Guitarist and singer of the Byrds, co-founder of the Crosby, Stills & Nash trio, sometimes augmented by Neil Young, this hot-headed man who wised up late in life left American music with some of his most beautiful harmonies.
“I’m 80 years old, so I won’t be around much longer. Things are in order. All I have to do is make and offer as much quality music as possible, of course. » David Crosby said so a few months ago, and as so often in his chaotic life, he was telling the truth. The founding member of the Byrds, who became one of the most iconic stars of American rock when he teamed up with Stephen Stills and Graham Nash in the late 1960s, died this week aged 81. His activity has been proliferating for some time—he’s recorded more solo albums in less than a decade than in the previous three decades, never missing an opportunity to express himself in words, politics, or music—almost making us one. forget reality: the supreme master of vocal harmony, the composer with such a distinctive touch, no matter how much he wanted to make up for lost time, he was not immortal.
Wasted time? Crosby, by his own admission, should never have made it past 30. The restless and addictive nature of this lovable hothead prevented him from fully devoting himself to his incredible talent for a long time. Fortunately for this sensitive and music-loving bear who always needs someone to look after him, his path has crossed enough guardian angels to encourage him to use his gift.
David Crosby was born in Los Angeles in 1941 in the family of the famous cinematographer Floyd Crosby, who worked on a number of masterpieces. Taboofrom Murnau, in The train will whistle three times, by Fred Zinneman. At the initiative of his older brother, he began to play the guitar, he quickly showed an interest in music. And like his future partners Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (C, S, N & Y), he cut his teeth in the midst of the booming folk scene at the dawn of the sixties. He even forms a duet with another upstart, Terry Callier, who one day in Chicago introduces him to a certain Jim McGinn. McGuinn (now Roger), along with Gene Clark and Michael Clarke, the Byrds, completed by Chris Hillman, were born in 1964. They married the Beatles’ melodic pop heritage with their strong folk roots that honored McGuinn’s twelve-string guitar. and unusual harmonies led by Crosby (holding rhythm guitar). The group creates a unique style with the first single signed Bob Dylan: Mr. Tambourine Man, manager had obtained the unreleased recording.
The success was instant, the world became a hit and the Byrds immediately rose to the top of the pop hierarchy with their innovative sound. When the embattled Gene Clark, the band’s then main songwriter, abandoned ship in 1966, the rest had only to join him. Crosby later developed his writing through his participation in psychedelic classics Eight miles high, also Renaissance fair or almost jazz All Burned. Atypical constructions, often playing with the formatted codes of pop, quickly defined Crosby’s freestyle, which was very early influenced by world music, especially from India. A passion that he passed on to George Harrison (the Beatles admired the Byrds) and that permeated the entire rock scene of the time.
Everything is going well for the Byrds, except that Crosby also has a great personality and strong left-wing opinions that he never hesitates to express. As during his concert at the Monterey festival, moreover, at the request of his friend Stephen Stills, he quickly rushes to replace the failed Neil Young for the Buffalo Springfield set. Argument over the Byrds’ choice of repertoire will do the rest. Although he participated in the recording of his fifth album, The famous Byrd BrothersCrosby was replaced by a horse on the cover when it was released in 1968.
Through Mama Cass (singer of The Mamas and the Papas), he was reacquainted with Stills, a looser like him, after he left Buffalo Springfield in March 1968. In Laurel Canyon, which was to become the Mecca of the entire progressive music scene in Los Angeles, tired of the Hollys’ pop hum, Englishman Graham Nash, whose voice perfectly complemented the singing of the two, quickly joined the duo. Americans.. Thus, Crosby, Stills and Nash are born with three composers of different styles, whose huge artistic palette shines with impressive harmony.
Alongside Stills’ virtuosic and crafted songs and Nash’s perfect pop, Crosby’s bold compositions fall naturally into place, like oddly cut pieces that complete the most complex puzzles. Floating and mesmerizing Guinevere (dedicated to Joni Mitchell, a loyal friend, time lover, whose first album he released and who throughout his life he did not stop hailing as the most talented. “authors” generation) to vocal acrobatics deja vu the hardest and conducts electricity It’s been a long time Where I almost cut my hair, Crosby shines with the absolute freedom his amazing melodic instinct gives him.
In 1971, he released his first solo album. If I Could Only Remember My Name. The disc features a credit that resembles a Who’s Who of West Coast rock, with members from the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane or Santana in addition to their usual partners. It perfectly captures Crosby’s extraordinary musical genius as it is dense The Cowboy Movie (lit by Jerry Garcia’s guitar) or appropriately named song without words a flight with a bright and fascinating sound, without words, verses, or choruses. A peak of grace and beauty that leaves little room for doubting the dire situation the singer was in at the time.
This good-natured bon vivant, already addicted to all kinds of drugs, is shocked by the death of his lover in a car accident. The drama that first plunged him into the most extreme addiction. While Stephen Stills and Neil Young have flourished solo artistically, only Nash’s long-term friendships keep him afloat. They recorded several albums as a duo, participated in numerous sessions, and their vocal alchemy was sought after by the greatest (from Kantner and Slick to Jackson Browne, James Taylor to Carole King). Crosby, Stills, Nash, sometimes with Young, regularly find themselves on stage or on the disc, with more or less happiness, but at least a guarantee of a box office every time.
The sound is miraculously intact
A major turning point occurred in 1985. Crosby, under the influence, occasionally flirted with states of dementia. He was caught armed with a pistol and a knife and imprisoned for several months. This necessarily painful confinement eventually evokes in him a desire for detoxification. His friend Jackson Browne will force him to focus on music until the desire to dive again is at its strongest. In 1988, the result was an interesting biography. It’s been a long time rare honesty, followed by a solo album titled voluntarist, yes i can Seeing him come out of hell for the first time since 1971. But the road to reconstruction will be long.
1993’s Second Down album, A Thousand Roads, produced by Phil Collins, has the credit for keeping him in the saddle, as does CPR, the band he formed with his son James Raymond (born in 1962 but only discovered its existence decades later). the joy of finding a miraculously intact voice. The real push came in 2014 Cruz, fueled by gentle soft rock, the album is certainly far from the stylistic bravado of the past, but it testifies to a Crosby with clear ideas, in love with music, finally the master of his own destiny. So much so that, against all odds, he’s become one of the most prolific artists, producing decent enough albums with jazz-blues accents like Van Morrison. We will remember the beauty light house and lastly, free, in the form of “profession of faith” Borrowed from Joni Mitchell. In 2019, he completed his last Paris concert Ohio, Neil Young’s Rebel Song, “still relevant”, he said. David Crosby walked in a single voice until the end, head held high, calmed but not tamed.