Home Music Music Features

Another Neil Young Cause, Another CSNY ‘Reunion’: Could This Be the Final One?

David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash have joined their former bandmate’s Spotify boycott, and it’s not the first time they’ve rallied behind him. Will we ever see them united again?

Neil Young's CSNY bandmates have been signing on to his many causes for more than 50 years.

Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

For Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young loyalists craving a reunion of any type, that moment has unexpectedly arrived — sort of.

On Wednesday, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash joined their erstwhile bandmate Neil Young in requesting that their music be yanked off Spotify as a way to protest the service’s alliance with podcaster and Covid vaccine skeptic Joe Rogan. “We support Neil and we agree with him that there is dangerous disinformation being aired on Spotify’s Joe Rogan podcast,” read CSN’s statement in part. That declaration came on the heels of Young’s own, which resulted in all of his Warner Brothers albums vanishing from that streaming platform.

Assuming CSN’s request is granted by the business side of the music business — a source close to the situation believes that their albums, both group and solo, will be pulled down “in the coming days” — it will be the latest moment in which these four very different men could agree on something. And it will be the latest example of the way in which, throughout their often fractious 54-year history, Young has been the force in pulling all four of them back into the same room — and often to support his own causes.

The pattern was established early on, and after some bloodshed. In 1970, CSNY were only one show into a much-anticipated tour behind Déjà Vu when the group collapsed and returned home. The four went off into different corners as their managers and record company tried to pick up the pieces.  During that downtime, Young famously saw an issue of Life magazine detailing the Kent State shootings and dashed off “Ohio” as Crosby watched. Very soon after, the reunited group was rehearsing for resumed shows, but they also found the time to rush into a nearby studio to record Young’s anti-Nixon takedown. The song and the recording lent them a renewed sense of purpose — and a new way to connect with fans who were growing disillusioned with the band over all their internal discord.

CSNY’s 1974 reunion tour, the first such undertaken in stadiums, wasn’t motivated by one of Young’s political, social, or environmental causes — financial reward was a factor — but when the quartet did reconvene in a major way, Young was again the one grabbing the wheel. With his late wife Pegi, he cofounded the Bridge School, a nonprofit helping children with speech and physical impairments. For its first annual benefit in 1986, Young lured in Bruce Springsteen, Don Henley, Tom Petty — and, for the first time in 12 years, CSN. Luckily, Crosby had been released from prison not long before the show (he’d been serving time for drug charges). In 2000, when CSNY reformed for another tour, the foursome also came together for a performance at Farm Aid, another one of Young’s pet causes.

Pre-Spotify, Young’s most flagrant use of a CSNY reunion to buttress one of his missions came in 2006. Young had released Living With War, an album of anti–Iraq War, anti–George W. Bush diatribes. Realizing that those types of political songs were in CSNY’s wheelhouse, and also realizing that an arena reunion tour would bring greater attention to the material, Young pulled together a CSNY tour. In the red states, the new songs unleashed occasional boos, walkouts, and even a bomb threat. But as seen in Young’s doc on the tour, CSNY Deja Vu, it also brought the four men together in ways they hadn’t expected.

Then, once again, silence — until CSNY shared the stage once more, this time for the Bridge School’s 2013 benefit. To date, that odd performance (Young largely bobbing and weaving behind the trio as they sang) remains their final appearance as a quartet; CSN’s trio incarnation broke up about two years later. Hope for any group undertaking was dashed again and again — first by Crosby’s disparaging comments on Young’s partner and later wife Daryl Hannah (for which Crosby later apologized), and then by a falling out between longtime friends Crosby and Nash that remains to this day. Although some in their camp hoped the quartet would come together for an anti-Trump tour during his presidency, it never happened.

But as this week’s news has proven, all they need is a common enemy — Richard Nixon, Dubya — or an amenable cause for them to find common ground. Rogan and Spotify have reminded everyone, maybe even themselves, that their bond, however fragile and easily breakable, remains. The only question about this semi-convening is: Will this be the latest — or the absolute very last?

From Rolling Stone US