Of all the singers of the hippie generation, David Crosby was one of the funniest, man!
His death at the age of 81 after years of ill health marks the death of a folk-rock pioneer who forged his name in The Byrds, discovered Joni Mitchell and reached creative peak with the supergroup Crosby Stills & Nash.
Crosby traded in divine harmonies and soothing melodies, but his riotous life had more than its fair share of broke, substance abuse problems, run-ins with the law and failed relationships.
With his shaggy, shoulder-length hair and walrus mustache, he embodied the patchouli-scented counterculture scene.
As the Vietnam War raged and young Americans were drafted, he helped nurture the spirit of peace, love, and understanding that emerged despite it all.
Only Wild Crosby would write a song (Triad) about a ménage à trois based on the antics at his Beverly Hills home, which his Byrds bandmates deemed “too controversial”.
He also helped write the drug hit Eight Miles High and contributed the line “rain gray town, known for its sound” about London in the Swinging Sixties.
The song was met with various radio bans amid accusations of advocating recreational drug use.
In the late ’60s, LSD, known as acid, and marijuana were the drugs of choice on the scene. Music was provided by Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead and David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash along with their occasional bandmate Neil Young.
End of the hippie dream
While Crosby’s concert highlight was playing Woodstock with CSNY to a crowd of 500,000 on day three of “Peace and Love,” his hippie dream collapsed a year later in Altamont.
The 1969 festival, headlined by the Rolling Stones, was overshadowed by a frenzy of Hells Angels-provoked violence. A woman was stabbed, two people died in a hit-and-run accident, and an LSD-induced drowning occurred.
Croz, as his friends and family knew him, also witnessed much sacrifice among his peers, but became a rock ‘n’ roll survivor, a West Coast Keith Richards sort of thing.
“I have no idea why I’m alive and Jimi (Hendrix) isn’t and Janis (Joplin) isn’t. . . and all my other friends,” he said in 2014. “I have no idea why me, but I got lucky.”
He championed cannabis use for more than 50 years and even launched a brand called Mighty Croz.
“All these hit songs, every single one of them, I wrote them all on cannabis,” he admitted.
Born on August 14, 1941 in Los Angeles, David Van Cortlandt Crosby already had a head start in life.
His father Floyd was an Oscar-winning cinematographer and his mother came from a New York society family.
Although Crosby showed an interest in music and participated in musicals, he was not particularly interested in school and eventually dropped out of an acting class at Santa Barbara City College to pursue a singing career.
In 1962 he became a father for the first time. His musician son, James Raymond, was put up for adoption, but they reconciled later in life and even made records and performed together as CPR.
Crosby had three other children, Erika, Donovan and Django, with three different women and was also a sperm donor father to singer Melissa Etheridge’s two children. (He was still with Django’s mother Jan when he died).
His first big break came in 1964 when he was introduced to singer/guitarist Jim McGuinn, who changed his name to Roger, and Gene Clark in Chicago.
After initially calling themselves The Jet Set, they added Chris Hillman on bass and Michael Clarke on drums and soon morphed into The Byrds.
When their manager Jim Dickson secured a demo acetate of Bob Dylan’s psychedelic masterpiece Mr Tambourine Man, they got the OK to record the cover art that made them famous.
With McGuinn’s 12-string guitar on lead and Crosby mastering beautiful harmonies, they hit #1 in the US and UK and started a folk-rock boom.
On jingle jangle morning, everyone followed the Byrds.
During his time in the band, Crosby was credited with making the song Hey Joe famous, although Jimi Hendrix later made it his own, and his notable compositions included Everybody’s Been Burned, which is considered one of their most haunting efforts.
In 1967, he stumbled into a Florida club and witnessed the incredible talents of young Joni Mitchell.
She accompanied him back to LA, where he introduced Joni and her music to his inner circle and at the same time started an affair.
Crosby secured her a deal with Frank Sinatra’s Reprise record label to record the acoustic album Song To A Seagull, which became her debut, and he even received a production credit.
A source of resentment later surfaced when Graham Nash was dating his muse. Crosby admitted in 2019 that he never got over his “bad case of Joni.”
He stayed with The Byrds until 1968, but tensions dogged his last year or so and he was eventually forced out of the company after personality conflicts with McGuinn.
Fiery Crosby angered his bandmates by spreading conspiracy theories on stage and fighting egos when choosing songs for their albums.
By this time he had become close to Buffalo Springfield’s Stephen Stills and soon they linked up with British singer Graham Nash, who left The Hollies to form CSN.
Her debut album remains indispensable and includes Nash’s Teach Your Children and Marrakesh Express, as well as Stills’ complex harmony masterclass suite Judy Blue Eyes.
Crosby contributed Guinevere, who, according to the cast, was “about three women I’ve loved.”
He said: “One of them was Christine Hinton – the girl who was killed who was my friend – and one was Joni Mitchell. The other is someone I can’t tell. It might be my best song.”
Hinton, his partner at the time, died in a car accident in 1969 after the song was released.
Perhaps his most revered album is Déjà Vu, released in 1970 when Neil Young joined the line-up.
Young was introduced by fellow Canadian, Mitchell, and her cover of her Woodstock served as a farewell to the hippie era.
“Pure joy in music”
During the sessions, Crosby frequently broke down and wept over the loss of his beloved Christine.
Over the years he has been involved in numerous solo and band projects, various reunions with CSN and more rarely with Y.
He went haywire in the ’80s, a difficult decade for older rock stars, when synth-pop ruled the neighborhood.
Crosby spent nine months in a Texas state prison after being convicted of drug and gun offenses, including possession of heroin and cocaine, to which he became addicted. At least the stay helped him get off hard drugs.
His wild ways contributed to health problems and in 1994 he required a liver transplant due to hepatitis C, paid for by none other than Phil Collins.
He also developed type 2 diabetes and required insulin to manage his condition.
Since the turn of the millennium, he has again run into trouble with the law over firearms and drug offenses, and recently broke up completely with Graham Nash.
Without giving specific details, Nash said in an interview in 2016: “Right now I don’t want anything to do with Crosby at all. As simple as that.
“He’s been horrible to me for the last two years, just fucking horrible. David tore the heart out of CSNY.”
But the final word comes from Nash after the death of his old bandmate.
“I know people tend to focus on how explosive our relationship was at times, but what has always been more important to David and I than anything else has been the sheer joy of the music we created together.
“David was fearless in life and in music.”
https://www.the-sun.com/entertainment/7189087/david-crosby-dead-ego-feuds-drugs/ How hippie rock legend David Crosby was brought to earth by ego, feuds and drugs