Rock Flashback: The Stephen Stills-Graham Nash-Rita Coolidge Triangle

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On stage with Stephen Stills (L), Graham Nash (C), and David Crosby (R) (Getty Images/Robert Vos/AFP)

On stage with Stephen Stills (L), Graham Nash (C), and David Crosby (R) (Getty Images/Robert Vos/AFP)

If you need a Christmas gift for a music fan or want to put something cool on Santa’s list for yourself, we strongly recommend David Browne’s book Fire and Rain: [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]the Beatles[/lastfm], [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Simon and Garfunkel[/lastfm], [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]James Taylor[/lastfm], CSNY and the Lost Story of 1970. It’s the story of a year that’s as historically and musically significant as the two much-more-celebrated years that preceded it. There are many great stories told in the book. One of them follows the jump.

By the fall of 1970, the musical union of [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Crosby Stills Nash and Young [/lastfm]was already under strain, but an incident that helped shatter the partnership involves another well-known singer whose career was just beginning in 1970.

[lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Rita Coolidge[/lastfm] met [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Stephen Stills[/lastfm] early in the year; he had sung on the album she was making, and she returned the favor by singing on his, including the soon-to-be hit single “Love the One You’re With.” Stills was “immediately intrigued,” Browne writes. So was [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Graham Nash[/lastfm], who invited her to accompany him to a CSNY show in Los Angeles that June.

Here’s where it gets like high school: Nash was staying at Stills’ house, and gave Coolidge Stills’ number to call so they could make arrangements. But it was Stills who answered the call and told Coolidge, gosh no, Graham can’t take you after all, but I will. Coolidge, who wasn’t thinking about romance at all, accepted Stills’ invitation — and got a frosty reception from Nash backstage at the show.

Coolidge and Stills became romantically involved shortly thereafter, but when Nash told her about Stills’ deception, she decided that she preferred Nash to Stills. Coolidge insisted they tell Stills personally, so they drove to his house to break the news to him — and it went about as well as you’d expect. Browne writes: “After the poolside conversation, Stills refused to speak to Nash, and the increasingly delicate thread that held them together finally snapped.” It wasn’t the main reason CSNY split up, but at that point, it didn’t take much to make things worse.

Here’s a song Stills wrote about Coolidge after meeting her. It appeared on his first solo album.

Experience more Rock Flashbacks.

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