*Image taken from the internet and copyrighted
I was sitting at my desk just now working for my corporate masters but really “doing next to nothing but different than the day before,” when I saw the sad news that David Crosby, “Croz,” had passed away after a long illness. He was 81. Man, what a bummer couple of weeks it’s been. First, legendary guitarist Jeff Beck passes. Then Lisa Marie Presley, the daughter of the King, passes away. And now this. Crosby was a founding member of seminal folk-rock group the Byrds with Roger McGuinn, Gene Clark, Chris Hillman and Micheal Clarke. He was a founding member of Crosby, Stills & Nash (and sometimes Young) and oh my god the vocal harmonies those guys could create. He was also a solo artist. I was a big, big fan. He had been on a creative hot streak of late. What a voice. I wonder how many people he sang back up vocals for? Jackson Browne, Neil Young, Stephen Stills, Phil Collins… the list goes on and on.
Crosby, as I mentioned, helped found the Byrds. I have to admit, despite my younger brother – who was always way ahead of me musically… perhaps he’s an old soul – owning several Byrds’ records I didn’t connect with until the last few years. When I discovered how great they were I went crashing through their first five albums – from Mr. Tambourine Man to The Notorious Byrd Brothers. They were the first band to take tunes by Dylan (and other traditional folk songs) and electrify them. Crosby’s vocals and rhythm guitar were a critical component of the band. He did upset the rest of the band when he substituted with the Buffalo Springfield, a perceived rival band, at the Monterey musical festival… he was sub’ing for an absent Neil Young. The man was nothing if not headstrong. When he submitted the song “Triad” about a menage a trois to the band McGuinn had had enough. He was kicked out of the band. Although the Jefferson Airplane had no problem covering it.
A staple of the Laurel Canyon music scene, it was at a party at Mama Cass’ house that he ran into Stephen Stills, newly freed from the Buffalo Springfield and Graham Nash, recently freed from the Hollies. They harmonized on Stills’ “Suite Judy Blue Eyes” and they realized, “Hey, maybe we’re onto something here.” Their first LP, creatively titled Crosby Stills & Nash was a smash. They played their first concert at Woodstock! Neil Young joined and they recorded their second album, which I love, Deja Vu. At that point the group unity kinda went south. Everybody went off to solo careers. While Crosby Stills & Nash would regroup quite often, Neil only joined for a CSNY reunion a couple of times over the years – for American Dream and Looking Forward. I actually really liked those albums… although I may be the only person who did. I was lucky enough to see CSNY on the Looking Forward tour and it was great. I went with my friend the Jean Genie who was 8 months pregnant. You’ve never gotten hostile stares at a concert until you’ve gone with a pregnant woman… and I’ve vomited at concerts. I wasn’t her husband, it wasn’t my fault she was pregnant.
Crosby’s first solo album after CSNY had gone their separate ways was If Only I Could Remember My Name, a title I laughed at when I was in college. I finally picked it up a few years back and it’s absolutely wonderful. It’s one of my favorites. “Cowboy Movie” is one of his greatest tunes ever written. Crosby also did several great LPs with erstwhile friend Graham Nash whose voices intertwined to sound like angels. I recommend Graham Nash/David Crosby and Wind On The Water to any fan of CSN. I like so much of CSNY’s solo work and duo albums. All of that early, mid-70s stuff is just dynamite music.
Crosby’s solo career saw the release of only three albums over the first 40 years and five albums over the last ten years. He had two bands he was working with. The Lighthouse band did The Lighthouse and Here If You Listen. I never connected as strongly with those records but I loved Sky Trails. To me that record signaled Croz had a lot more music in him. He recorded that album in collaboration with, among others, his son James Raymond. His last record, For Free, was another great record. Laid back, super vocals, great vibe music. Both those latter LPs were the kind of albums that B&V were founded for – great late career LPs by established artists.
Crosby wrote so many great songs. “Deja Vu,” “Almost Cut My Hair,” “Guinivere” (covered by Miles Davis no less), “Wooden Ships,” “Long Time Gone,” “Delta,” “Cowboy Movie,” “Compass,” “Capitol,” and “Carry Me” just to name a few. And that list doesn’t even mention any of his songs in the Byrds. He was really an iconic, rock n roll legend. A true Rock Star. He was a big figure in the counter culture and helped inspire Neil Young to write the greatest protest song ever, “Ohio.” He produced one of Joni Mitchell’s early albums. And like true rock stars, he did have a drug problem and ran afoul of the law. He actually did some time in Texas. What rock star amongst you is guilt free? He will be truly missed. Not only for the great music from the 70s that he was most known for but for the great music he was still making. This is even more tragic as he was in the middle of a true career renaissance.
Croz, we’ll miss you man. RIP to a legend. I have to say, tonight will be a long evening delving into Crosby’s music from throughout his storied career. I guess, as Croz once sang, “I feel like letting my freak flag fly, Yes, I feel like I owe it to someone…”
It’s a long dark ride folks. Take care of each other out there. Cheers!