Remembering David Crosby: Favorite Songs

Eighty-one years is a long time to live, at least it used to be. Science, medicine, nutrition, faith and love have moved the bounds of life. Considering Crosby’s wild life, I’m a bit surprised he reached 81; all the same, I’m sad he’s passed.

In life, we are rarely as wonderful as some think or as flawed as others believe; the truth is somewhere in the middle.

David Crosby was many things, including a jerk. That’s by his own admission. He pissed off friends, former collaborators, music industry people, fans and certainly members of the government. Of his passed relationships with women, he confessed to being a penis with a person strapped to it. Later in life, he mended some relationships and fractured others. CSN&Y was forever silenced because of his actions.

In six decades, Crosby was part of a lot of music. The Byrds, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Crosby & Nash, and his solo work and other collaborations. In the last decade of life, Crosby knew time was running out, so he got busy and put his career in overdrive. He still had music to make and he realized how much time he’d wasted along the way. Money was also a driving force, life as an aging rocker in a digital age is tough. He recorded, toured and sold his music catalog to support his family and his health needs.

While his music may legally belong to others, it really belongs to all of us, only if we are just renting its use from the man.

Here are my favorite David Crosby written/performed songs. There are many others that he sang on, often with Graham Nash, as background or harmony vocalists. Maybe those will be a later blog.

“Eight Miles High” Written by Crosby, Roger McGuinn and Gene Clark, and released by The Byrds on their 1966 album Fifth Dimension. A driving piece of psychedelic rock, drug references and jangly guitars. Prime 1960s rock and roll.

“Wooden Ships” written by Crosby, Stephen Stills and Paul Kantner, and released on the Crosby, Stills and Nash debut album in 1969. Also recorded by the Jefferson Airplane. Crosby and Still alternate on signing lead vocals. Crosby wrote the music, while Stills and Kantner the lyrics. This is very much an anti-war song, and one of the heaviest of CS&N’s career.

“Almost Cut My Hair” written by Crosby and released by CSN&Y on Deja Vu (1970). Definitely a counterculture protest against giving in the status flow. Let your freak flag fly. Another heavy electric guitar song. Only Crosby’s vocals are on the track.

“Deja Vu” written by Crosby, the title track from the 1970 CSN&Y album. A very intricate song with a mixture of tempos and layering of instruments and voices.

Triad” written by Crosby while he was in The Byrds, but they refused to release it. Jefferson Airplane released their own version, in 1971, Crosby recorded a live version on CSN&Y’s live 4-Way Street album. The song is about a ménage à trois which was considered very racy subject matter.

“The Lee Shore” written by Crosby, intended for Deja Vu but not included. It was recorded and released on 4-Way Street. The 1971 box set has a version meant for Deja Vu. It’s a quality song and the blending of Crosby and Nash’s voice really bring out the beauty of the song.

“Laughing” written by Crosby for his 1971 solo album, If I Could Inly Remember My Name. A slow, jangly ballad, shimmering and soulful.

“Song With No Words” written by Crosby for If I Could Only Remember My Name. No lyrics, just scat singing over a meandering, jazzy kaleidoscope of music. An incredible song.

“Bittersweet” written by Crosby for 1975 album, Wind on the Water, the best album from Crosby or Crosby & Nash. An aching, powerful song, both Crosby and Nash provide soulful vocals.

“Homeward Through the Haze” written by Crosby, also from Wind on the Water. A bluesy, downbeat song with some musical bite.

“To the Last Whale” written by Crosby and Nash, maybe their best song ever. Great vocals and musical arrangement. A strong environmental message.

“Taken at All” written by Crosby and Nash for their 1976 album, Whistling Down the Wire. One of the better songs on the album, it features both singing lead, doing what they do best.

“Shadow Captain” written by Crosby and Craig Doerge, and released on the 1977 album, CSN. A longtime sailor, the beautifully arranged song fit comfortably on the trio’s reunion album. Sunsets, gentle breezes and calm seas – these were the 1970s.

“Compass” written by Crosby, presumably in prison, and recorded for the 1988 CSN&Y American Dream album. Slow and meandering, this autobiographical song is of his drug-wasted years.

“Tracks in the Dust” written by Crosby from the 1989 album, Oh Yes I Can. A beautiful acoustic song with guitar by the late Michael Hedges. This was a comeback for Crosby after prison and with a little help from his friends.

“My Country Tis of Thee” another song from Oh Yes I Can. The traditional song, arranged by Michael Hedges, who plays a wonderful and aching acoustic guitar. Background vocals by J.D. Souther and Graham Nash.


One thought on “Remembering David Crosby: Favorite Songs

  1. Nice post and song picks. David Crosby was a great guitarist, terrific vocalist and decent songwriter. Unfortunately, as you noted, he also was a complicated character who nearly destroyed himself and messed up relationships with many folks.

    I never understood what compelled Crosby to launch seemingly unprovoked attacks, especially against Graham Nash. Nash, on the other hand, had this to say about Crosby’s death: “I know people tend to focus on how volatile our relationship has been at times, but what has always mattered to David and me more than anything was the pure joy of the music we created together, the sound we discovered with one another, and the deep friendship we shared over all these many long years. David was fearless in life and in music. He leaves behind a tremendous void as far as sheer personality and talent in this world. He spoke his mind, his heart, and his passion through his beautiful music and leaves an incredible legacy. These are the things that matter most.”

    Like

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