David Crosby is one of the most important representatives of the Woodstock generation and the author of classics such as “Wooden Ships” and “Almost Cut My Hair”. The brawls within his gang with Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Neil Young alias CSNY and his arrests for drugs and firearms are legendary. The walrus-bearded, angelic-voiced singer and songwriter still acts subversively even in old age and grows his own weed at his home in California. On August 14, he will be 80 years old and treat himself to the solo album “For Free”. Olaf Neumann spoke to him.
Free Press: Mr. Crosby, you have released four solo albums in the past five years. Where does this creative boost come from?
David Crosby: You know my son James Raymond is a fantastic producer and songwriter. On “For Free” he’s at least as good as me, maybe better. And then there’s the Michael League and the Lighthouse Band with Becca Stevens and Michelle Willis. The alchemy of this group is very particular. Writing songs is key with us. As long as this is the case, I want to record records, even if I don’t earn anything from them during streaming.
What drives you?
I just feel like I haven’t written my best song yet. There is still a lot of sleep in me. I like to do art. It is also the only kind of musical exercise that I am still allowed to do. I like to write new songs in my room.
You once said, “I wrote all these hits with cannabis.
I still smoke marijuana, man. Also by making music, of course. It works very well. My wife and I grow our own weed. It’s really fun because they’re good things.
Do you recognize yourself in your son?
No, he’s smarter than I was his age.
James Raymond also starred in Crosby, Stills & Nash. How far has he boosted your career?
He did a lot for me, man! Not only is James Raymond a world-class songwriter, but he’s also an excellent keyboardist and singer. With “I Won’t Stay For Long”, James Raymond wrote the best song on my album. I cried when he first played it to me. I am of course very proud of my son!
Is the room dedicated to your other son Beckett, who died in 2020 at the age of 21 from his drug addiction?
No, it has nothing to do with Beckett. It’s a near-painful song that grew out of a classic story. There are all kinds of personal things in it.
You were Beckett’s sperm donor, the son of Melissa Etheridge and Julie Cypher. How much did his death affect you?
Of course, he hit me really hard. Incredible pain! Fortunately I had the music. Music helped me overcome everything.
“For Free” is a cover of a classic Joni Mitchell that you recorded with the Byrds in 1973. What is it that attracts you so much about song?
I love what he said, I couldn’t resist. When I heard how the song sounded with my band, it was so right. I couldn’t help myself, I wanted it on the record, which I then called “For Free”. I don’t know if this is the ultimate version. I can do it again.
The song is about a street singer. Is that how you started yourself?
My career began with appearances in a New York cafe, where people ended up letting their hats go around. It was a bit like singing in the street. I played my very first concert in Santa Barbara in a cafe where I worked. I wasn’t paid to play, but I was paid to do the dishes.
Why do you think Joni Mitchell is the greatest living singer-songwriter?
I don’t know why she’s so good, she just is. Joni Mitchell creates better songs than anyone I know. As a poet, she is on par with Bob, if not more. As a singer and musician, she is ten times better than Dylan. And I say this as a friend and admirer of Bob.
“Shot At Me” is a song about a veteran. What prompted you to write this play?
The guy in the song is a war veteran from Afghanistan or Iraq. I will speak to these veterans when the opportunity arises. What war does to people is terrible. The soldiers returning from a crisis zone are no longer the same. As a rule, war experiences have a strong negative impact on them, and sometimes they are completely crazy. I just had to write this song. Musical genius Dean Parks, who is one of the best guitarists in the world, helped me with this.
Is it an artist’s job to draw attention to injustices?
Well, that’s just a small part. We must also celebrate all the things that are righteous. But of course I’m against war, that’s bullshit. Humanity does not stop there. I also hate racism and the way the United States was ruled until recently. I didn’t like our last president at all. An asshole! The guy we have now is at least decent and has a desire to do the right thing.
Joe Biden wasn’t your favorite candidate?
I wish they had chosen someone younger and smarter. But maybe Biden was the smarter candidate. At least we have a guy with a good heart. You live in Germany, don’t you?
You should be proud of yourself. Merkel is a good leader, very smart and courageous. Germany is doing pretty well compared to America. We have a long way to go. 40 percent of the people of our country are not connected to the real world. It’s very dangerous.
Does art have the power to heal a society?
Yes, but a society also needs to be educated in one way or another. And it takes a lot of effort and time to make a difference. We wanted to end the Vietnam War at the time. It took ten years, not just a few months as we initially thought. No, the change will not be easy.
Recently, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (CSNY) re-released a 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition of “Deja Vu”. What happened to the never-ending successor “Human Highway”?
I have no idea if there is more of our unpublished material in the archives. Probably yes. You know, I don’t care about CSN and CSNY anymore. For me, this is a closed case.
Do you regret the quarrel with MM. Stills, Nash and Young?
The band didn’t end anything to me. It’s not verbal fights either, it’s not Graham Nash or Neil Young. There’s a really good reason why we can’t do this anymore – but I can’t tell you why. CSNY was nevertheless a good group of which I am very proud.
What happened to the CSN project to make an album with Rick Rubin?
In all fairness, I think Ruby is kind of a poseur. I don’t think he adds much to the party at all. I also doubt he understands music that well.
You recently sold your music and publishing rights. Why did you separate yourself from the work of your life?
Because the streaming services pay me next to nothing. They make billions with music, but they give the writers next to nothing. Spotify is a bunch of thieves! It was a reason. And when the corona pandemic broke out, I suddenly couldn’t go on tour and had to stay home the entire time. With that, my second source of income dried up. It was only because I sold these rights that I was able to pay for my house. I had no other choice or I would have lost my home. (oln)