When I heard of the death of singer David Crosby on Friday, I was immediately overcome with grief. There was no one I knew whose life was messed up by drugs and other suicidal acts. Although I know many of them by heart and can close my eyes and listen to their tunes for ages, it's not just the lyrics.
My generation that came of age in the late 60s and 70s had a lot of attachment, but as I got older, a sense of hope for something bigger and deeper. Not only because we are overwhelmed by life's frustrations and limitations, but because we lose something more important: faith in human connection and growth, the power of beauty to wash away petty, cruel emotions. It gives us human nature and a chance to start over.
Over the years, when I've felt lonely, confused, or hopeless, I've turned to the melodic sounds and inspirational messages created by Crosby, Steve Stills, and Graham Nash, often with Neil Young. In "The Wooden Ship," a lost soldier approaches the enemy, offers to share wild berries, and asks which side won the battle. In "Our House," a man describes his happy home life with a flower pot and "two cats in the yard."
Some of the songs I've shared are anthems or pleas for a cause, such as their first eulogy, "To the Last Whale," which describes magnificent cetaceans endangered for cosmetics and pet food. Others lament the folly of fame and self, or are painfully aware of internal struggles and longing for lasting peace.
David Crosby achieved a national comeback after Woodstock.
"Somewhere between heaven and hell, a soul knows where it's been, my spirit is spent and I want to breathe again," Crosby and Nash later wrote. Shattered like sand, maybe one day I'll be whole again. "
But even their most annoying songs are always comforting. Their opposition sings with a familiar blend of voices and the tunes are always composed with aplomb. Like many of my old friends and associates, I have always loved the music of Paul Simon, James Taylor and Bob Dylan.
With Dylan's "Only a Pawn in Their Game" and Simon's "Kathy's Song" and others by Crosby, Stills and Crew, I know I'm always stuck in a certain musical and emotional moment. Like "Daylight Again/Seek the Price of Freedom" and "See the Changes."
I also know that one day soon these great songwriters and singers will also be gone. Yet the 81-year-old Crosby, despite his personal struggles and public ostracism, slays me with harmony in the new age of rage.
I first heard the band's music in 1970 when I was in college. It's the year after Woodstock, and tunes blare from dorm speakers across the green lawns of campus, inspiring visions of limitless adventure and inner travel. Then came the terrorist attacks in Cambodia and the police shootings at Kent State University, infusing the free and peaceful environment of Woodstock with frustrated and angry energy.
I emailed Scott Ainslie, a Vermont singer, on Friday to offer my condolences on Crosby's death. He told me he was at a Crosby, Stills and Nash concert in Baltimore in May 1970. At one point, Stills introduces Young, who plugs his guitar into his amp and sings a song he wrote, "Ohio," after the Kent State shooting that left four dead and nine injured. .
Scott wrote: "When I first heard this song, these kids were floored. The impact of the piercing guitar and powerful lyrics changed me forever. I'll never forget this and I've been trying to repay their debt with my work for a long time."
The first time I heard a band in person was 10 years ago when I bought and listened to all their records. It was the Wolf Trap reunion of the summer. Stills was tough and aggressive but still wicked on guitar. Crosby was warm and funny, survived many trips to hell and wrote many songs about it. After years of arguing and silence, his voice naturally faltered that night.
David Crosby, who formed the Woodstock generation, has died at the age of 81
Like me, many of the spectators were as old and gray as the players, but we were all still alive. D'une certaine manière, c'était comme si nous espérions preserve l'idealisme et l'esprit communautaire qui definissient autrefois notre génération, even if les prix des billets was important and que les pelouse for nusestaable site.
We want to hear something important, something that still shines, something that unites us without being impersonal or awkward. We clapped hands and smiled at strangers during the break, sharing untold memories.
Even now, ten years later, that thought seems strange. Driven by covid and politics, our society is becoming divided and marginalized and quick to place blame and blame. Deadly violence is more common than Kent State, where guns are everywhere. True, there are many causes of interest to new generations, especially global warming and racial injustice, but consensus is elusive.
Life is now louder, faster and more difficult. The quiet songs of the ageless children fade away along with their emotional innocence.