Remembering David Crosby: Long Time Gone
David Crosby’s death at age 81 on January 18, just five weeks before he was slated to perform as part of the Lobero’s 150th anniversary celebration, was surprisingly shocking even though he’d been in less than perfect health for years. After the initial sadness, what came quickly to mind and heart was both the first and last time I’d seen him perform a full concert, spanning more than four decades, from a note-perfect Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young set at the Atlantic City Race Course (opened by Santana and Jesse Colin Young, who, ironically, will perform twice at the Lobero over the next two weeks) to a terrific-beyond-all-reason concert with The Lighthouse Band at the Lobero in 2018 in which he somehow was in even finer voice let alone mutual admiration with his mates on stage.
That last part is no surprise, of course, as Crosby was by his own account far more blessed with talent and drive than an ability to get along with his fellow musicians. But he’d finally mellowed and in these latter years he found and mined a stunning burst of creative energy in putting out five solo albums in just seven years after releasing none for the previous 21. (He was reportedly working on another and possibly planning a tour when he died.)
Here in Santa Barbara, where Crosby was raised (and kicked out of Crane Country Day School), we loved him nonetheless, and never felt less than grateful when he came down from his Santa Ynez Valley spread to share a full set or even a song, as when he joined Jason Isbell for a blistering rendition of “Ohio” at the Arlington in early 2022 in what proved to be his final live performance.
Never was his presence more poignant, however, than a SBIFF screening of David Crosby: Remember My Name on a Super Bowl Sunday four years ago, with the documentary’s subject watching himself sing, and squirm, on the screen. The movie covered the final dissolution of Crosby, Stills & Nash as well as Crosby’s well documented health and legal issues, with interviewer Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous) firing a relentless series of queries about the rock star’s poor choices and foibles.
“It was very hard for me to look at,” Crosby told me in a brief one-on-one interview following the screening. “He asked the toughest questions I’ve ever been asked. And they hurt. [Watching it now] feels like being naked in public… But it was the right choice to tell the truth.”
Truth in his music was a phrase found in a lot of appreciations of Crosby’s life last week, which sometimes came out as refusing to compromise. But the world is so much richer for all that he left behind.
And if there’s a silver lining in the cloud of his passing, it would have to be that his widow, Jan, who was married to Crosby for 35 years, didn’t have to face her greatest fear of having her husband succumb to a health issue while on tour. David Crosby died at home in Santa Ynez.