David Crosby is one of the most fascinating men in music. His life reads like a piece of fiction, and a biopic is screaming to be made of it. Crosby first made waves as a vital cog in one of the counterculture’s most vital bands, The Byrds, then after being fired, he augmented the genius of both CSN and then CSNY before they split in 1970. From there, Crosby subsequently embarked on an extensive solo career, and as a figure outside of his music, he has given us some memorable moments.
Whether it be his very public spats with his former CSNY bandmates, namely his comments calling Neil Young’s wife Daryl Hannah a “purely poisonous predator”, his thoughts on Joni Mitchell, or how he believes Janis Joplin and Grace Slick were the original “queens of rock”, Crosby is brimming with out there opinions.
Never afraid to weigh in with a hot take on anything musical, this has made the former Byrds man one of the most interesting and controversial figures within the industry. Due to his stature as an artist, his opinion is vital, whether you agree with it or not. They offer interesting starting points for debate, and often it seems as if Crosby takes the contentious standpoint just for a reaction.
However, one of his opinions I’m sure we can all get behind is his thoughts on one of the most unique and essential bands of all time, Steely Dan. It is no secret that Crosby is their biggest fan, and in July 2020, he tweeted: “Steely Dan is my favourite band in the world period”. It is also well-known that one of Crosby’s musical heroes is Steely Dan’s resident anti-hero, Donald Fagen.
The pair had vaguely known each other for a while, but didn’t collaborate until September 2019, when Crosby joined Steely Dan on stage in Santa Barbara to sing the classic track, ‘Home at Last’ from their iconic 1977 album, Aja. A resounding success, a few days later, Fagen asked Crosby to again join the band on stage to play one of his own songs, 1969’s ‘Wooden Ships’ at New York’s Beacon Theatre.
“I get there and they’ve learned it really well and they’ve written horn parts,” Crosby told Rolling Stone. “It’s just smoking. I walk out and the whole audience goes absolutely batshit crazy. We practically did structural damage to the building. It was really good. After that, I really cultivated a relationship with Donald. He doesn’t wear his heart on his sleeve, but he’s a brilliant guy. I admire him beyond belief.”
This fruitful collaboration didn’t end there either. Crosby would get his long term wish of recording a track with Fagen. Shortly after the New York show, Fagen sent him a set of lyrics for a song titled ‘Rodriguez for a Night’.
Crosby and his son and musical partner, James Raymond, then composed the music. “We Steely Dan’d them right into the fucking ground,” he said. “It’s a story song and it’s really fun.”
Of the experience, he also explained: “I’m so honoured he gave us a set of words. I’ve been asking him for a couple of years. He started to trust us, I think. It took a long time, but he gave us a set of words that are really wonderful and we just wrote the shit out of them.”
The track appears on Crosby’s 2021 album For Free, and it is brilliant. It’s a shame that Fagen didn’t actually appear on the track, but through his unmistakable lyrical style, and Crosby and Raymond’s best Steely Dan impression, his influence permeates the track. Here’s to hoping that Crosby and Fagen have more in store for us in the not too distant future.
Listen to ‘Rodriguez for a Night’ below.