Monday, June 17, 2024

Stephen Stills Says David Crosby is Out of Pain Finally After 40 Years


You could say Crosby, Stills & Nash lasted seven or eight years max, and finally blew away.

Their self titled debut album came in 1969 and was so stunning that it propelled them through three quarters of a decade. A year later came “Deja Vu,” followed by the live “Four Way Street,” both of which added Neil Young.

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But then Young had his solo albums, Stills had a huge hit with “Love the One You’re With,” followed by his group, Manassas. Crosby and Nash had their first album as a duo,with the masterful “Immigration Man.” By 1974 there was a greatest hits album called “So Far,” with the Joni Mitchell drawn cover, and you kind of felt that was it. The era of CSN was over. Everyone moved on.

I know I did. There was a brief renaissance in 1977 when the group reformed and released a new album. They had a couple of hits with “Just a Song Before I Go” and “Dark Star.” But new wave and punk had replaced them, disco was booming, Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen hit their peaks with R&B tinged rock, the era of the singer songwriter was ebbing after a glorious run.

In Boston, WBCN was playing Elvis Costello, the Ramones, the Cars, Blondie, Talking Heads. Crosby Stills & Nash had fulfilled their mission. This was ok: the Beatles really only lasted seven years. No one was meant to go on for decades. The audience grows up.

The group’s members fought like crazy in public for years. It seemed pointless. They fell into the Fleetwood Mac genre of bands as a soap opera, which was silly because they were all way past the age when anyone would be interested. A few years ago the enmity was cinched when Nash left his long marriage for a young girl whom Crosby was said to be interested in. Oy vey.

And then Crosby, who loved the volatile, contentious nature of Twitter, up and died. I ran into Stills at Clive Davis’s pre-Grammy dinner. He was seated with his lover of 50 years ago, the great Judy Collins. He wrote “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” for her. It remains the CSN crowning achievement. I can remember putting it on the turntable in 69, when I was 12. From the first notes, it was wildly exciting, unlike anything else. The harmonies, the percussion, Latin sounds. And seven minutes! Hello! The longest song since “Hey Jude.”

The rest of the album was so good, you just kept playing the songs — “Marrakesh Express,” “Guinevere.” “Helplessly Hoping,” and so forth. “Wooden Ships” had a new life after being on a Jefferson Airplane album (it was co-written by Crosby and Paul Kantner, but now sounded muchmore important.) In that brief moment, these three young guys caught lightning in a bottle. And they really seemed to like each other.

I asked Stills about Crosby’s death. “At least he’s out of pain,” he said. Had he been ill a long time, I wondered? “About 40 years,” he responded.

So that was it for CSN, I said, less as a question and more as an obvious observation. Stills didn’t necessarily agree. “We’ll see. His son sounds just like him. You never know.”

Well, that was interesting. Crosby has an eldest son, James Raymond, who he reconnected with years after James was born and went to live with his mother. Since then, Raymond has had a steady career as a singer and songwriter. He produced David’s most recent album. He wrote on his website after his father’s death:

“I am deeply saddened at the passing of my birth father David Crosby. He was a monumental talent and a complete force of nature. The musical gifts he gave us all will be cherished for generations. I feel very fortunate that we found each other and that he so graciously invited me to experience that rarified air of creativity that surrounded him. I’ll miss him immensely.”

The end may not be here so fast.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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