David Crosby Gives an Interview—To a High School Journalism Class

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David Crosby (Photo via his Facebook page)

“Everybody dies. I’m sure someone told you.”–Crosby  

In May 2022, Best Classic Bands broke the news that David Crosby has retired from live performing. What you didn’t know is that this information came from an interview Croz gave to a high-school journalism class in Golden, Colo. Speaking for an hour with teens that weren’t even alive in the last century, Crosby, born Aug. 14, 1941, eagerly covered a wide range of topics, including his falling out with Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Neil Young. 

May 4th was the 52nd anniversary of the Kent State killings. Is that a hard anniversary for you? 

It’s hard because I remember it. I remember what happened. Four kids who just went to school…They were just doing their thing, doing what they were supposed to be doing. They had a protest because we bombed a country we weren’t supposed to bomb…There were protests at most of the schools in the country, all over. The governor of Ohio was a very right-wing, very bad guy. He characterized it as communist agitators coming in from outside. He said these weren’t American students. He said they were spies, and it wasn’t. It was us. He convinced the soldiers that they were facing the enemy and gave them live ammunition, which they shouldn’t have had. There was nobody threatening them, no threat at all…And so four people like you got shot dead…I’m glad Neil wrote the song, I’m glad we sang it, but it’s a tough thing to live with…and I don’t know how to fix it. 

What was your experience living and being a part of the love, peace and drugs era, with Woodstock especially?   

It’s pretty tough to condense it into one question. My experience was wide and varied. Some of it was awful and some of it was absolutely joyously wonderful. I wish I had never encountered hard drugs, that was a big mistake. Big mistake. But I don’t regret my life because it let me get out there and make music. And making music is an absolute joy…what happened was a blossoming…an opening of ideas, of compassion, of trying to be decent human beings. How I judge people is whether or not they’re trying…We are trying to be decent human beings. 

How did you feel that the political climate concerning the Vietnam War affected your life as a musician and the music overall? 

Very strongly. It was a bad war; it was a bullshit war and after a while we could tell that it was a bullshit war. We weren’t there to accomplish anything. We were there trying to exercise and expand our influence, and keep them from expanding theirs. We had this whole vision of the world as being divided between them and us and we were all just out there trying to sell our ideas as the way to go. 

Can you explain what the crowd was like at Woodstock? 

It was a significant event, mostly because we realized how many of us there were. At that point we didn’t know that there were that many people wanting to be hippies. And then they showed up, and then some more of them showed up, and then a whole lot more showed up, and then some more on top of that. And then all of a sudden there were half a million people there. It was a startling event in another way, because of the way people behaved. I’ll tell you a story. I’m standing there and I’m watching a guy, he’s a policeman. I see a girl; she’s cut her foot. She’s barefoot in the mud and she stepped on a bottle and cut herself badly. And she’s standing there like a stork holding her foot. The cop steps right up into the mud, walks right over to her, ruins his pants and shoes immediately and picks the girl up and carries her respectfully, with a smile on his face, to his car. And lays her down in his backseat and gives her a rag to put over the bleeding. And then 15 hippies help him push that car out of the mud. And it all seemed to work for me right there. The cop worked for me, the kids pushing the car worked for me. That was the humanity I wanted to see. That was the pervasive feeling; if you had a sandwich and somebody else was hungry, you tore the sandwich in half. It was that way, and everybody knew it and I don’t know how. But that was the feeling and everybody had it. 

Watch Crosby, Stills and Nash cover the Beatles’ “Blackbird”

You’re a critic of both:  Who had a worse presidency, Nixon or Trump? 

Oh, definitely Trump. Definitely an awful person. Absolutely horrible person, Nixon was a pretty horrible person himself, but he wasn’t meaning to be horrible…Trump, he is an astoundingly stupid person. He has done astoundingly stupid things.

Have your opinions on the Warren Commission changed? 

No, I think the Warren Commission was a lie. [President John F.] Kennedy was killed by, shot at, by at least two people, and I think it was definitely a conspiracy…It’s unfortunate that they managed to squash it, but there’s no way it would’ve been done another way. The story that they sold us is absolutely ludicrous. It’s an unfortunate thing in our history, but it’s a lesson. 

Besides JFK do you believe in any other conspiracy theories?

Well, I don’t know. If I believe in them, are they conspiracy theories?  

Crosby’s debut solo album

How did your muse and inspiration for music change as you got older?  

Hopefully, I got wiser. I’ve been moved by the same things my whole life. I’ve been moved by love. I’ve been moved by passion. I’ve been moved by compassion. I’ve been moved by bravery. I’ve been moved by courage. So my value system hasn’t changed. The same things are valued to me as they were valued when I started to think about it. Truth, love, trying to be a decent human being.

What is the most meaningful song or album you’ve made?

I shouldn’t be the judge of that. You guys should be the judge of that. You should be the ones deciding whether, what’s my most important stuff…I like my stuff a lot, that’s why I wrote it. I wouldn’t want to pick which one is more significant. That’s your job.

David Crosby sleeping in Hollywood, 1969 (Photo: © Graham Nash)

How has weed impacted your songwriting style? What about your everyday life?  

Well, it’s affected me because it gets me high…Weed for me, it’s a pleasure,  a joy. We grow it and I smoke it and I like it and I don’t feel like it’s harmful. There are people who will argue with me, I’m sure, but that’s how I feel about it. I’ve been doing it for about 50 years and I’m gonna do it as soon as I get done here 

Is there any music you don’t like? 

Yes. I’m not fond of opera, because it sounds so artificial. (Sings a few bars of opera.) It doesn’t sound like real people. It doesn’t; they’re not really talking to you. The thing I like to do with songs is communicate with you, take you on a little voyage. It does not do that for me. As for a lot of other people, it’s a good art form…It’s not what I like. I like rock and roll , but I like the singer-songwriter kind of rock and roll, with good words.

Related: Our Album Rewind review of Crosby and Nash’s Wind on the Water

The [Crosby] documentary [Remember My Name] is very honest. 

If I see a documentary about you, I want to know what matters to you. I want to know what you care about. I want to know what you’re afraid of. I want to know who you love. I want to know who you are. I want to know what matters to you. And in order to do that you have to be remarkably honest. OK? People mostly want it to tell you how they invented electricity and then you discover California. How cool they are. But if you’re trying to be honest, you have to go over a lot of stuff. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life, lots, some of them serious. I did a year in prison. Believe me, it wasn’t fun. I was kicking drugs when I was in there and that’s a really awful thing to be doing. Overall, though, I think I’m pretty lucky.

Was losing your freedom in the ’80s your worst moment?  

Yeah, it was. Me losing my freedom was definitely me going down the tube. It was an opportunity to climb back up, and that’s what happened. I did a year and it got me past rehab, drugs, and gave me a clearer mind to live a normal life and I like it. 

Explain your disdain for Spotify.

They don’t pay us, that simple. If they sold your stuff and they didn’t pay you, you would be pissed. That’s what they’re doing to me. They are selling my stuff and the stuff I made and they are taking all the money. That’s not fair. If I had millions of plays, I could buy a coffee. That’s not fair. They are making billions and giving me pennies and that’s not right.” 

Talk about [song] catalog sales. What made you interested in selling yours? 

The thing we’ve been talking about. Spotify doesn’t pay us. I had two ways of making a living, touring and records. Spotify comes along, and I don’t get paid for records anymore. That’s half my income, OK? So I think, well, I should be grateful that I can still play live and pay the rent and take care of my family. And then along comes COVID and I can’t play live. The reason I sold my collection is that I didn’t have any other option. None. Zero.    

What was the true amount you got from selling your catalog?  

The amount? Oh, I’m not gonna tell you that. 

Listen to “Music Is Love,” from Crosby’s debut solo album

In your book, you wrote about saving your guitar in an earthquake. Is that why you called out Phoebe Bridgers for smashing hers on SNL?  

No, I called out Phoebe Bridgers because it was silly. She was doing something silly. She’s trying to be authentic and cool and do something that would be chilling. Her music is actually pretty good, but breaking the guitar up is just stupid. It’s just show business for the sake of show business and it has nothing to do with the song. It wasn’t communicating anything worthwhile…I don’t think it was smart when Hendrix did it, and if he can’t do it, she can’t do it.  

l. to r.: Graham Nash, Stephen Stills, David Crosby (from the photo session for their debut album)(Photo © Henry Diltz; used with permission)

In the past you have made some comments on other of your old band mates that were perceived as malicious or aggressive. Is there something more behind what you said than what is known to the public?    

Hah! Great. Clever question. No, I’m not gonna sit here and tell you. Yeah, there’s lots of behavior that went into it. The four of us are imperfect beings, all of us. That’s the real world.  

Besides the conflict you have with them, which one do you have the most respect for and why? 

Stills. Largely because he’s just so goddamn talented. The guy’s an incredibly gifted musician. If he touches a guitar, it swings. He can’t help it. I don’t know if you understand what ‘it swings’ means, but it means that it grooves properly and takes you with it. It’s a feeling that you get out of music; it either swings or it doesn’t swing. Stills does it automatically, instinctively, right from the first note. If he’s playing the guitar you can feel the time, the rhythm, just the biggest truck sitting right on your lap. It’s huge. He’s the best singer in the band and the best guitar player and the best writer. Hands down. No contest. Over all of us. So I would say he was the most influential one and the one that I value the highest. 

Watch Crosby perform Joni Mitchell’s “For Free” live in 2019, with members of the Immediate Family

Talk about the music you have coming out soon. 

I’ve been making records at a startling rate. I’ve made five albums in six, seven years. It’s an absurd rate to be cranking albums out. The reason being is that I’m gonna die. I mean, we all… everybody dies. I’m sure someone told you. And I want to crank out all the music I possibly can before I do. Now I’m 80 years old so I’m gonna die fairly soon. That’s how that works. And so I’m trying really hard to crank out as much music as I possibly can, as long as it’s really good…I have another one already in the can waiting.” 

This interview was researched, constructed, conducted and edited solely by the Golden, Colo., High School Journalism Class. Myra James and Jacey Powell were the main interviewers, along with questions from Jaden Bates-Bland, Christopher Belew, Chan Bruce, Jacob Dehm, Landace Doyle, Elliot Goode, Zachery Lovingier, Inga Schulze-Stahl, Haydyn Shaffer, Johnny Smith, Molly Weber and David Yoon. 

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  1. muddywatersmann
    #1 muddywatersmann 14 May, 2022, 00:30

    I love DAVID CROSBY, always have, since the BYRDS, when I was 15! GREAT VOICE, GREAT MUSICIAN, GREAT MIND, GREAT HUMANITY….Saddens me that we won’t live forever…but he has BLESSED me with his talent, wisdom, music…I am a huge fan, his album, IF I COULD ONLY REMEMBER MY NAME, IS A HUGE FAVORITE, listen to it regularly, like a lot of his newer albums, love hearing him sing/speak live! He is a very rare being, who I love dearly!

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  2. DRAIDEZ1
    #2 DRAIDEZ1 14 May, 2022, 00:53

    Great interview by some truly talented journalists and I hope David’s words of wisdom about his love’s, his great mistakes he regrets and some of the anuls of American and world history he’s lived reverberates and travels with them on their journeys!!! Long Live Rockn’Roll❗️☮️✌️Teach your children well❗️❗️P.S. Really would love for his band mates to forgive him for his past evils, he truly seems a changed person

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  3. Da Mick
    #3 Da Mick 15 May, 2022, 16:49

    Seems like age had indeed endowed David with more wisdom, and in that process, hopefully, taken his ego (which seems like it’s served as his own foil over the years) down a few notches. From reading this as well as other things about him, as well as the documentary mention, it does seem like he’s a somewhat changed person in a positive direction. It would indeed be wonderful if his bandmates of the past were able to forgive him, but one has to believe that since none of them still want nothing to do with him, his offenses to almost everyone had to be pretty heinous in nature. I believe that people can change their habits and course, but their nature is more like a fingerprint. And while I wasn’t there, I get the feeling that it’s Crosby’s nature that his bandmates, one by one going back to the Byrds, eventually had enough of and are quite happy to be without.

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  4. peaceandliberty
    #4 peaceandliberty 16 May, 2022, 00:20

    I have almost every recording from Crosby’s career. Missing a couple of Byrds album’s. I try to catch
    him live at any venue anytime his tour would get close throughout the decades. This is most memorable Croz interview I’ve read in a long time. Great job!
    Curiously DC biggest beef with Spotify is compensation? I thought he requested his catalog be removed from Spotify in union with Neil Young’s slamming Joe Rogan’s views and opinions and demanding Spotify remove Rogan’s show? Maybe that was just a sign of solidarity?
    I hope the artists and Spotify figure out a way to agree and have their catalogs return to the platform. The new ears of the world need to be able to discover the wonderful music these folks made. I’m afraid if they can’t find it, it cannot be celebrated and enjoyed. These artists must not be forgotten!
    Boycotts can backfire too. I saw something the other day saying Rogan picked up more than 2 million new subscribers since NY called for his show to be removed.

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