire. A fire truck dispatched to the scene was hit with rocks and bottles, resulting in the inevitable aftermath—police and National Guard called in to restore order on and around the campus.

What happened next depended on who told the story. According to police, a sniper on the fourth floor of Alexander Hall, the women’s dormitory, began firing at them. The students in and around the hall denied any such thing—if anything, they said, police had mistaken the sound of smashed bottles for gunfire. Whatever the cause—and no sniper was ever found—police opened fire at the building shortly after midnight on Friday, May 15.

Again, reports varied: Seven seconds of shots? Twenty-five? Nine students wounded? Eleven? Fifteen? Yet no one could argue with the number of bullet holes counted in the dorm—250—or the smell of fresh blood on the first floor, or with the grimmest results of all: two black students dead from gunshots. Philip Lafayette Gibbs, a junior studying pre-law and father of a baby about to turn eleven months, was the first casualty. James Earl Green wasn’t even a student at Jackson State: A seventeen-year-old senior at the local high school, he was on his way home from a part-time job at the Rag-a-Bag grocery store, where he worked to help his widowed mother support her four children. Like those at Kent Sate, they were victims not of politics but of timing. Gibbs’ membership in the Committee of Social Concern at a nearby Methodist Church was the closest either man came to activism.

The next day, Nixon kept a low profile, only issuing a bland statement: “In the shadow of these troubled days, this tragedy makes it urgent that every American personally undertake greater efforts toward understanding, restraint, and compassion.” Not surprisingly, the comment did little to help people understand deaths that made even less sense than those at Kent State. “I think it was just a massacre,” one student told a reporter. “I think it was preplanned. They came up there with the idea of killing.” A token get-together at the White House with Nixon, his staff, and six Kent State students had done little to change those perceptions.

On May 26, Vice President Spiro Agnew, never known for subtlety, nuance, or love of hippies, sent a memo to John Ehrlichman, Nixon’s domestic affairs advisor, about the national outbreak of antiwar protests. “We have had enough maudlin sympathy for lawbreakers emanating from other areas of government,” he wrote. “ . . . In my judgment, nothing makes the average American any angrier than to see the pained, selfrighteous expressions of a[n Edwin] Muskie or a [Charles] Percy as they attach like leeches to the nearest Negro funeral procession...The polls show that the people are with [Nixon] and not with the whiners in the Senate and in the liberal community.” Although he’d sounded a conciliatory note in his post-Jackson State comment, Nixon took a different stance in his office, away from prying eyes. After reading the memo, he jotted “E—I agree.” It was time for law and order, and even though his popularity was waning, he pinned his hopes on his fellow Americans agreeing with him.


The sun was breaking through the clouds and drenching the redwoods when the groceries arrived. Shortly after the band meeting in Los Angeles, Crosby and Young, whose bond was becoming especially unbreakable, left town for Northern California. After stopping at Crosby’s home, they piled into Young’s car, toked up. and took the drive to their road manager Leo Makota’s home in Pescadero, south of San Francisco. Surrounded by trees, the house on that May 19 morning couldn’t have been a more ideal retreat from the craziness of the L.A. scene and CSNY turmoil. Young was also having difficulties with his wife Susan, with whom he was living at their home in Topanga. “The falling-apart stuff always involved Stills,” Crosby said. “Neil and I stayed friends the whole time.”

The new issue of Life magazine, dated May 15, spilled out onto the breakfast table along with the food. “Tragedy at Kent,” announced the cover line, over a photo of students leaning over the body of another. The eleven pages that followed constituted the first, most extensive, and most unnerving look the public received of the shootings: gas-masked Guardsmen aiming to fire, a distraught girl kneeling beside Jeffrey Miller’s lifeless, jacketed body. Young looked away. He turned back and looked again. As Crosby watched, he walked over, grabbed a nearby guitar, and began writing a song. In fifteen minutes, out came an irate chant he simply called “Ohio“; Crosby worked on a harmony part while Young was writing.

Since Crosby and Young were due back in Los Angeles soon to begin rehearsals for the resuscitated tour, Crosby called Nash at home that night. Crosby rarely wavered in his role as the most excitable member the band, but this time he was noticeably charged. “You won’t believe this fucking song Neil’s written,” he told Nash, before ordering him to book time in the studio as soon as possible. The fact that Young had written a topical song—an extremely rare occurrence, especially next to Crosby’s and Stills’ work—was doubly shocking. Business obligations were pulling them inexorably back together, but so were the times.

Luckily for them, a new drummer was already in hand. Another visitor to Makota’s home during Crosby and Young’s trip was Johnny Barbata, the lanky, shaggy-haired twenty-five-year-old former drummer for the Turtles. Makota knew Barbata socially; he was dating the sister of one of Barbata’s friends. Hanging out with Crosby and Young, Barbata heard them discussing Taylor’s firing, and soon enough Makota suggested Barbata step in. Since Barbata was a firm drummer who already knew most of the members of the band, the solution was easy and logical.

On May 20, the day after Young had written “Ohio,” he, Crosby, and Barbata were all back in Los Angeles, with orders to meet at a massive soundstage at the Warner Brothers studio lot to begin rehearsing with the new rhythm section of Barbata and Samuels. They’d be playing on the same stage where They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?—a drama about a Prohibition-era dance rivalry in which contestants hoofed until they dropped, in some cases dead—had been filmed the year before. The band found dark humor in the leftover sign from the production that hung over the stage: “How Long Will They Last?” Tempting fate, they posed for pictures beneath it.

Barbata knew he’d have to win over Stills, who was notoriously fussy about rhythm sections. He also well knew his and Samuels’ roles—lay low and take orders—after hearing about the troubles with Taylor and Reeves. “We already knew up front what our place was,” he said, “and that was fine with me.” As soon as he arrived, Barbata began throwing around a football with Stills, and overall, the drummer sensed a more relaxed vibe. “They seemed excited,” Barbata recalled. “They were insecure about the whole breakup and they wanted to get it right.” For all his bluster, Stills could be easily wounded and sensitive. On the plane from Chicago to Los Angeles after the Denver debacle, he appeared visibly shaken that his band—the one that had finally made him a star after so many years striving for that level of recognition—could be finished.

At the soundstage over the next few days, everyone worked hard to play nice. Diltz stopped by on the afternoon of May 21; as he snapped away, the band traded grins while rehearsing, and Stills and Young huddled together in conversation. Laura Nyro, the alternately earthy and flighty New York singer, songwriter, and pianist (and Geffen client), visited, and she, Crosby, Nash, and Stills gathered around a piano, harmonizing on her song “Eli’s Coming.” The mood was convivial and nonconfrontational; the fact that Elliot Roberts was on the set, keeping a watchful eye on the proceedings, also helped.

That same night, Bill Halverson was at the Record Plant studio, setting up to resume work on Stills’ album, when he received a call. The entire band, not just Stills, would be arriving shortly to record a new song—Young’s “Ohio.” (“Neil needed us back,” Stills cracked.) Although Halverson had been an eyewitness to tension in San Francisco six months before, the four men who strode into the Record Plant and set up in a crammed corner of the studio exuded a more unified front. Stills thought the song needed another verse and had conflicting thoughts about the massacre. “I thought, there has to be more to this,” he recalled. “I’m sure a lot of the guys in that platoon were told they didn’t have live rounds. Some part of me went, ‘Guys just don’t do that—that’s too much like the Germans. We’re more honorable than firing into unarmed civilians.’”


Paul and Linda McCartney contemplate life in semi-exile on their farm outside Campbeltown, Scotland, January 1970. (Evening Standard/Getty Images)


Ringo and Maureen Starr at London’s Heathrow Airport during the promotion for The Magic Christian that same month. (Popperfoto/ Getty Images)


George Harrison and assorted Hare Krishna friends, early March. (Hulton-Deutsch /Corbis)


James Taylor backstage at the Troubadour in Los Angeles, where he played regularly throughout 1970 as the cult for Sweet Baby James grew. (Max B. Miller/Getty Images)


New York City police cart away the remains of Weathermen member Diana Oughton, March 10, four days after the group’s Greenwich Village brownstone (in background) exploded. (Bettmann/Corbis)


John Lennon, Yoko Ono, and their newly shorn hair, London, February 9, two days after introducing their revamped look to the world during a television interview. (AP Images)


Beatle fans gather outside Apple headquarters in London, April 10, after McCartney’s surprise announcement hits the press. (AP Images)


In Honolulu, Richard Nixon welcomes back Apollo 13 crew members Jack Swigert, Fred Haise, and Jim Lovell, April 18. Five days earlier, an exploding oxygen tank had crippled the flight’s mission—and, in many ways, NASA itself. (JP Laffont/Sygma/ Corbis)


Art Garfunkel and Paul Simon onstage at the KB Hall in Copenhagen, Denmark, April 28, during one of the only seven concerts they gave in 1970 to promote Bridge Over Troubled Water. (Jan Persson/Getty Images)


Students from New York’s Convent of the Sacred Heart celebrate the first Earth Day by scrubbing grubby Union Square, April 22. (AP Images)


Fans flock to New York’s Fillmore East to snatch up tickets to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s week-long stint, late May. (© 1970 Amalie R. Rothschild)


Neil Young, Graham Nash, David Crosby, and Stephen Stills onstage at the Fillmore East, June 3. (© 1970 Amalie R. Rothschild)


Chaos takes center stage at the “Bach to Rock” festival in Mountaindale, New York, July 11, one of many unsuccessful attempts throughout the year to duplicate Woodstock. (Garth Eliassen/Getty Images)


Stephen Stills and Neil Young backstage in Minneapolis, July 9, the final stop on CSNY’s last tour for four years. (Henry Diltz/Morrison Hotel Gallery)


David Crosby poses with pillow flag gun and illegal substance in his hotel room prior to CSNY’s July 9 Minneapolis show. (Henry Diltz/Morrison Hotel Gallery)


George Harrison and Phil Spector (with Allen Klein associate Pete Bennett, left) listening to a master of Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, October 31. To everyone’s surprise, it would become the most commercially successful of all the year’s Beatle solo albums. (Bettmann/Corbis)


Poster for Two-Lane Blacktop, James Taylor’s film debut, shot that summer with co-stars Warren Oates, Laurie Bird, and Dennis Wilson. (Everett Collection)


Keeping the dream alive at the Summer Festival for Peace at Shea Stadium, New York, August 6. The same crowd would be far less enthusiastic about Paul Simon’s first post-S&G performance that day. (Marty Lederhandler/ AP Images)


Art Garfunkel, Jack Nicholson, and Candice Bergen on the Vancouver set of Carnal Knowledge, Garfunkel’s second Mike Nichols film and the one intended to transform him into a matinee idol. (The Kobal Collection)


John, Yoko and British anti-war leader Michael X auction off the Lennons’ cut hair (and a pair of Muhammad Ali’s bloodied boxing shorts) at one of the Lennons’ many media events throughout 1970. (Bettmann/Corbis)


Paul and Linda McCartney with baby Mary and Heather out on the town in New York, October 8. (James Garrett/New York Daily News Archive via Getty Images)


James Taylor keeps tabs on Joni Mitchell and her fans, backstage at the first Greenpeace benefit, October 16. (© Alan Katowitz 2011, all rights reserved)

But since they’d been rehearsing the song all day at the soundstage, the recording was remarkably efficient. In two takes with no overdubbing, they had a finished track; even Crosby’s improvised finale, pained screams of “Four, how many more,” was live. The recording, particularly the interplay between Young’s twisty opening guitar figure and Stills’ coiled-up leads, had a crackling energy and group dynamic rarely heard on Déjà vu. When it was done, they gathered around four microphones and recorded a B-side, Stills’ “Find the Cost of Freedom,” written but rejected for the Easy Rider soundtrack. In contrast to “Ohio,” “Find the Cost of Freedom” was quiet, almost elegiac: a simple, dramatic showcase for their voices and Stills’ acoustic lead. Young had the A-side, with Stills’ song on the flip, but for once the old Springfield wars failed to materialize. “They were on a musical mission to get this done and out,” Halverson recalled. “It was, ‘We’ve got to get on the same page and make this right.’”

The tape was flown to Atlantic’s offices in New York. For financial rather than political reasons, some at the company weren’t thrilled: The label was in the midst of pressing up 45s of “Teach Your Children,” the next single from Déjà vu. But “Ohio” felt like the right move at the right moment.

The afternoon following the session, Crosby, Nash, and Young went to their friend Alan Pariser’s house in Hollywood. Pariser, who managed bands like Delaney and Bonnie and was a well-known scene-maker, had massive speakers in his living room, and CSNY would often light up joints and listen to their new music there. Another guest at Pariser’s home that evening, Albert Grossman, wound up in a heated discussion with Crosby about politics in music. The times were so combustible that the man who had signed Dylan and Peter, Paul and Mary had mixed feelings about releasing a song about Kent State. In a remarkably fast turnaround, “Ohio” was on the radio days later, even before it was in stores.

In the meantime, the rehearsing continued on the Warner backlot. One day, a girl walked onto the soundstage, and Crosby grabbed her and planted a kiss on her. When Barbata asked who she was, Crosby said he didn’t know; it was just someone hanging around. They were still a band and still rock stars, and their tour would finally resume in a little less than a week.

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