August 14, 2011 | 12:30pm
David Courtland Crosby, born 70 years ago today, is arguably one of the most influential musicians of the past 50 years, owing first and foremost to his membership in the Byrds, a band that found him etching the seminal sound of folk-rock, and later -- alongside Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, and occasional member Neil Young in Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young -- one of rock's first true supergroups. Fact is, Crosby's rarely been out of work, later establishing himself in such side bands as the pared-down Crosby Nash and CPR with his son James Raymond, as well as his various production projects (among other things, he was at the helm of onetime lover Joni Mitchell's first album) and his sometime solo efforts.
Still, for all his musical invention, Crosby's personal pratfalls often
seize the spotlight and cause controversy. Given that fact, we thought
it might be interesting to look back at some of the wackier incidents
that have helped to define Crosby's crazy life. Here are a few that come
immediately to mind...
• Proselytizing and pontificating: Crosby performed with the Byrds at the seminal rock festival Monterey Pop but promptly upset his bandmates with an extemporaneous rant about the killing of President John F. Kennedy four years before. Then, the next day, he further infuriated his bandmates by making an impromptu appearance with Buffalo Springfield at the behest of his future CSN bandmate Stephen Stills. Tensions were further escalated over the choice of material during the recording of the Byrds' next album, the aptly named Notorious Byrds Brothers. Shortly thereafter, the Byrds forced him to take flight... on his own.
• The trouble with "Triad": Crosby was firmly engaged in the spirit of the '60s, particularly when it revolved around free love. His randy inclinations led him to pen "Triad," an ode to the joys of ménage à trois. That ruffled a few feathers with his Byrds buddies, offering them all the more justification for giving him the boot. The song was later recorded by the Jefferson Airplane on its album Crown of Creation, and Crosby's solo version subsequently appeared on the CSNY live album Four Way Street. The Byrds' tentative take on the song finally appeared as a bonus track on the reissue of the aforementioned Notorious Byrd Brothers.
• His drug demise: By the mid-'80s, drugs had taken their toll and had clearly caught up with Crosby. Appearing onstage with Crosby, Stills & Nash, he often seemed catatonic, increasing concern among his bandmates. An intervention by buddies Graham Nash, Paul Kantner, and Jackson Browne failed to prevent his downhill spiral. Trying to avoid prison, he escaped to South Florida and made his way to the home of future brother-in-law John Dance. My friend Dan was Dance's roommate at the time, and he watched Crosby stumble across the front lawn, a man tattered both physically and mentally. Eventually, he was arrested and later spent nine months in a Texas prison on charges stemming from an accumulation of weapons and drug charges. He emerged with his famous mane sheared short and an uncertain future before him. An April 1987 issue of People magazine featured him on its cover under a headline that proclaimed "The Confessions of a Coke Addict." Inside, he described his ordeal in detail and the events that led to his upheaval.
• Some people shouldn't play with guns: Unfortunately, Crosby's legal hassles didn't end there. In 1985, he was pulled over for driving into a fence and arrested for hit and run. At the time, he was still on probation for drunk driving and possession of cocaine and drug paraphernalia. This time around, the police found cocaine and a gun in his car. Not good. When asked why he had a weapon in his possession (apparently they weren't surprised by the coke), Crosby is said to have answered, "John Lennon, man." Still, he couldn't blame Lennon for the stupidity that ensued on March 7, 2004. After leaving his New York hotel, Crosby suddenly realized he had left a hunting knife, a stash of ammunition, and, yes, some illegal contraband (this time in the form of pot) behind in his hotel room. Little did he realize that some hotel employees had already made the same discovery and had called the cops to investigate. Not wishing to forsake his prized possessions, Crosby ordered his tour bus turned around and returned to the hotel to reclaim his wares. Surprise! He was promptly arrested. This time, though, Crosby got lucky. He was merely fined $5,000 on the weapons charges, and the pot possession complaint was dropped on condition that he not get arrested again. Considering his past history, it appears the authorities were willing to take quite a leap of faith. Or maybe they were just fans.
• Is that you, Dad? The Cros seems to possess some crazy genes, but that didn't stop Melissa Etheridge and her partner Julie Cypher from requesting a sperm donation from him in 2000. The pair now have two children, but lest anyone worry that they might have inherited their biological dad's problematic tendencies, they can be comforted by the fact that his actual offspring all seem to be doing just fine. In fact, Crosby reunited with his oldest son, James Raymond, in 1997, having placed the boy up for adoption in 1962. The two have since connected musically as well, in both their side project, CPR, and as part of the touring band for Crosby, Stills & Nash.
• What's in a name? Crosby's first solo album was dubbed If I Could Only Remember My Name
. Need we say more?
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