David Crosby is still turnin'
By Naughty Mickie
Photos Courtesy www.david-crosby.com
When you discuss music legends, you'd be remiss if you left out one of the living, and still performing, greats, David Crosby. In the midst of what some call a revolution, Crosby and his band, the Byrds, called people to action with their songs.
Crosby went on to other bands- Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and variations thereof, as well as a solo stint and dealt with personal tragedies, some he could be blamed for and others that just happened, but he never lost his path. He continued to speak out, perhaps softly as far as the current mainstream goes, but persistently nonetheless.
Currently, he is touring with CPR, Crosby, Jeff Prevar and James Raymond. There is extra interest here, as Raymond is Crosby's son from a relationship in the '60s. He was put up for adoption and grew into a songwriter. Raymond decided to look for information on his biological parents and discovered that Crosby was his father. The two came together in the midst of Crosby's liver failure and are now bandmates and family.
Crosby lives in Santa Barbara, California with wife Jan and their son Django, named after French jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt. Django was also a blessing, as Jan discovered she was pregnant at the same time Crosby was battling his liver problems. Two sons! Too terrific!
As for myself, it was an pleasure and an honor to speak with Crosby. I even learned some of my first guitar chords while playing some of his tunes. His charisma shone and his humor sparkled, but then, why don't you see for yourself....
"Your music has provided social commentary and sparked activism, how important is that today?" I begin.
"It's very important. I think it's part of our jobs," Crosby replies. "I think our main job is to entertain you, but I think also we're also a little bit of the town crier thing and the troubadour thing, those are still part of our jobs. We're supposed to reflect what's going on around us and be truthful, have good commentary on what's going on around us. I think that's part of what we're supposed to do, but I don't think it's the main thing. Our main job is to help you feel things and I think
it's good for us to react to the world around us, give the voice."
Crosby battled drugs, spent time in jail, lost his home to an earthquake, survived a liver transplant and more. I wonder what keeps him going despite all the tragedy in his life.
"Two things. My family and loving making music, loving songs. I really love them," Crosby says.
I know that he's an avid pilot, so I ask him how else he spends his time.
"I play with my boy and I go sailing." Crosby pauses, "Let's see, what did I do yesterday? I went riding with my wife on her horses and then Django and I went rock hunting. We go out in the riverbeds and hunt for rocks, really beautiful ones, and then we build them into things. It's a great thing to do with your son, believe me, because you get dirty and you can yell."
He speaks simply about music in his childhood, "I got started very young. My family used to play and sing around the fireplace and so I came to it very young. I started singing harmonies, they tell me, when I was about six years old."
"Did you work any usual jobs before making it in music?" I ask.
"No, pretty much the regular kinds of things that people do. I washed dishes, I bused tables, I delivered cars, worked at a drug store, just regular stuff.
"I went to some excellent schools around here and then I got through one year of Santa Barbara City College. Then I couldn't stand it anymore, I had to be out entertaining. So I took off on my own and started going to coffeehouses and that was that," Crosby continues. "I think I've always wanted to play music. There are a couple of other things that I really admire that I think I would like, teaching I would enjoy because it's really fun to spark a kid's mind."
With songs that has inspired people around the world, I had to find out how Crosby writes.
"It's the most haphazard process. There's no control over it at all, none. The words and the music just come to me and I'm grateful and I write them down as quickly as I can and make them into songs. But I really have no control over the process at all," Crosby admits. "Sometimes it's the words first, sometimes I get the music first, sometimes it comes together, I can't even predict how it's going to happen."
"I think it has to do with the songs," Crosby says of his staying power. "I think that we write songs that are actually about something. You hear our songs 30 years later the song still makes you feel something. That's because it's an actual real song and it's about something real. I think if we had just written the kind of stuff that they write these days, nobody would remember us six months later."
So what does he think of today's music scene?
"I think most of all it's just fake constructions, really polished for the pop hit, there's no content whatsoever. It's kind of like taking a birdbath. It doesn't satisfy me. It might be good for dancing to, but I like content, I like it to be about something," states Crosby.
Don't take that to mean he's living in the past, Crosby knows his way around the Web.
"I use it (the Internet) a lot. I think it's a fantastic tool and I think it's great. I love itunes," says Crosby, adding that he also uses it to reach and keep in touch with fans.
Crosby and I have one more thing in common other than being musicians, we both have wild hair-- unruly curly mops. I figure we should compare notes.
"I don't do anything to it," Crosby laughs. "I used to dye it to keep it brown so I'd look younger, but I gave up on that. I just wash it, wash it lot. You should see my son's hair, he's the one with the great hair. He has the most beautiful hair you've ever seen in your life."
We both agree that it's better not to blow dry our hair, but instead to let it dry naturally.
We go on to Crosby's future plans.
"I just am now finishing a brand new Crosby/Nash record," Crosby tells me. "We haven't done one since the '70s. We went in to cut 10 things and we cut 20, so I think there's going to be two new Crosby/Nash albums coming out in over the next six months. Then next month I start a big tour all over the United States with my other son James in our band CPR. And that I'm looking forward to tremendously because it's a fantastic band and I have a great time. Then after that, I'm going to do some Crosby, Stills and Nash and then after that I might do some Crosby/Nash tours and then after that I might do some Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young tours."
"Wow, you have a very busy schedule and are playing in a lot of variations," I comment.
"It really works well for me because it keeps me from getting stuck in one place," replies Crosby.
Before parting, I ask Crosby what advice he would give an aspiring musician.
"Do it because you love it. Don't expect to make a living at it, very few people do," Crosby shares wisely.
Take some time to see "an old friend" or introduce someone who isn't familiar
with Crosby to his work and rediscover why he is a true national treasure.
Check Out www.david-crosby.com
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