Saturday, August 14, 2021

Quote of the Day (David Crosby, on His ‘Terrible Mistake’ in Using Heroin)

“Heroin is a beautiful high the first time. And then it's just a horror of trying to recapture that beauty, which you can never do. At a certain point, it defeats you completely.  Your life becomes useless because you're driving a car where the steering wheel is not attached. You have no control. Me becoming a junkie was the worst thing I did to my partners. That's how I let them down, where the rift between us started. I so wish I had avoided that, but there's no point in being dishonest about having made a terrible mistake.” —Rock ‘n’ roller David Crosby quoted in Alan Paul, “Weekend Confidential: David Crosby—A Legend Faces the End by Making Music,” The Wall Street Journal, July 6-7, 2019

Singer-songwriter David Crosby was born 80 years ago today in Los Angeles. A founding member of the influential bands The Byrds and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, he might also be their most infuriating.

Crosby is only half right about drug addiction driving a wedge between him and his bandmates. That substance abuse was so protracted, so embarrassing, and so life-threatening that one is tempted to accept it at face value.

What tends to be forgotten is that ego and lack of impulse control over his tongue did the rest.

 Before the pandemic, Roger McGuinn—surely recalling tensions that led to Crosby's firing from the Byrds in 1967—issued a statement dismissing Crosby’s trial balloon of a Byrds reunion: “DC is not hated but that doesn’t mean anyone wants to work with him.”

As for Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Neil Young, at last report none is speaking to him anymore, making any notion of a get-together with them even more unlikely.

All of this comes at an increasingly difficult time for Crosby, in terms of his health and finances. His struggles with diabetes and heart disease have been known for some time. But now, the musician notes in a June 30 interview with Rolling Stone, tendonitis in his hands has affected his guitar playing to the point where “I’m down 20 percent from where I was at my best, and it’s deteriorating pretty steadily.”

Ordinary people might wonder how an artist who recorded some of the bestselling music of the rock era could hit financial trouble, but Crosby also admits that the inability to tour has impacted his bottom line enough that only the sale of his song catalog prevented him from losing his home. (As a corollary, he might also have observed that his arrests and detox efforts in the Eighties—not to mention his recent health issues and the lack of a payday from CSNY tour or even concert in the last several years—combined to put him into this predicament.)

If I sound impatient with Crosby, it is because I judge few people more severely than those who have wasted their talents—and, having seen Crosby four decades apart, I have little doubt that he has them in abundance, even when he has been prodigal in their use.

Even before Cameron Crowe’s 2019 documentary, David Crosby: Remember My Name, I had seen just the year before (as I observed in this post from the time), in a concert in my hometown of Englewood, NJ, that the musician remained not only in good voice but committed to writing intriguing new material.

This summer brings fresh confirmation of the latter trend with the release of Crosby’s new CD, For Free. (Yes, the title cut is his cover version of the song by his old lover, Joni Mitchell.) Consider that this CD is his fifth solo collection since 2014, while in the 30 prior years he released only three.

I am glad that Crosby is releasing so much good work at last. Too bad it took the prospects of insolvency and mortality to do so. And too bad if that fine content came as the music industry, like Hamlet, discovered that “the time is out of joint”—with the old Geffen-like “starmaking machinery” unable to reach a younger generation that, like the one which made Crosby and his contemporaries stars, is all too forgetful of the singers and songwriters who came before them.

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