Analysis: David Crosby shaped rock into inspired and turbulent musical flight

Music lovers all over the world mourned the death of their 60s heroes. We have just recovered from the death of Jeff Beck and are surprised by the death of David Crosby, at the age of 81.

What comes to mind first when your name comes to mind? It could be The Byrds, it could be Crosby, Stills & Nash, and “hair” is also a possible answer. Not because the visual comes before the music, but because one of the most beautiful songs Crosby wrote is “Almost Cut My Hair” (“I almost cut my hair”), featured in “Déjà Vu”, 1970, by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, also known as CSNY.

This was the third major band with Crosby in its ranks. The second is pretty much the same, minus Neil Young. The first is the anthology The Byrds, important in the profusion of psychedelic rock, folk and country rock.

Crosby was a founder of the Byrds. In the beginning, the band had three guitarists: in addition to Crosby, Roger McGuinn and Gene Clark promoted the acoustic and electric attack of the strings which became the band’s trademark, combining with beautiful vocal harmonies.

There is no song he wrote on “Mr. Tambourine Man”, the first album, released in 1965, although they recorded and did not use the instrumental “You and Me”, which Crosby composed with Clark and McGuinn. This first album contains four Bob Dylan compositions, one of which is the title track, the band’s first hit, which would go on to become famous as great interpreters of the bard’s songs.

In the second, “Turn Turn Turn”, also from 1965, Crosby composes the great “Wait and See” with McGuinn, but the record is still dominated by Gene Clark’s compositions and covers, such as the title track, by Pete Seeger, and more two by Bob Dylan.

The balance of power began to shift in Crosby’s favor when lead composer, Gene Clark, decided to leave the group early in the recording of their third album, “Fifth Dimension”, in 1966.

To make up for the loss, McGuinn and Crosby began composing more, as a duo or solo, while reducing the presence of covers. The psychedelic smash hit “Eight Miles High,” which Crosby composed with McGuinn and Clark, is taken from this album. Crosby collaborates again with McGuinn in the creation of “I See You”, another psychedelic anthem, and pens alone the beautiful ballad “What’s Happening?!?!”.

On the next album, however, the bassist and founder of the band Chris Hillman, taking advantage of Crosby’s dissatisfaction with the recording of yet another Bob Dylan cover, “My Back Pages”, and the frequent quarrels between Crosby and McGuinn, contributed with some songs from the album “Younger Than Yesterday”, 1967.

Crosby, in turn, signs alone the wonderful “Everybody’s Been Burned”, a touch of sophistication of the record, and the idiosyncratic “Mind Gardens”, equivalent to George Harrison’s Indian experiences on Beatles records, in addition to the suggestive “Renaissance Fair and “Why,” which he co-wrote with McGuinn.

In the same year the recordings of their fifth album, “The Notorious Byrd Brothers” began. Crosby was very dissatisfied when he recorded covers, especially the beautiful “Goin ‘Back”, by Carole King and Gerry Goffin, leaving the recording environment very busy.

Only McGuinn and Chris Hillman participated in all of the album’s recording sessions. Drummer Michael Clarke was already one foot out of the band and Crosby was fired in the middle of recording, replaced by a horse on the album cover.

History, however, will give him new contours. In 1969, the first album by the supergroup Crosby, Stills & Nash, or CSN, was released, which included, in addition to Crosby, Stephen Stills, of Buffalo Springfield, and Graham Nash, of the Hollies. The album is a constant feature on all-time greatest lists.

The following year it was the turn of “Deja Vu”, by CSNY, that is with Neil Young and the aforementioned “Almost Cut My Hair”. Crosby also pens the brilliant title track. It’s another record that frequently appears on all-time greatest lists. But the band didn’t last long. Neil Young and Stephen Stills already had individual careers of some prestige, and David Crosby and Graham Nash would release their first solo albums in 1971.

“If I Could Only Remember My Name…”, Crosby’s first, has his face superimposed on an ocean sunset landscape on the cover. In the songs, some of the characteristics seen in his previous compositions: irresistible melodies, a certain propensity to experiment with textures and orientalism and clean vocal harmonies.

During the 70s, the musician participated in a new abbreviated supergroup group. With Graham Nash, he has recorded three beautiful LPs under the Crosby & Nash name. With CSNY he published the double live “4 Way Street”, in 1971. With CSN he published, in 1977, the misunderstood album entitled precisely CSN, which resumes the path followed in previous years by the three musicians.

Between sporadic returns from the Byrds, three new CSN ​​albums, nine months spent in prison, between 1985 and 1986, for drug abuse, drunk driving and illegal possession of weapons and a beautiful second solo album called “Oh Yes, I Can”, since 1989, Crosby has known how to reinvent himself for the 80s audience. In 1993 his third solo album was released, “Thousand Roads”, from 1993, less inspired, but far from negligible.

He had serious health problems in the mid-1990s and needed a life-saving liver transplant. Reborn, he put together a new band, CPR, with guitarist Jeff Pevar and keyboardist James

Raymond, recording two acclaimed albums with them, 1998’s “CPR” and 2001’s “Just Like Gravity”. Raymond would become Crosby’s primary collaborator from that group on.

A fourth solo album, 2014’s “Croz,” appears, from which Crosby again becomes prolific, amassing albums, several projects, and accolades over the next several years, even with his increasingly failing health. It is also a case of recording music as a means of survival.

Until the last album, the beautiful “For Free”, from 2021, which becomes the testament of a career that was, in fact, a long and beautiful musical flight of great tribulations and inspirations.

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