R.I.P. David Crosby

It’s weird to hear someone famous I once interviewed died.  You don’t mourn them like you do a friend, a family member, or even an acquaintance. It’s generally a 30 minute or less call on the phone. You don’t really get to know them, but still if I’m going to write something halfway interesting from the interview, the conversation’s going to have to get somewhat intimate and personal.

And since I had the opportunity to interview the great folk-rock singer David Crosby twice, hearing he passed away was doubly weird. I grew up listening to his Byrds and Crosby, Stills, and Nash songs on classic rock radio stations. So the first time I talked to him I had a whole list of questions going through his whole life. I asked about his Dad who was the cinematographer of the classic western movie High Noon. I asked him about The Byrds. By the time I inquired  if it was true Dennis Hopper based his Easy Rider character on him, the Croz wasn’t having it any more. He interrupted me, “Look, I’m here to talk about a music festival I’m doing”.

But when you still have an angelic voice well into your seventies like David Crosby did, humility can enter an interviewer’s heart and you talk about the festival.

In the last decade I was lucky enough to catch Crosby play three solo shows and a reunion with Crosby, Stills, & Nash. Each time was stunning. How could an old codger that looks like this, carry a tune that sounds like that? He’d harmonize with the best of them and let out some rage when he covered Neil Young’s “Ohio”.

The second time I interviewed Crosby I either caught him in a better mood or had a better line of questioning. I figured since I was interviewing him for a Miami paper, I’d quiz him about his time living in Coconut Grove and he lit up. “I was living in New York when someone told me there were coffee shops down in Coconut Grove. I put my clothes in a cardboard box, took that box and my guitar on a Greyhound, and stayed on Bobby Ingram’s couch. Fred Neil and Vince Martin became my mentors.”

He reminisced about meeting Joni Mitchell and stealing sailboats. If the documentary David Crosby: Remember My Name had only been released a few months earlier I would have known to ask him about the time he surrendered himself to the FBI in their West Palm Beach office.

But there will be no more interviews, just the sweet songs he left us. I’m playing the tripped out If I Could Only Remember my Name record and the title of the first song on it would make a wonderful epigraph for him, “Music Is Love”.

 

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David Rolland

David Rolland edits the Jitney blog. He is the author of the novels Yo-Yo & The End of the Century.