David Crosby has one of the most accomplished CVs in music, having made his illustrious name with The Byrds before creating even more delightful brilliance with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
However, it’s become much rarer to write about Crosby in a positive light in recent times, and the only instances that he appears to be in the press are when he’s been berating younger musicians. Earlier this year, the prickly character fired shots at Phoebe Bridgers after her show-stopping performance on SNL, and countless others have been unfortunate enough to suffer at the hands of his scathing tongue.
There’s no doubting his songwriting prowess, yet, he’s even more talented at burning bridges. In 2019, Graham Nash ruled out a CSNY reunion because it would mean they’d have to deal with Crosby, and no financial incentives would make that worthwhile. “The truth is, none of us are speaking to David,” he told the Post Gazette. “Not me, not Stephen, not Neil. And that’s the way it is. We have to like and love each other to be able to make great music. And I understand the financial implications. I understand the need for CSNY to raise their voices, particularly in this political climate today, but we have to like each other.”
It should come as no surprise that in 2008 when Rolling Stone asked him to name his 20 favourite singers of all time that Crosby failed to state any of his former bandmates. Nevertheless, his choices paint a crystal clear picture of what the former Byrds singer looks for in a vocalist, and remarkably, there are 20 artists he truly admires.
Propping up his collection at the bottom is Art Garfunkel, with Peter Gabriel and Aretha Franklin placed just ahead of the curly-haired singer. Meanwhile, Ray Charles is surprisingly lowly placed in 15th, and his old friend, Jackson Browne, is forced to settle for just 13th, with Phil Collins sandwiched between the duo.
Joni Mitchell is a singer that David Crosby knows all too well, and his respect for her is infinite. Mitchell was an up and coming songwriting starlet when she settled down with Crosby for a period in the late sixties after he stumbled upon her performing at the Coconut Groove club in Florida, and he was immediately blown away.
Crosby brought her into the inner circle of ’60s music royalty in the Laurel Canyon and pushed her in the right direction on her inevitable journey into the stratosphere. However, despite their close connections, Mitchell was only placed in sixth and narrowly missed out on his top five.
Mitchell’s position is somewhat surprising considering Crosby once declared: “I mean, Joni Mitchell, probably the best singer-songwriter of our generation, was my lady. We lived together for about a year and I produced her first record. I brought her to California, introduced her to everybody, said, ‘Hey, this is the best songwriter I ever heard.’ And it’s pretty much the same with the others.”
Later in the list, Crosby also revealed his favourite Beatle is John Lennon, who he put in fourth while Paul McCartney was just one position below his former bandmate. The former CSNY singer then named James Taylor ahead of the duo and ranked him as runner-up.
Blues singer Bonnie Raitt took pole position, and she’s a singer that Crosby could waste all day describing in superlative terms. He once told Rolling Stone, “She’s my favourite singer in the world, period, bar none, full stop. My favourite singer of all. She knows she’ll rip your heart out. She knows what she’s doing.”
See the full list, below.
David Crosby’s 20 favourite singers of all time
- Bonnie Raitt
- James Taylor
- John Lennon
- Paul McCartney
- Shawn Colvin
- Joni Mitchell
- Cass Elliot
- Randy Newman
- Steve Winwood
- Alison Krauss
- Marc Cohen
- Eric Clapton
- Jackson Browne
- Phil Collins
- Marvin Gaye
- Millie Etheridge
- Donald Fagan
- Aretha Franklin
- Peter Gabriel
- Art Garfunkel