Stephen Still’s song “Love the One You’re With” seems to imply a casual attitude toward sexual relationships (perfectly emblematic of the times), yet its author was living in a whirlwind of difficult passion at the time.
He had been impressed by popular singer and songwriter Judy Collins when he had seen her perform in Greenwich Village in the early ’60s.
In 1968 the pair met in Los Angeles when, one night, at the Whiskey a Go-Go, while Eric Clapton was on stage with his new band (Cream), Stills saw Collins in the audience, went up to her and kissed her hand. At first, she was not attracted, since she was deeply involved in her own career, but later she acknowledged he was “possibly the most attractive man I had ever seen.”
Stills managed to convince her producer to hire him to play for her 1968 album.
“Once Stills showed up for the recording, things moved fast”, she said “I was smitten. He was awfully good-looking. The relationship began as soon as he came in the band.”
And the two started “making music all day and making love all night,” as Collins once put it.
But it was a long-distance relationship: she was in New York and he was in LA and hated New York. When Stills, rejected by Collins, put his obsession into some of his songs,
their private connection became public.
He was apparently driven to near suicide by her departure, but then he found that someone (maybe already in his life) was worthy of his romantic attention.
It is worth mentioning that, after their romance ended, that relationship evolved into a deep friendship that continues today
“The reason we stayed friends all these years is because we married other people,” Stills said in an interview. “In fact, Stephen married several other people,” Collins added.
Fifty years after their romance, in 2017, they started performing together, completing a circle, both for themselves and for their fans.
“When people hear us together, they’re reminded not only of our story but of their own. People return to their youthful love affairs. It spins out like a double helix with many purposes,” said Collins.