David Crosby is one of the most fascinating men in music. His life and career have been full of so many ups and downs that it is begging to be made into a biopic. As a musician, he made iconic work with The Byrds, Crosby, Stills, Nash and sometimes Young, and as a solo artist. Aside from that, he produced Joni Mitchell’s first record, 1968’s Song to a Seagull, is an avid sailor and owns a Cannabis brand.
In terms of artistic output, Crosby is one of the premier figures of the countercultural movement. To have played in one seminal band is one thing, but to have played in two is spectacular. His songwriting ability is also relatively unmatched, save for his CSNY bandmates, The Beatles and Bob Dylan. He’s done and seen it all and has suffered an ample share of personal tragedy.
The strange thing about Crosby is the way that he seems to have burnt bridges with a lot of his old bandmates and buddies. He and Neil Young haven’t been on talking terms for quite some time after he labelled Young’s wife Daryl Hannah a “purely poisonous predator”, amongst other things, and Graham Nash, who was once very close to Crosby, has not spoken to him in a long time, and so on.
It seems that Crosby is a man full of opinions, and a man who has angered his fair share of people over the years. However, this is rock ‘n’ roll, and it’s full of drug-addled brains and egos, no matter how old they are, we have to take other opinions of Crosby with a pinch of salt. He always comes across like a perfectly affable gentleman. Furthermore, some of his beliefs and hot takes are golden. He was right at the heart of music and the counterculture during the 1960s and early ’70s, and this makes his takes on his contemporaries invaluable, even if again, you have to take them with a pinch of salt.
Over the years, Crosby has given us his thoughts on everyone from Joni Mitchell to his ex-bandmates, more recently, even Phoebe Bridgers. In 2003, he also offered up a significant take on three of rock’s biggest names. Speaking to Jefferson Airplane biographer, Jeff Tamarkin for the book Got a Revolution!, Crosby discussed just how incredible their ex-frontwoman Grace Slick was. He said: “Slick reigned with Janis Joplin as queens of rock at that time, and the force of both her voice and her personality made her a ceiling-shattering feminist counterculture icon and an inspirational model for many to follow. When they got Grace in the band, that was just beyond belief.”
Then, shortly after, he provided us with one of those competitive comparisons he’s so adept at. He commented: “She was stunning. She had a power and intensity onstage that Stevie Nicks should only ever dream she could get.”
Regardless of him talking Grace Slick up to Janis Joplin levels whilst also managing to slight Stevie Nicks at the same time, Crosby’s insight rings wholly true. Slick’s voice and personality were only really matched by Joplin, and together both of them showed that women could rise to the top in the male-dominated music industry.
In many ways, they were the first true feminists in music. Without their massive steps, music would look very different today.