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At 3 a.m. on Monday, 18 August 1969, the final night of the Woodstock Music & Art Fair, four men armed only with acoustic guitars faced the gaping darkness of a vast open-air audience. An hour later, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young had confounded and convinced their peers, and cemented their place in rock history.
They had also made themselves, for better or worse, synonymous with Woodstock, and with the nebulous Woodstock generation which it inspired. Between 1969 and 1974, CSNY were the most successful, influential and politically potent rock band in America. More than any of their peers, they channelled and broadcast all the radical anger, romantic idealism and generational angst of their era.
The vast emotional range of their music, from delicate acoustic confessionals to raucous counter-culture anthems, was mirrored in the turbulence of their personal lives. Their trademark may have been vocal harmony, but few if any of their contemporaries could match the recklessness of their hedonistic and often warring lifestyles, as four stubborn, driven songwriters pursued chemical and sexual pleasure to life-threatening extremes. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young is the first major biography of a band whose first two albums are undisputed rock classics, and which continues to attract a large and loyal following to their sporadic reunions.
At the same time, Peter Doggett illuminates the pivotal years of 1960s counterculture through the story of four of its key protagonists, whose music, beliefs and relationships with each other chronicle both its trajectory and its legacy.