Born January 3, 1945, in Dallas, Tex. Education: Attended the University of Florida in the early 1960s. Addresses: Recording company-- Atlantic Records, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10019.
Singer-songwriter Stephen Stills has influenced rock music in many different guises. He first gained fame as a member of the 1960s group Buffalo Springfield, whose biggest hit was Stills's composition, "For What It's Worth." After that band dissolved, Stills came together first with David Crosby and Graham Nash, later with Neil Young, to form the group responsible for folk-rock classics such as "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" and "Wooden Ships." He has had success as a solo artist as well, particularly with his 1971 hit, "Love the One You're With."
Stills was born January 3, 1945, in Dallas, Texas. His family moved around quite a bit, staying mostly in the southern United States, with the exception of a brief sojourn to Central America. They stayed the longest in New Orleans, Louisiana. Stills displayed an interest in music throughout his childhood, and by the time he reached adolescence he had learned to play several instruments, including drums, guitar, and tambourine. He continued to practice both during his stints as a racetrack stable boy and while he attended the University of Florida studying political science.
As with most good musicians, the lure of Stills's art overcame his academic will, and he left college. He traveled to New York City, attracted by its burgeoning folk music scene. After brief apprenticeships with several bands, he settled with the Au Go Go Singers, a folk group that got dates in the eastern United States and Canada. While with them, Stills made the acquaintance of Richie Furay and Neil Young, with whom he would later found Buffalo Springfield. Before he did so, however, he and Furay grew more interested in the rock scene; Stills left the Au Go Gos and moved to Los Angeles, California, in pursuit of this interest.
While in Los Angeles, Stills tried out for the created-for-television pop group, the Monkees. As Geoffrey Stokes revealed in the book Rock of Ages: The Rolling Stone History of Rock and Roll, however, he was "passed over because of imperfect teeth and incipient baldness." Undaunted, Stills called Furay and urged him to follow him to California shortly afterwards. They were in the process of working up songs together when they met up with Young, coincidentally visiting from his native Canada. With the addition of Bruce Palmer and Dewey Martin, Buffalo Springfield was born.
Los Angeles-area gigs quickly led to a recording contract for Stills and Springfield, but their reputation spread before they could release records. They were recruited to provide the opening act for the Byrds; at this time Stills met Byrds member David Crosby. When Buffalo Springfield's records were released, they scored a quick regional hit with "Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing," but this was soon overshadowed by a song Stills wrote about the Sunset Strip riots in Los Angeles in 1966, "For What It's Worth." Stokes hailed it as "the first explicit document of an unbridgeable generational chasm," and it became one of the anthems of the late 1960s youth movement, reaching Number 7 on the charts.
Though Stokes emphasized that "Buffalo Springfield was anything but a one-hit wonder," the group broke up after about a year because of the strong, independent creativity of its members, who wished to pursue individual projects. Soon afterwards, Stills found himself in the middle of a jam session with his friend Crosby, and fellow musician Graham Nash of the British group the Hollies. The three were so delighted with the harmonies they created that they decided to form a band, overcoming many difficulties with their respective record companies and negotiating Nash's release from the Hollies to do so.
By 1969 the trio was able to release their first album on Atlantic Records, Crosby, Stills, and Nash. One of the most successful singles from it was Stills's composition to his then-lover, singer Judy Collins, "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes." In addition to Nash's "Marrakesh Express," the album also included Stills's "Helplessly Hoping" and his collaboration with Crosby, "Wooden Ships." Despite the individuals' various commitments, Stills managed to get together with his fellow band members to tour successfully three months after Crosby, Stills, and Nash was released. Just in time for these appearances, they also recruited Young. He was a large factor in the success of their second album, Deja Vu, which also included a popular version of songwriter Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock," and the hits "Teach Your Children" and "Our House." Stills contributed the cut "4 and 20."
As with Buffalo Springfield, however, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young was composed of strong individuals who often wished to work on separate projects. In 1971, Stills released his first solo album on Atlantic, aptly titled Stephen Stills. This included his energetic hit, "Love the One You're With." He followed up with Stephen Stills II, but while the album sold well, none of the singles were quite as successful as his first solo hit. In 1972, Stills took a new direction and formed a more country-flavored group called Manassas. Though many critics panned them, they did well with fans and their two albums, Manassas and Down the Road, spawned the moderate hits "Rock'n'Roll Crazies" and "Isn't It About Time."
After recording two more solo albums, Stills reunited with Crosby and Nash for a 1977 effort, again titled Crosby, Stills, and Nash. The trio had a hit with "Just a Song Before I Go" and with Stills's composition, "Dark Star." Stills continued to work on his own projects during the late 1970s and 1980s, occasionally coming together with Crosby, Nash, and Young for concerts. All four released the album American Dream in 1989. Though critic David Browne in High Fidelity panned the comeback album, concluding that the four musicians had performed better when they first joined, Susan Borey in Audio praised Stills's composition "Got it Made" as "a gem." She described it further as "soulful, full of irony ... a perfect vehicle for a voice that's become more buttery and resonant."
by Elizabeth Wenning
Stephen Stills's Career
Worked as a stable boy as a teenager; member of various groups during the early 1960s; member of the Au Go Go SIngers, 1964-65; member of Buffalo Springfield, 1966-67; co-founded Crosby, Stills and Nash, 1969, which became Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, 1970; solo recording artist, 1970--; member of Manassas, 1972-74.
Stephen Stills's Awards
Grammy Award for best new artist, 1969, for album, Crosby, Stills and Nash.
- Albums; with Buffalo Springfield
- Buffalo Springfield Atlantic, 1966.
- Buffalo Springfield Again Atlantic, 1967.
- Last Time Around Atlantic, 1968.
- Albums; with Crosby and Nash, or with Crosby, Nash, and Young
- Crosby, Stills, and Nash (includes "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes," "Marrakesh Express," "Helplessly Hoping," and "Wooden Ships"), Atlantic, 1969.
- Deja Vu (includes "Woodstock," "Teach Your Children," "Our House," and "4 and 20"), Atlantic, 1970.
- Four Way Street Atlantic, 1971.
- So Far Atlantic, 1974.
- Crosby, Stills, and Nash (includes "Just a Song Before I Go" and "Dark Star"), Atlantic, 1977.
- American Dream (includes "American Dream," "Got It Made," "Compass," and "Nighttime for the Generals"), Atlantic, 1989.
- Albums; with Manassas
- Manassas (includes "Rock'n'Roll Crazies"), Atlantic, 1972.
- Down the Road (includes "Isn't It About Time"), Atlantic, 1973.
- Selected solo albums
- Stephen Stills (includes "Love the One You're With"), Atlantic, 1970.
- Stephen Stills II (includes "Change Partners," "Marianne," "Sit Yourself Down," and "It Doesn't Matter"), Atlantic, 1971.
- Stephen Stills Columbia, 1975.
- Illegal Stills Columbia, 1976.
October 25, 2004: Stills and his wife, Kristen, welcomed the birth of their second child, Oliver Ragland Stills. Source: CNN.com, www.cnn.com/2004/SHOWBIZ/Music/10/27/people.stills.ap/index.html, October 28, 2004.
- Helander, Brock, The Rock Who's Who, Schirmer Books, 1982.
- Ward, Ed, Geoffrey Stokes, and Ken Tucker, Rock of Ages: The Rolling Stone History of Rock and Roll, Summit Books, 1986.
- Audio, March 1989.
- High Fidelity, March 1989.