David Crosby: A Life in Music
It’s the afternoon of March 11, 1971, in Costa Mesa, California. I’ve just called our local record shop to hear the long-awaited news that Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s new album, “Déjà Vu,” has arrived. Now I’m blasting down the streets of Southern California on my Honda 350, heading there. I rush in, hoping I’m the first, but no, I get the fifth copy. When I arrive back at the apartment where I live with my fellow hippies, we pass it around, commenting on the cover art, then light a joint and settle down around our cable-spool table to listen.
The music is extraordinary, each song a hand-crafted work of art. We live for this kind of record. We celebrate it for days, weeks. Share it with others. Listen again and again to wring every nuance and phrase from each song.
David Crosby took us quite by surprise when the needle got to the third song, “Almost Cut My Hair.” It was an instant anthem for what we stood for, what we believed. How we were, how we would always be, in the world. We – Mike, my pardner from childhood, Britt, Larry, Daryl and me, joined David in letting our freak flag fly.
Yeah, David, we felt like we owed it to our someones, too.
As great as “Déjà Vu” was, David’s solo album “If I Could Only Remember My Name,” released nearly simultaneously, is probably the most beautiful record ever. Listen to the first cut, “Music is Love,” a statement with which I could never disagree, and see if you can stop listening to the rest.
And now we flash into the future as I’m boarding an aircraft. Idly scanning movies on the seatback LCD display (odd in itself, as I usually read a book, eschewing the tiny screen), my eyes come to rest on the words, “Remember My Name.” I peer closer and see it’s a biopic about David. Watching this will be how I spend my flight time tonight.
David and I are close to the same age, so much of what was life for him in his most active musical years was a lifestyle I shared with him. A phrase we used to hear about those times, and would often repeat ourselves, was, “If you can remember it, you probably weren’t there.” One of, if not the most, incredible concerts I ever attended was CSNY at the LA Forum, celebrating the release of their double concert album, “Four Way Street.” I fondly remember an awful lot of that utterly magical night. Guitars twanged and the audience leapt to its feet, shoved the chairs to the sides, and everybody danced the night away, sometimes individually, sometimes in couples, in groups dancing in circles, our arms wrapped around each other. I must have fallen in love at least half a dozen times that night, dancing with one girl after another as we listened to all that ban’s great, familiar music which culminated in a 14-minute version of “Carry On.”
Watching David’s biopic, and seeing his freak flag still flying, now long and gray, touched me deeply. I found myself sitting on an airplane sobbing, dabbing tears of reminiscence from my eyes. This man was a pure musician through and through, and rebellious as hell, too. David and Neil were cut from that same cloth. But oh, how David paid the price for his freedom, again and again. He bore the curse of consciousness. His is a fragile soul, a brave heart, possessed of a deep, wide, profound musical creativity that to this day transcends type or genre or the times.
I love you, David. Keep on recording those songs, those promised albums. May you never stop sailing those wooden ships.