Deja Vu

Band: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

Album: Deja vu

To say the 1960s brought about significant change is an understatement: fashion, societal attitudes, politics, and, especially, music. After 1965, as the United States ramped up its involvement in Viet Nam, a form of music suddenly found itself vaulted into the mainstream.

Folk.

Prior to the tumultuous ’60s, folk music was primarily the anthem of the common working man, the music of the organized labour movement, its most notable practitioners being Pete Seeger and The Weavers. Folk music had always been about calling for a change in conditions, and the ’60s were ripe for change. As B-52s began flying sortees over Hanoi, folk evolved into folk rock, and led by acts such as Bob Dylan, The Byrds, and Buffalo Springfield, the music moved out of coffee houses and onto university campuses and concert halls.

When Buffalo Springfield fell apart in 1968, Steven Stills went on to join Graham Nash and David Crosby to form Crosby, Stills and Nash. In 1970, Canadian Neil Young – who played with Stills in Buffalo Springfield and by now an established solo artist with two albums under his belt – joined the trio to form a quartet.

And from that group came Déjà vu.

Rich, glorious four-part harmonies, intertwining guitars (both electric and acoustic), complex lyrics: it’s hard to believe the four could barely work together through the 800 hours it took to complete the album.

Much of the album is hippie idealism: Carry On, Teach Your Children, Our House, and the Joni Mitchell-penned Woodstock. Or the angry anti-authoritarianism of Almost Cut My Hair.

But I defy anyone to not be awestruck by Helpless: “There is a town in north Ontario, With dream comfort memory to spare…”

Within the idealism, there is hope for peace. In Woodstock: “And I dreamed I saw the bombers, Riding shotgun in the sky, And they were turning into butterflies, Above our nation.”

More than 35 years later, Déjà vu remains a touchstone for a generation, when the music meant something and carried messages of change, hope, and peace.