David Crosby passed away on January 19th 2023, at the age of 81. His presence in some of rock’s most enduring music, in an instant becomes absorbed into history. As a musician whose career literally plots a course through countless seismic moments in 60s and 70s rock music, his stinging absence will trigger a million memories.
He was a significant part of the early phase of The Byrds and co-wrote what is widely regarded as one of the first psychedelic rock songs Eight Miles High. Almost 60 years later, it still fizzes with a potency that signifies an entire era.
However, being born in a whole other time zone, my own story with David Crosby was via my parent’s record collection. I’m not sure how old I was but the first thing I remember wasn’t the music, it was the strange soft fluffy paper of the sleeve to Crosby, Stills & Nash’s first album.
It was an album that my parents bought when it was released 1969, also the year they got married. Their copy’s inlay sheet had pencil marks underlining certain lyrics. Even at a young age, I could sense this strangely magnetic music had some sort of deep significance, personally and universally.
Slowly, the music became to loom larger and larger. The album fanned out like a list of tracks that quickly seared into my brain. Suite: Judy Blue Eyes, Marrakesh Express, Guinevere, Wooden Ships and Long Time Gone all sounded like exotic sunbeams dappling my rainy little corner of Scotland.
Decades later, after more than 20 happy years together, as my wife and I signed our wedding papers, that unmistakable groove and ‘it’s been a long time coming…’ filled the room – a carefully selected first track we heard as a married couple. A small nod to its evergreen significance…
Only a few years ago, a friend Will Sol mentioned If I Could Only Remember My Name…. Embarrassingly, I admitted I’d avoided it, simply assuming my weird tastes probably wouldn’t find it of interest.
But, not for the first time, I was spectacularly wrong. If I Could Only Remember My Name…. was like finding Crosby, Stills & Nash’s debut’s long lost twin. Another collaborative stew of players – luminaries like Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and the Grateful Dead no less. The Canyon in full effect, beautiful heady music with colour, effortless power and understated momentum. For as long as I live Tamalpais High (At About 3), What Are Their Names and Orleans will transport me into a form of bliss.
David Crosby continued to collaborate and make music for the rest of his life. Tales of his friendships, love of his yachts and the sea, and political activism all mapped out a life lived to the full. But for us, these two perfect albums still somehow exude a form of beautiful succinctness that’s always felt like more than enough to bask in. A frame of mind captured for ever.
It’s easy to look back on this very limited snapshot of his life as one filled with hippie idealism but whilst much of this music is clearly date stamped, it’s still just as relevant today, and almost certainly tomorrow…
I wonder who they are
The men who really run this land
And I wonder why they run it
With such a thoughtless hand
What are their names and on what streets do they live?
I’d like to ride right over this afternoon and give
Them a piece of my mind about peace for mankind
Peace is not an awful lot to ask
David Crosby R.I.P.