David Crosby (August 14, 1941 – January 18, 2023) was a four-time guest on All Mixed Up with me over the years.
Having met David on a number of occasions in the past, I knew he could be a challenge to talk to, but I also knew that if I did my homework, and stayed away from the obvious stuff (“Will you guys ever get back together again?”) that he could be open, warm, and (dare I say it) even friendly.
A two-time inductee into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame – once as a member of the Byrds, and again as a part of Crosby, Stills, & Nash – Crosby was opinionated, open about his life, and made it abundantly clear that more than anything, music was perhaps the most important element in his life.
Eulogies have been pouring in on social media from all over the musical spectrum including two from friends of mine in the musical community.
Nashville-based singer/songwriter Bill Lloyd wrote on his Facebook page, “I think the floodgates are about to open when it comes to losing the generation of influential musicians that matter so much to so many of us. Only days after Jeff Beck, David Crosby passes over. It’s hard to measure how much his music meant to me. Both the debut CSN and Déjà Vu albums were as important as Beatles albums when they hit the scene and I’m not sure subsequent generations understand just how big they were. I know he was a bit of a prickly character who burned a lot of bridges, wasted years of his life in a drug stupor and alienated his band mates. Regardless, he’s been a part of making the music I grew up on.”
Shortly after Crosby’s passing, my Fordham contemporary Mike Fornatale wrote on his FB page, “I don’t have too many musical heroes that run deeper than David Crosby. I don’t have any words right now. So here are some words from a few years back. I was assigned to interview him on the occasion of his Summer 2014 comeback album, Croz. I was concerned. There was always a chance, with David, that you could find him combative, uncommunicative, and rude. OR, on July 27, 2014, you might have the best interview of your whole life. I guess I must have asked the right questions.”
Among those questions Mike asked was about the connection between songwriting and feeling pain. Crosby explained, “The pain isn’t when you do your best work. I think some people like to have their lives in disarray. They like to be able to be bad boys, and do hard drugs, and justify it by saying ‘it’s how I get my art, maaan.’ And it’s bullshit. Drugs do not help. Turmoil does not help. Being a shit to other people does not help. Living a shallow and meaningless life doesn’t help. It’s a load of crap. (Following ‘Delta’) I didn’t write another song for two years, until I got sober, in prison. And then it finally started to come back. And I wrote a few lines that were okay, and I finished a song that wasn’t very good, and another one that was a little better, and finally, all of a sudden I wrote ‘Compass.’ And I said, ‘Yes. It’s not gone. I can still do it.’ The song has to come first. If you don’t have the song, then I don’t care how much production you do, you’re just polishing a turd. And if you don’t have the song, you can’t take people on that little voyage that you’re trying to take them on. That’s your job. The singer has to serve the song. Our job is not to set off pyrotechincs and wave a scarf around. Our job is to bring you a song that will take you on a voyage. And if we can’t do that, we are cheese.”
David Crosby was a HUGE part of my musical development. I can still vividly remember hearing the debut CSN album for the first time and being completely stunned by the sum of the parts. I knew how good Stills was. I knew the integral part that Crosby had played in the Byrds. Nash’s songs were among my favorite Hollies tunes. What I wasn’t ready for was what happened when the three of them put it all together for the first time.
Whether it was as a member of a group, or as a solo artist, David Crosby was a major participant in providing the soundtrack of our lives.