What the Media Forgot About David Crosby
He was an unreconstructed 1960s radical who kept his political commitments til he died
I am a very late member of the Baby Boom generation, born in 1962. My first musical tastes involved a membership in the Partridge Family fan club that I shared with my younger sister. But I can date precisely when I woke up to the real music of my youth and of the larger counterculture: it was sitting on a grassy field in 1973 at sleepaway camp, hearing for the first time the thrilling harmonies of Suite: Judy Blue Eyes played over the PA system and wondering, who the hell was that? From that moment forward, I became a fan of Crosby, Stills & Nash (and soon Young), and it was through them that I came to discover the whole pantheon of 1960s rock and folk music.
So I was saddened, as were many, by the news of David Crosby’s passing last Saturday at the age of 81. Reading and listening to many of the tributes and obituaries that appeared after his death, though, I’ve been struck by how little most have said about his politics. Yes, he deserves our attention for his seminal role in two great bands, the Byrds and then CSN; and forgive me, for his seminal (semenal?) role in helping singer Melissa Etheridge artificially conceive two children. His battles with drug addiction and the law also belong in any balanced appreciation of his life. But if you read the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal or any number of other obituaries, you’d know more about his consumption of drugs along with his defense of menages a trois than you would about his fierce radical politics.
Over the years, he poured his musical stature into unpopular causes like opposing the Iraq War in 2006, when CSNY played 33 venues (a project that was instigated mainly by Neil Young); he sang benefit concerts for causes like opposing nuclear power and weapons, for the 50th anniversary of the Kent State shootings, to fight an anti-union campaign finance initiative in California in 2012, as well as performing at Occupy Wall Street in 2011; and in 2022 he along with his old bandmates took their music off of Spotify to protest its spreading of COVID misinformation. None of that got mentioned in any of the obits I saw.