David Crosby is somewhat of an outlier within the stars of the former counterculture. He is an incredible musician who has had a celebrated solo career as well as featuring in iconic supergroups such as The Byrds and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (CSNY). A marvellous vocalist and guitarist, these skills are not the only thing Crosby is known for.
During the 1960s, ’70s and beyond, he had a hard-partying lifestyle and developed numerous drug and alcohol issues that have caused him crippling health and legal troubles. This is a trope that is well worn within rock ‘n’ roll. However, Crosby’s penchant for a party is not the reason he is so ever-present in the media today. It is his ‘hot takes’ on his contemporaries that have caused him to become somewhat of a pariah from the set he was once at the heart of.
In recent years, he has offended almost every member of CSNY. More recently though, he has been involved in a war of words in the media with former bandmate Neil Young. Back in 2014, Crosby told the Idaho Statesman that Young’s wife, actress Daryl Hannah is “a purely poisonous predator”. Young also provided a cutting take on Crosby’s newfound social standing. Talking to AARP Magazine, he said: “Crosby should write an introspective book: ‘Why People Won’t Talk to Me Anymore’.”
Regardless of who Crosby offends, his takes are necessary, as they provide an alternative opinion to the ones that we often see in discourse. Even if they are to be taken with a great spoonful of salt, they offer a different perspective on some of our heroes, providing us with some revisionism in the 21st century.
In July 2021, Crosby turned his gaze from his old bandmates to two other icons of the counterculture, Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan. During an interview with Howard Stern, Crosby discussed his brief romance with Mitchell, and in doing so, provided a controversial opinion on everyone’s favourite troubadour, Bob Dylan.
Famously, Crosby and Mitchell dated for a short time back in 1967, and the nature of their dalliance was captured on Mitchell’s debut studio album, Song to a Seagull, which was produced by Crosby. However, the relationship soon fell apart and unsurprisingly, Crosby’s behaviour was the deciding factor. He would show off Mitchell to his friends like a “talented possession” which Mitchell thought was “kind of embarrassing… as if I were his discovery.”
This tense period led to Crosby shacking up with his ex-girlfriend. Heartbroken by the infidelity, Mitchell wrote her classic ballad ‘That Song About the Midway‘. During the lengthy interview with Stern, Crosby revealed that he and Mitchell still don’t get on.
Even though Crosby opined that he thought the end of the pair’s relationship was inevitable, he still showered Mitchell in praise. Bringing in a comparison with the ‘Voice of a Generation’, Bob Dylan, Crosby explained that he thinks Mitchell trumps Dylan in terms of artistry. He said: “She’s as good a poet as Bob (Dylan), and she’s ten times the musician and singer than he is. I care about him, but the truth is she’s much better as a musician and much better as a singer.”
Crosby explained: “I don’t get along with her that well anymore, but I do love her with my whole heart for what she’s given us.” He concluded: “I don’t think anybody did it as well. They’ve been celebrating Blue because it’s 50 years since she’s made it. I think that’s arguably the best singer-songwriter record ever made, much better than my stuff.”
David Crosby is the prince of rock’s hot takes. Whilst his opinion on Mitchell being better than Bob Dylan is a contentious one, his perspective does carry some weight to it. However, this is a point for you to decide, so we’ll let you mull over it for yourself.
Listen to David Crosby on The Howard Stern Show below.