I’ve written enough in various places over the years about my love of David Crosby, from his Byrds beginnings to the legendary If I Could Only Remember My Name and then his late career renaissance. So I won’t say anything new; this by Max Read covers it all in a paragraph:
The singer-songwriter David Crosby died this week at age 81, leaving behind an incredible body of work and a number of stories and recordings of him being a huge asshole. Crosby is obviously best known as a founding member of the Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash, but his first solo album, If I Could Only Remember My Name, which was panned as an indulgent disaster when it first came out, has become a counter-canon classic over the last couple decades alongside stuff like John Phillips’s Wolf King of L.A. and Gene Clark’s Silver Raven — a loose, dreamy psych-Americana trip that would influence and prefigure the whole freak-folk scene of the early 21st century. Featuring an incredible roster of backup musicians (including Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, and Joni Mitchell) and a truly atrocious cover, it absolutely is an indulgent disaster, but it’s a great indulgent disaster.
What tremendously sad news. I think I caught the rumours of his death quite early on, which is unusual now I’m no longer using Twitter. Part of me hoped it wasn’t true, given the seeming lack of verification. It turns out there was some confusion about this at the time. It must be tough to be running a news desk in such times.
We and the news desks must also prepare for similar departures in the next 5-10 years. Macabre as it is to imagine such things, Paul, Ringo, Joni, Brian Wilson, Mick, Keith, Young, Dylan, Page, Daltrey, Page, Townshend etc are all around 80 years old, and won’t be around forever. An entire era is on the verge of passing.
Update: David Browne mentions this topic in his Rolling Stone piece:
Rock & roll is now entering a period we’ve never seen before: musicians in their seventies and eighties, not just touring but in some cases still writing new material. Dylan and Young are prominent examples — but so was Crosby. Desperate to make up for his lost years, he began making an almost annual album of new songs over the last decade, and once again taking rock where it hadn’t been before — letting us know what was on the mind of an 80-year-old rocker. His joy at making new music — happily playing tapes of new, unreleased songs to anyone who would listen, including me once — was undeniable. The week he died, he was already planning the set list for a comeback show in California, and another album was apparently underway. Suddenly you wanted to be that guy in your later life.
Update 2: Damon Linker also wrote about this very topic:
Yes, we’ve lost some already. On top of the icons who died horribly young decades ago — Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Elvis Presley, John Lennon — there’s the litany of legends felled by illness, drugs, and just plain old age in more recent years: George Harrison, Ray Charles, Michael Jackson, Lou Reed, David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Prince, Leonard Cohen, Tom Petty.
Those losses have been painful. But it’s nothing compared with the tidal wave of obituaries to come. The grief and nostalgia will wash over us all. Yes, the Boomers left alive will take it hardest — these were their heroes and generational compatriots. But rock remained the biggest game in town through the 1990s, which implicates GenXers like myself, no less than plenty of millennials.