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If the idea of revolution in 1960s America had a face, that face would have had David Crosby’s long hair and ranchero mustache. No one embodied the boundless creativity, situationist ideals of freedom, and beautifully muddled activism of the era better than the Los Angeles singer, songwriter, and guitarist—who died aged 81 after a long illness few knew about. Not Abbie Hoffman, who was somewhat the political leader of the movement, not psychedelic drug guru Timothy Leary, and not even Bob Dylan, without whom Crosby probably would have had another job. Maybe because Crosby was Hoffman, Leary and Dylan together, the man whose words you had to hear to really be a part of the movement. If only he could remember her name.
one with the whole
He founded and broke up bands with playful ease. Creating genres, inventing trends, giving us unforgettable songs. She took the stand once more than necessary, experimented with substances, practiced free love. Which meant being one with the whole, like Hölderlin but a few centuries later. And in California: sorry, but it’s not a trivial detail. Son of Floyd Crosby, a very popular cinematographer in Hollywood, Oscar winner for Friedrich Murnau’s “Tabu”, was a chorister as a boy: Where do you think he learned to play vocal harmonies so well? He approached folk and started writing songs, then discovered the music of The Beatles on the Sunset Strip and met people like him from other parts of America, Roger McGuinn and Gene Clarke.
Byrds, the way of folk rock
Hence the crazy idea of making folk with electric guitars, the language of the Beatles: That’s how the Byrds and their brilliant debut entitled Mr. Tambourine Man were born. Bob Dylan couldn’t help but fall in love with her, especially since her repertoire earned him good money in royalties. Crosby, who dons a minstrel’s cape on stage, lends the project sophisticated gems like Everybody’s Been Burned and Mind Gardens. They had invented folk rock and didn’t realize it, just as they didn’t know they were the first supergroup in history: an open formation, all for one and each for themselves. We take each other and leave each other, for it is the age of free love. Strange that Croz’s adventures with the Byrds ended for Triad, a song of his that talked about “doing things in threes” that McGuinn felt was too daring.
Crosby, Stills, Nash and the Laurel Canyon Era
Patience: Croz has now met with Texan Stephen Stills from Buffalo Springfield and Briton Graham Nash from the Hollies and with them they form the first supergroup that understands it, a kind of international songwriter. Crosby, Stills & Nash (1969) is an epochal record, their set at Woodstock one of the most defining things that marked the festival, Croz contributes with the fury of Long Time Gone, the crooked melody of Guinnevere and those vocal harmonies that all tried to copy. Thus begins the era of Laurel Canyon, the place in Los Angeles where you had to live in the hills if you wanted to be a part of what was happening under the admiring eyes of the whole world. A scene where Crosby was a tireless animator.
If only I could remember my name
In the American counterculture of the early 1970s, everything is open-ended. CSN are no exception: they share songs, records, stages, women, drugs. With the support of Canadian Neil Young, an old acquaintance of Stills from the Buffalo Springfield days, they expand into a quartet and build monuments such as Déjà vu (1970) or Live 4-Way-Street (1971). Each carries out their own solo projects in which the other three collaborate, and Croz released If I Could Remember My Name in 1971, one of the most important albums of that decade. Check it out for yourself to hear the epic cowboy movie motionless. They share everything and sometimes argue: this is how the duo Crosby & Nash (1972) was born, to which the other two partners would respond four years later with the Stills-Young Band.