At the heart of the matter lays this question: What of the venerable CSN (and sometimes Y) catalog can't be considered essential? They revolutionized the way contemporary music was presented — verifiably the first supergroup in a long line of supergroups (many of which, these days, aren't so super). They provided the soundtrack to free love and fervent revolution. They created the template for pretty much every songwriter who's ever gotten his folk on (especially those who like to use alternate tunings). The entire Déjà Vu album could be included in an essential playlist and no one would bark about it (so we pretty much did). How to choose?
Here's how: Grab the true essentials we can't live without ("Ohio," "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes"), add in the now immovable elements of the pop canon ("Teach Your Children," "Our House"), sprinkle in a few personal favorites (because we can), and argue about the rest ("You included 'Wasted on the Way' but not 'Pre-Road Dawns'?!" "You're an idiot: 'Just a Song Before I Go' is not essential.") We even threw in a tune we figure will piss off even the most passing of passing fans. You're gonna have to guess about that one.
Agree or disagree, we say this is the Essential Crosby, Stills, and Nash (and Sometimes Young) Playlist.
Photo of CSNY in concert (August '74) by Tony Morelli. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.