The Death of David Crosby

This article originally appeared in the October 1985 issue of SPIN.
Marin County, California - The rich farmland rolls by, dotted with herds of grazing goats and sheep and clapboard barns that are peeling red in the sun. Occasionally a tractor drags by on an asphalt road, and the driver lazily waves from the cab.
About 15 miles outside of Novato, California, in a particularly deserted location, a gravel road turns off a road in the backwoods and leads to a gray house that is secured with surveillance cameras. Here, after a week of cryptic phone calls and suddenly canceled appointments, I'm supposed to meet David Crosby. The former member of the Byrds and partner of Stills, Nash and Young, known as the "American Beatle" for writing classics like "Long Time Gone" and "Guinnevere", got the meeting through his business manager Jack. arranged Casanova. But repeated knocking on the front door brings no reaction. Although several cars are parked in the driveway, my calls go unanswered. Nothing stirs. Suddenly a cat jumps on a window ledge and peeks through the Levolor blinds.
The silence lasts for about 20 minutes. Then a stocky, shirtless man with a hairy, flabby stomach appears on the doorstep. "Jack Casanova," he says and invites me to his house. “David will be out in a few minutes. Sit down. I turn on the video recorder. Have fun. "And when he disappears in the back of the house, a porn movie flickers onto the screen.
I'm waiting. Instead of watching the nude acrobatics on TV, I watch the tabby edge across the living room. Carefully gliding past oriental vases, low leather sofas and other modern furniture, it curls up contentedly in a corner and falls asleep.
I am not feeling so well. Tired of waiting, I leave the house and walk around outside. Another thirty minutes pass. As the sun goes down, a Mercedes pulls into the driveway and a well-dressed couple enters the garage. When I go back inside, the house is utterly silent. An emaciated, barely clothed woman finally strolls into the kitchen, grabs a bag of potato chips and disappears behind the sliding door. She giggles childishly as the door slams shut.
David has been arrested four times since 1982 on various drug and weapon charges. Invariably escaping long-term incarceration, he has retained an aura of 1960s lawlessness, a romantic bad boy image that adds to its revival value.
But David's continued freedom is always in question. He was arrested in 1982 at a rock club in Dallas for possession of a quarter gram of cocaine and a loaded .45. His 1983 conviction on those charges was later overturned on legal grounds, but last June a Texas appeals court restored the original sentence. A five-year jail sentence now hangs over his head as his case continues to be challenged, but legal fees, coupled with years of expensive drug use and paying off a $ 3 million debt to the IRS, have plunged David into murky financial waters. He is supported by a group of shady donors and during the last CSN tour they carefully monitored all interviews to promote the idea that the "new" David is drug free. However, on several occasions, he narrowly escaped burning himself to death while freebasing.
“When David set fire to his hotel room, I paid the bills out of my pocket. I just wanted to keep everything going, ”said Michael Gaiman, president of the Cannibal Agency, who booked a 1984 Crosby tour. “I didn't want David to be arrested. People would half-joke that it went from 7 grams to 2 grams a day, but he and his girlfriend Jan Dance went to hell arm in arm. I'll never forget after setting fire to his suite at Vista International [in New York] Jan sat shivering, the wall burned, the sheets burned, and David looked like he hadn't bathed in weeks. He said, 'You have to help me, man, you have to help me, man. ""
A door slams and a disheveled, unshaven figure stumbles into the living room. David has finally appeared. His stomach is bloated; his thinning, frizzy hair leaps wildly in the air. A couple of his front teeth are missing, his pants are torn and his red plaid shirt has a gaping hole. The most terrifying thing is his pale, swollen face, littered with thick, white scales, deep and crusty spots that do not heal. It hurts to look at him. 14 years of addiction to heroin and cocaine has made David look like a sick Bowery penalist. The Woodstock Nation spiritual leader is now in a vision of decline.
David falls into a chair. “Getting sad and missing people who are no longer there is the worst,” he says. “Do you know the 'every man is an island' thing? This is not a joke, man, this is everyone. I am alone a lot. I don't get along well with it at all. I'm not good at it. I've lost a lot of friends, musicians. I also lost an old lady, Chris, Christine Hinton, she was killed in a car accident. I've written a number of things related to her - "Guinnevere", "Where will I be" ... I miss so many people - Cass Elliot, Jimi Hendrix, Janis. Lowell George was a dear friend of mine. There's a huge list of people ... "
“I'm sad, very sad, but I don't have the urge to go over the edge. The French have an expression, a reason for being, a reason for being, and I have several strong reasons for living. There is my music - check out what they gave me to work with [a hint of his tense voice]. My daughter, the sailing, all the adventures I haven't had, all the music I haven't written or sung. Almost nothing makes people happy, man, there is very little in this world that really makes people happy and I can. I can sometimes do this magic trick by myself. I love to do that. I love it when we sing "Teach Your Children" and get 20,000 people to sing it. That touches and touches people. It changes them, it changes their feelings. You are less alone. "
Joel Bernstein, David's longtime friend, had previously said he doubted David could still perform this magic. “The drug has grown very big in his vision. It's so important to him to get it, to process it ... I think he drank more coke than anyone else in this country. He would deny that and say music is more important. but the drug definitely affected his music ... he abused his nostrils so much, damaged them so much. I did harmonies with David and saw how the drugs affect his performance. The real tragedy of David is the fact that his musical potential has been so limited. "
Drugs have reduced David's voice to a whisper. Every word strains his throat. Where once there was hope, there is now the vocal equivalent of coarse sandpaper, a blunt, flat rasp.
"I stopped completely," says 44-year-old Crosby as he reaches for a bag of Pepperidge Farm biscuits.
"You gave up coke?"
"Yes!"
"Heroin?"
"Yes!"
"You took coke and heroin?"
“I'd rather not talk about that. I admit cola. And I stopped completely. It changed things a lot. I'm not at the level I used to be at all. I don't ... for the most part, I don't. I agree with them [Bernstein, Graham Nash, Jackson Browne, and others who came to David's house in 1983 to persuade him to seek help]. I got into it too much. "
David looks pained and stares blankly. Without ignoring the laughter in another room, he continues, “I do a good job, I want to work with these guys [Stephen Stills and Graham Nash]. I love them ... drugs wouldn't harm my work with them now. Things have changed. "
Suddenly a touch of despair creeps into his voice. He looks pleadingly at me and yells, “Do we need to talk about drugs? Can you believe it, five years for less than a gram, I will not leave this state alive. I'm going to die in one of these prisons ... I don't want to talk about drugs. It's been used against me so many times. I just want to talk about my music. "
David's eyes close; his head falls into a slow nod. One eye barely opens when I ask him to describe how the Byrds broke up. He mumbles a few words and quickly becomes dizzy again.
I nudge him several times. He comes to and stands up without a word and stumbles to the door that separates the two wings of the house. There he pauses for a moment, smiles weakly, then disappears. And I sit there stunned.
* * *
Death and broken friendships have made David a lonely, terribly sad figure. Tragic or premature losses haunt him. His mother died of cancer. Christine Hinton, the 21-year-old woman he was passionately in love with, died in a violent car accident in 1969. Since the late 1960s, he's been estranged from his father, Floyd Crosby, the Oscar-winning cinematographer who worked on high noon and taboo. He is involved in a maintenance dispute with his ex-girlfriend, Debbie Donovan, and rarely sees his 10-year-old daughter, Donovan Ann. And while David was once surrounded by artists like Grace Slick, Elvis Costello, and Jackson Browne, his close friends - Bernstein, Roger McGuinn, Road Manager Armando Hurley, Paul Kantner, and Jaws 2 screenwriter Carl I don't want to talk about him. CSN Tour publicist Bob Gibson admits, “David's friends threw in the towel. It could be that the prison is the best place for him. "
Alienated from his friends, David has drifted into and out of an underworld where only the next solution is important. Desperate for drugs, he sold musical instruments to raise money for cocaine. And while this refutes his often repeated claim that music is his main concern, his so-called right to exist, freebasing is a disease that has often left him helpless.
David's friends have repeatedly tried to take him to hospitals, lend him money, and take drug counselors to his home in Mills Valley, California. But David disappointed them by rejecting their efforts with contempt or by agreeing to seek help and then fleeing the clinics.
“We tried to do everything but lock him up, but David looks down on almost all of his friends. He thinks he's the king of the world, "said Paul Kantner, co-founder of Jefferson Airplane in 1984. Suggested not to pity David, Kantner continued," If you take a thoroughbred horse, pamper and feed him all the fat grains and wonderful milk all day, soon he'll be a big, fat horse that can't walk ... and the same with musicians. If you put them in mansions, feed them steaks, you will have a fat guy á la David Crosby who shoves shit in his arms and does nothing but die. I am sad that he has put himself in the position he is in. But he was an asshole even to his friends. Now nobody accepts him anymore and he doesn't want to be around because we will tell him: 'David, please stop.' I hate to say it, but the boy is a dead man. "
* * *
“David's whole life has been marked by Belushi's death,” says Armando Hurley, David's confidante for 12 years.
Before John Belushi died alone at the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles, there was a battle for his soul. While friends tried to help him, agents and producers had more selfish plans for the comedian - and to make sure he was delivering, they kept Belushi's Coke delivery lines open. A similar battle is raging over David. On the one hand, there are people like Graham Nash, who is relentlessly devoted to David, both emotionally and financially. David's Dan Aykroyd, Nash patiently dismissed David's frequent outbursts (“You are not my conscience” is one of David's favorite lines), rescued him from prison cells and took him to his home in Hawaii. While a CSN tour is worth significantly more than a Nash or Stills solo (book agent Gaiman says they can collectively charge $ 75,000 a night, compared to $ 15,000-25,000 for just one of them), Nash seems really to care To take care of David, whom he calls "Young David".
But there are other forces vying for control of David's life - the drug dealers, financiers, and musicians who see David only as an investment and have little or no interest in his health, and the Marin County's motorcycle gang and underworld guys who supply him with cola and heroin.
And while David's financiers want to keep him alive so he can pay off old debts or generate income, they can hardly stifle his drug supply. If they took on a strong position, David could either make new "friends", bypass their security precautions, or simply stop advocating for them. Also, under the influence, he is much more docile and accommodating.
“The only people David deals with outside of Graham are a bloody mess. All they want from his whole trip is drugs or a kickback, "says Joe Healy, Road Manager for David's solo tour in 1984." Before the tour started, this guy I didn't know comes into the house that I rent, and while I'm on crutches, he jumps my ass. We go through the whole tour and this backer comes and says, 'I need a recording session from you guys.' I look up and it's the mother who jumped at me ... you don't want to know his name. It's just too much of a rock to turn around. He threatened to kill me. He is sick."
“David owes this guy about $ 250,000. After the CSN tour this summer, David could pay this guy and walk away with some of his possessions. But right now, David isn't strong enough to leave. You have to understand, David is sick and in the hands of the wrong people. "
When a bank threatened to foreclose David's house, a man named Jack Casanova came up with the money to help him. Pudger as Lou Costello and just as squat, the almost bald, bearded Casanova also gave David the money to record an as-yet-unreleased album and helped him pay other debts. Casanova is a self-described "dabbeler" in real estate and other business activities. He has known David for 10 years and is a huge fan.
Casanova ignored several requests to be interviewed until last July, then accused CSN management (the Crosslight agency) for not forwarding my messages to him. He describes himself as David's right-hand man, but remains a mysterious figure.
"Jack didn't seem to know anything about rock'n'roll," says Michael Gaiman. "[On the Tour '84] he never asked about gross potential, contracts, percentages, nothing. I would explain the dates and the bulk to him and you would expect some input. But I didn't get anything from him ... I wondered about Jack and a buddy of his who lugged the silver suitcase around and always looked over the top, and it became clear that they had never been in the music business. So I had to wonder how they came to work with David. "
During the 1984 tour under Casanova's care, David left a trail of hotel wrecks. Unable to control a propane flare - the basic tool of freebasing - he burned down his room in New York's Vista International, damaged the facility at the Yankee Pedlar in Torrington, Connecticut, and burned the inside of his tour bus.
After these incidents, David resembled a character from a B horror movie. Covered with blood and saliva, he stared blankly at the people. Angry hotel owners wanted to arrest him. Casanova shakes off these episodes indifferently.
"David owes me some money because he owed a lot of money to the [CSN] partnership and had spent too much on tours," says Casanova. “He had some tax liens and he had to take care of them [David has paid the IRS $ 3 million over the past 10 years]. I've rounded up some investors who bought David's house. David has an option on his house - it's no longer in his name. But he still lives there and makes the payments. He still owes some money [to the IRS], he just paid off a $ 74,000 lien, and that paid off a large portion of his taxes. "
What about the stories that the folks around David are violent and shadowy?
"That's ridiculous. There is no violence in these people or me. And there is no record of any violence. If there is hearsay about something, I have no idea what it could be. I get paid, I'm paid pretty well . David has shown me a partial interest in the masters on some of his new tunes. I have no other debts than what he promised me and which he could not pay due to previous debts. David owes me money because I did not get it have what he promised me to help him, advise him, help with his house and so on. "
His voice alternates between anger and frustration, Casanova says he saved David's relationship with CSN. “I spoke to Graham [before the 1984 CSN tour] and he said, 'Look, I love David, but I'll never play with him until he's clean. And Stephen is scared. ”On the European tour [1983] and the tour before that, David had musicians on the street look for drugs for him. He was spending a lot of money, far more than Stills and Nash to recoup. In fact, he owed the partnership $ 56,000 at the start of their last tour, which he repaid. I told Graham that now that his house was saved, David seemed to have enough money that he could basically do what he wanted to do on the tour, that he wouldn't send people out and put the whole band at risk, that he would cut back his drug intake to a third to half of what it was. Everyone was kind of negative about David. "
Casanova claims the two heads of the CSN management company, Bill Siddons and Peter Goldin, betrayed David. “Look, we've seldom seen her on tour. You are not on the [’85] tour. I think they are doing a shitty job. Why? You are not paying enough attention to David's management. I want them to be more interested in who David Crosby is. You made decisions without David and me. You won't be David's manager for long, that's what matters. "
“It's really easy to see who is interested in the money and who is first in the deed and then in the money. David has some high, high legal fees to pay, and his expenses are not small. David was tight on money, especially at the start of the tour [1984] - he was broke. [Siddons and Goldin] assumed that every time David wanted a thousand dollars, he would buy some dope. And they wanted to play lecturers for him. He had to spend between $ 20,000 and $ 25,000 at a time to keep his Texas attorneys working because he was behind on payment. And one night they all sat down with me and told me how much they loved David. When David had to send all this money to Texas to keep his lawyers up and running, none of them said, 'Look,' I'm going to raise a few thousand dollars, I'll make another $ 50,000, I'll raise $ 2,000. " Not a damn penny. Who was at the meeting? Siddons, Golden - all the honchos, all the well-paid people. "
Siddon vaguely remembers that meeting and says, “Our track record speaks very clearly. We have always shown great concern for David and what we think is best for David. We were never asked to contribute to David's legal fees, and we never asked him to help us pay ours. We have always looked to David's interests and will continue to do so. "
But Armando Hurley, who was so disgusted by the “slime bags” around David that he left the CSN entourage in 1984, insists: “I couldn't deal with any of these guys anymore. I got into this terrible argument with Siddons over drugs. I can't go into the details, but our ethics are very different. Bill Siddons is only interested in Bill Siddons. I think he thinks David is a pain in the ass. "
* * *
Bethel, New York, August 17, 1969 - The phone rings at midnight in Michael Lang's production office backstage in Woodstock. An assistant picks up the call and passes the message on to the festival organizer Lang.
"They do not come. You're stuck at the damn airport in New York. "
The Aquarian Age begins without CSN & Y. While over 400,000 devotees listen to Joan Baez, The Who, and Jefferson Airplane during a driving rain, David and the rest of the group cannot get transportation to the festival in New York state. Finally, the group persuades an airline representative to rent them two planes, defines the weather, and arrives backstage in Woodstock at around 3am.
They strut forward quickly. Stills calls out to the mud-soaked, LSD-drinking crowd, "You must be the toughest bunch of people I've ever seen." Then CSN & Y begin what will become the most famous opening bars of a rock anthem, the stumbling guitar intro Suite: Judy Blues Eyes ”.
The applause is deafening.
CSN & Y are now the heralded leaders of the Woodstock generation.
And David Crosby is the driving force behind the group.
Though arrogant and unpredictable, he was a leader in the Byrds before. There had been trouble, ugly spit with the other Byrds. But he moved on, becoming Joni Mitchell's producer, her guiding spirit, and even her lover.
In those happy days, David only smoked marijuana and dreamed of owning a sailboat. Friends saw in him an innocent but dedicated musician. When Bobby Kennedy was murdered, he was shocked when he wrote "Long Time Gone". For John Sebastian, Grace Slick and Eric Clapton, David was an inspiration, the long-snouted, flowing red-haired figure they affectionately called "Yosemite Sam".
It was a struggle for David to gain such esteem. Both as a teenager and as a rocker in the early 60s, he faced innumerable obstacles. And the agony on the way to Woodstock, the alienation from his family and personality conflicts with bandmates have left their scars.
His childhood was particularly tormented. As the son of a celebrated cameraman who hooked up with Roger Corman, John Huston, and other Hollywood icons, David felt the pressure to be successful - or to "match". Shaken by his parents' divorce and unable to adjust in school, he became the quintessential juvenile offender of the 1950s. As a teenager in Santa Barbra, he broke into cars and houses and, what worried his father most, played folk music in beatnik coffeehouses.
“Floyd basically turned his back on David. He wasn't interested in his son's music and that hurt David, ”said Chris Hillman, one of David's friends with the Byrds. “How could David like himself? He came from a really unstable family. "
Floyd Crosby still believes his son made serious mistakes. Now 85 and quietly living in Ojai, California where his main occupation is gardening. Says Floyd, “David succeeded but got caught on drugs. This meant a lot of trouble. I talked to him about drugs, but it didn't work, I haven't seen him for three years. "
Hoping to please his father, David enrolled at the Pasadena Playhouse drama school in 1960. Forced to kiss his ass and fake his true feelings, the outspoken, quick-tempered David soon dropped out to play blues guitar at the Unicorn in LA. After getting his Hollywood girlfriend Cindy pregnant, he fled to New York. learned a new style of play from folk singer Fred Neil and hitchhiked across the country. He lived with Dino Valenti, later Youngbloods, on a houseboat in Sausalito, but eventually returned to LA in 1963. During a troubadour club roar, Roger McGuinn and Gene Clark were impressed by David's "fresh, energetic voice" and asked him to join their group, the jet set that later became the Byrds.
In 1964 the Byrds took Dylan's “Mr. Tambourine Man ”and took off. But as their stature grew, David began to compete with McGuinn for control of the group. “There was always an argument between me and David. He had to be at the top, and that rivalry often got ugly in the studio, ”sighs McGuinn, recalling the time when drummer Michael Clarke was upset about David's“ shit ”and slapped him in the face. “The tension hurt the Byrds terribly. We would be looking for material and fighting would break out. They got physical and David was often the focus. "
David experimented with cocaine in the mid-1960s, and symbolizing that interest, he worked with McGuinn to write Eight Mile High. But the hostility peaked in 1967 when the Byrds refused to record David's song about a cruet á trois "Triad". McGuinn said the lyrics were "immoral". Annoyed, David complained that the Byrds were "canaries" that stunted his musical growth.
"David thought I was going to censor him, I was mindless and unhip because I was interested in Eastern religions," says McGuinn. “But 'Triad' was just a bad song, and David just got too tough. There was bad blood between us so Chris Hillman and I asked him to leave. David said: 'Come on guys, we make good music together.' But I said to him: 'We make good music without you.' "
David was already hanging out with Stephen Stills. The Byrds gave him $ 50,000 in severance pay, and with that he bought a boat, the Maya. Inspired by idyllic Mayan journeys, David wrote the revolutionary hymn “Wooden Ships” together with Stills and Paul Kantner. It was the beginning of the historical group that would become CSN&Y.
In 1968 David fell in love with a petite, blonde girl from California named Christine Hinton. The couple reveled in the beach or swam nude in Monkee Peter Tork's Laurel Canyon pool, the couple embodied the Age of Aquarius. They enjoyed life, and in that blissful spirit David sang harmonies with Stills and Nash in Joni Mitchell's house. “We knew we were getting into something so special,” David told writer Dave Zimmer.
The world soon felt the same way. 1969 appeared on their debut album Crosby, Stills and Nash "Long Time Gone", "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" and "Marrakesh Express". It sold 2 million times. The album had a buoyant, calming quality that contrasted sharply with the frenetic politics of the era. CSN has been likened to the Beatles by American counterculture, and Jimi Hendrix raved, “These guys are groovy ... Western Sky music. Everything tender and thing-thing-thing-thing. "
The euphoria lasted until Woodstock. Together with Neil Young, who joined the group shortly before the festival, the group had their second live appearance as Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young on Max Yasgur's farm and the "Music and Art Fair" cemented their reputation as love children.
Still carried away by Christine Hinton and hailed as the group's driving spirit, David was delighted with life. Happier than ever before, he didn't use “peace and love” as mere catchphrases. The phrase had real meaning to him, as he was ready to lead the movement to an even higher level of consciousness.
* * *
While I wait for David, I sit in this eerie Novato house - 30 minutes have passed ... 40 ... 50 ... - and wonder what happened to him - and the revolution. During this apocalyptic era, protesters marched to his music and repeated his calls for freedom. David and the forces of rebellion were intertwined. Then and now. Because his weakened condition, which forced him to resuscitate in a back room, symbolizes the lost revolution.
David reappears and mysteriously rubs the rim of a large brass bowl with a wooden cylinder. Seine langsamen, kreisenden Bewegungen lassen die Schüssel nachhallen und ein schrilles, durchdringendes Hmm erfüllt den Raum.
„Das ist schön, eh“, sagt David. „Es ist tibetisch. Es vertreibt den bösen Mojo aus dem Zimmer.“ Seine Augen sind trüb, das Geräusch nervt. „Wer schlecht ist, muss gehen. Ich war nicht in Tibet, aber ich habe Bilder von den Gesichtern der Menschen gesehen. Sie sind alle glücklich, sie sind noch frei, sie sind nicht erobert. Deshalb möchte ich dorthin.“
Woodstock war auch eine erhebende Erfahrung, ruft er fröhlich aus. „Das war gut, Mann, wirklich gut. Wir haben damals nicht so viel mitbekommen wie später. Aber es war unglaublich für uns, weil wir gerade erst angefangen haben. Jeder im gesamten Musikgeschäft, der Respekt schuldig war, stand um uns herum und sah aus, was wir werden würden. Und wir waren nervös. Alle waren da, das Who, Hendrix, alle, das Flugzeug… es war wirklich etwas. Es war gut, Mann.“
„Wir [CSN&Y] waren alle gute Autoren. Wir hatten die unglaublich breite Palette, aus der wir die Alben bemalen konnten. Diese Tage waren die besten, Mann. Wir machten Arbeit, von der wir dachten, dass sie die absolut beste unseres Lebens war, und das war sie wahrscheinlich auch. Wir waren enge Freunde. Ich liebe Stills und Nash ist seit vielen, vielen, vielen Jahren mein bester Freund und ist es immer noch. Er ist einer der am besten gemeinten, die ich auf der Welt kenne. Wir haben aus den richtigen Gründen gespielt, weil wir es geliebt haben. Musik war unser ganzes Leben, die größte Freude in unserem Leben. Es hat uns einen Sinn gegeben…“
Davids Stimme ertönt traurig, und er geht zum Fenster, um einen einsamen Landarbeiter auf einem entfernten Hügel anzustarren. Er versucht, die Tränen in seinen Augen zu verbergen. Aber wie die Schatten, die über die umliegenden Felder kriechen, ist David von Dunkelheit umgeben, die Dunkelheit einer Vergangenheit, die plötzlich von Tragödien getrübt wird.
Am 30. September 1969, nur einen Monat nach seinem Woodstock-High, tummelte sich David mit Nash, Christine Hinton und anderen Freunden am Pool hinter seinem Haus in Marin County. Chris drehte ein paar Joints. Sorglos und high sammelte sie ihre vier Katzen ein, setzte sie in Davids 64er VW-Bus und fuhr zum Tierarzt. Unterwegs sprang plötzlich eine der Katzen auf ihren Schoß. Der VW bog in die Fahrbahn eines entgegenkommenden Schulbusses ein. Beim Aufprall flog Chris durch die Windschutzscheibe. Sie starb kurze Zeit später in der Notaufnahme eines Krankenhauses.
„Ich glaube nicht, dass sich David jemals von diesem Unfall erholt hat“, sagt Armando Hurley. „Es war eine dieser idealen Liebesbeziehungen; er dachte, sie wäre perfekt für ihn. Sie war seine Utopie. Der Verlust war sehr schwer. Es hing über ihm wie eine Kugel und Kette in seinem Leben.“
Als Inspiration für „Guinnevere“ repräsentierte Christine Davids nicht-drogenfreie, kreative Seite. Er lobte sie in „Lachen“ („Und ich dachte, ich hätte jemanden gesehen / Der schien endlich / Um die Wahrheit zu wissen, habe ich mich geirrt / Es war nur ein Kind, das in der Sonne lachte / Ah! In der Sonne“), und „Déja-vu.“ David traf die Vorkehrungen für Christines Einäscherung. Danach trug er eine tiefe Schuld über ihren Tod.
David steht einsam am Fenster. „‚Déja Vu‘ war mein Lied, und ich bin stolz darauf. Das war für mich eine unterschiedliche Erfahrung. Nachdem Chris gestorben war, ging ich ins Studio, setzte mich einfach auf den Boden und weinte.“
David war monatelang benommen. Erst im Mai 1970, als vier Studenten des Bundesstaates Kent während einer Campus-Demonstration getötet wurden, erlangte er seinen Sinn wieder. Er nennt diesen Vorfall einen Albtraum und spricht mit neuer Klarheit, einer Leidenschaft, die an den alten David erinnert.
„Ich erinnere mich, dass ich mit dem Magazin Neil [Young] Life umgegangen bin, und er sah sich die Bilder des Mädchens an, das über dem toten Mann auf dem Bürgersteig kniete und mit diesem ‚Warum?‘-Ausdruck im Gesicht aufsah. Ich sah, wie ihn der Schock traf. I handed him his guitar and helped him write ‘Ohio.’ I got him on a plane, took him to L.A., and we recorded that night. By 1 o’clock in the morning we passed the tape to Ahmet Ertegun, the president of Atlantic Records, and got on a plane to New York. It was out in three days. And we point the finger, we could say [starts to sing] ‘Tin soldiers and Nixon coming / We’re finally on our own / This morning I hear the drumming / Four dead in Ohio / Gotta get down to it / Soldiers are cutting us down…'”
“It was a bitch, and to be able to put that song out, man, right away [his voice rises again], and have it stand for something, have people stop us in the street and say, ‘Man, right-fucking-on.’ That was exciting. It was good stuff.”
But this peak couldn’t be sustained, and an atmosphere of mistrust and acrimony enveloped Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. The main battle raged between Stills and Nash, who bitterly vied for the affections of Rita Coolidge. Stills fought with Young for the greater share of lead vocals. Young finally settled the issue by going solo. The group flew apart. David left to rejoin the Byrds. CSN&Y regrouped at other times during the late ’70s, but muses David sadly, “When we got big, music was sacrificed on the alter of ego again and again and again.”
While his eyes remain pained, David reverently insists, “Music is magic, man. There hasn’t been any major magic on the planet since the caveman danced around his fire going ‘ugga-bugga, ugga-bugga.’ Music is what people do when they feel good. It’s a magic, it’s an elevating force in our lives, in our consciousness. It makes us not alone.”
“Issues were crystalizing that polarized the country in the ’60s and made everyone think they had to stand up and be counted. Music was a unifying force. ‘Long Time Gone” seemed to mean a lot of people. “Almost Cut My Hair” seemed to mean a lot. So did “Teach Your Children.”
“Apathy overtook everything,” says David, “There are big divisive issues that are tearing the country up. The same people are still running the country, and they’re getting ready to get us into another war. They’ll sacrifice 100,000 people in the blink of an eye. You can smell the new war a-coming.”
“It’s sort of a guerrilla warfare that I play, where I try to spot one of those moments when you can affect everything hugely by just one small act, one human being standing up and sticking up the right thing. I look for those moments. I’m praying I’ll come across one.”
His voice cracks with emotion. Standing up again, he clenches his fists. He then stares at me, and in a barely audible tone, says beseechingly, “I don’t harm anybody, I don’t steal, lie, or cheat, or mess with other people’s old ladies or anything. I’ve tried really hard to be a decent human being. All I do is go around and make people feel good—that’s my whole life’s work, to make people happy. I try really hard to be a positive force.”
But, like that of many flower children, David’s revolutionary ardor called in the 1970s. He continued to mourn Christine’s death and retreated to a more private world. He became romantically involved with a woman Hurley describes as “warm, exciting, with a great body.” Charmed by David’s wit and intelligence, she began doing a lot of cocaine. Their relationship flourished until she decided to go straight.
Then David met Jan Dance.
* * *
The quintessential Florida beach girl, Jan Dance made heads spin. She was all flowing sandy hair, a carefree smile, girlish innocence, and wholesome good looks. Petite and always laughing, she bounced instead of walked. All the boys agreed: she was perfectly molded for tie-dyed T-shirts.
David met Jan in a North Miami recording studio in 1979, where she was the PR director. He was immediately smitten. He invited her out on his boat. They saw more and more of each other. All was idyllic. With her next to him, he didn’t have to think of Christine. Jan was a rainbow of different colors.
As he had done with several other women, David turned Jan on to cocaine. They began freebasing together, and she soon became his partner in pathos. “Jan’s not the villain here at all, she’s a victim. David got her going,” sighs Armando Hurley. “When I first met her she was so vibrant, so filled with tomorrow. But when David wanted something from women he got it, and now you could put Jan in with the Biafrans. She’s so emaciated, she’s death warmed over.”
* * *
The word was spreading quickly. In L.A., and in Marin, David’s closes friends heard that he had a drug problem. In early 1981, the story traveled like a brushfire that while on tour David had twice fallen unconscious after freebasing.
Some members of the music community doubted David would survive the year. Cynics wagered among themselves on when he’d finally do himself in.
Others wanted to help him, but what could be done? One night in 1981, Kantner Grace Slick, Jackson Browne, Joel Bernstein, and a few others finally decided to act. The confronted David at his house and implored him to enter a drug rehabilitation program. David broke down, tearfully confessing the he had “a sever problem,” and agreed to seek help.
“It was a very emotional meeting: David went through a real catharsis,” recalls Joel Bernstein. “We had this room ready for him at a private hospital, and when he realized that we weren’t talking about his quitting eventually, but that we wanted him to do it right now, he broke down again.”
“He eventually said he’d go to the hospital, but insisted on spending one last night in his house.After we resolved this, David went back to his room and started freebasing! It seemed as if he just wanted to stall us, that he was only interested in getting to his bedroom Nash got very angry at him. I think he realized that David was acting in front of us, that he was playing the role of someone needing help. But he wanted to stop the conversation so he could freebase.
“Well, the next day Jackson brought him down to the Scripps Institute in La Jolla and got him admitted. But one day later David walked.”
“Having angered and alienated his friends, David found himself increasingly alone. Now only Jan was by his side, and she had her own cocaine problem. David began hanging out with street people in Mill Valley. Ever afraid of getting busted or hurt, David became acutely paranoid.
“David has always loved guns, but the drugs intensified, his fear of dying or being murdered was amplified,” says Hurley. “The John Lennon thing really shook David up. He thought it was a gross insult to humanity, and the whole idea of being killed by a fan freaked him right out. So he always had a gun with him.”
“Then, when Belushi died, it really shocked him. Belushi died in bungalow three at the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles, and that’s where David always stayed! That thoroughly unnerved him.”
As David drove to an anti-nuclear rally on March 28, 1982, cocaine and a .45 revolver were concealed by his side. Nodding off enroll, he crashed into a divider on the San Diego Freeway. When police searched his car he was arrested for possessing methaqualone, cocaine paraphernalia, and the gun as well as for driving recklessly. He was allowed to plead guilty to the driving violation, while the other charges were dropped, and was sentenced to three years probation, fined $751, and ordered to enroll in a drug program. However, this latter stipulation was never enforced. Said one court official, “The guy simply got a slap on the writs.”
A few weeks later, David was again in trouble. Big trouble.
Desperate for money, even if it meant playing in sleazy bars, on April 13, 1982, David turned up at Cardi’s, a now defunct rock club in the northeast section of Dallas notorious for the numerous shootings and stabbings that had taken place in or around it. That didn’t deter David. he was ready for all sorts of action.
Around midnight, two cops responded to a fight that had broken out in the parking lot outside the club. One cop entered Cardi’s and went backstage. He saw David holding a propane torch in one hand and a pipe in the other. As the policeman approached, David flung aside a green bag that contained coke and a loaded .45 and screamed, “Don’t do this to me, don’t do this to me!”
Hiring two of Dallas’s most celebrated defense attorneys, Jay Ethington and Jerry Banks, David made emotional appeals in court. “Jail is no joke,” he told Judge Patrick McDowell. “Handcuffs are not joke. It’s real serious stuff. IT’s been very lonely. I spent a lot of nights lying there thinking about it. Those bars are very real. It certainly frightened me. I don’t want to do anything ever again, ever, that puts me in jeopardy. I want to feel proud of myself and stand for something again.”
But Dallas DA Knox Fitzpatrick wasn’t moved. Fitzpatrick is said to have the mind set of Clint Eastwood. The Texas lawman hardly looks like a law-and-order zealot. He is short and bulging in the middle. But Knox Fitzpatrick is a fit hunter. According to local newsman Steve McGonigle, “Knox thinks David is a dirt ball. It’s bothered him that Crosby has gotten off so many times, and that he took this condescending attitude in court. He even fell asleep during the proceedings. So Knox has been dogged. In a sense, it’s become his case, his own personal vendetta.”
While David’s defense team contended that the search was illegal and moved for a dismissal of the case, Fitzpatrick relentlessly plodded ahead. He repeatedly drew attention to the evidence. Cold and dispassionate, he wanted David to do hard time, five years, in a state prison.
On June 3, 1983, Knox Fitzpatrick finally won. David was found guilty. But the legality of the search was disputed in Texas courts and David was freed on bond during the appeal. He told me, “For a thumbnail’s worth of pipe residue they sentenced me to five years. I guess they wanted to make an example of me. I’m scared, man.”
Despite his fears, David continued to freebase on his ’84 solo tour. In October of that year, David was arrested again for recklessly driving his motorcycle in the Marin County town of Ross. Police found in his possession heroin, cocaine, marijuana, a rubber hose tourniquet, a spoon, a torch, a pipe with coke residue, two daggers, a knife, white powder residue on two of the knives, and other narcotics paraphernalia. He was booked on weapon and drug charges. But since the legality of the search was “doubtful,” according to assistant DA Peter Evans, David was only prosecuted for reckless driving. David pleaded guilty to the driving charge (on two previous occasions he had been arrested or cited for a revoked license) and he received three years probation and a $1,325 fine.
In Texas, Knox Fitzpatrick heard of David’s rearrest. He intensified his campaign to get David put away. Another hearing was held before Judge McDowell last December, and David was ordered into the drug rehabilitation program at the Fair Oaks Hospital in Summit, New Jersey.
* * *
The Fair Oaks Hospital sits at the crest of a gentle hill, surrounded by expansive lawns and rows of manicured trees. Cottages dot the grounds, and while the private, $800-a-day institution, one of the finest treatment centers in the U.S., has locked facilities for psychiatric patients, the quiet retreat looks more like a country club than a hospital.
David entered the hospital las January, and immediately refused to take part in any of the therapy sessions. He repeatedly begged Casanova to take him back to California. According to his counselor, Dr. Stephen Pittel, David would belligerently reject the staff’s overtures, then sob uncontrollably for help, then turn hostile again. He suffered from sever illnesses, including edema (his ankles were swollen to four times their normal size), apnea (a condition where breathing stops for 20 to 30 seconds during sleep), and dental abcesses.
“He was in tremendous agony,” says Pittel.
During the fifth week of confinement David began to participate in the program. He met with other drug abusers and talked about how addiction had ruined his life. He’d cry grievously during these traumatic sessions. He began composing music for the first time in three years, organized a hospital band, and asked for permission to bring in a synthesizer. The request was denied, but David continued to cooperate with the doctors. Hospital staffers believed David had “turned a corner.” He acted like a man transformed, strolling happily on Fair Oaks’ lawns.
On Sunday, February 24, during one of these walks, a car driven by an unidentified old girlfriend of David’s pulled up to the hospital, and he jumped in. He wasn’t seen for the next 26 hours—not until the New York police arrested him near Greenwich Village for possessing cocaine.
Unable to post a $10,000 bond, David was held at the Tombs and on Riker’s Island. Eventually, he was assigned an attorney from the public defender’s office, but he remained in jail for four days. He appeared at hearings wearing torn and badly stained clothes and barely spoke. From Texas, Knox Fitzpatrick dispatched two deputies to bring David back for having again violated his bond. David merely submitted to Fiitzpatrick’s demands for his extradition.
David was returned to Texas for another hearing on March 8. Dr. Stephen Pittel testified that David had been addicted to heroin and cocaine. Fitzpatrick demanded the revocation of his bail, while both defense attorneys pleaded to have him sent back to Fair Oaks. Judge McDowell, however, denied bond and sent David to the Dallas county jail.
On March 7, David was given a set of white coveralls and locked up in the “tank” that housed seven other inmates. He was made a trustee in the medical ward. For a week he swept and mopped floors in the infirmary and assisted guards in the cafeteria. He was granted other privileges, including the freedom to walk around a dayroom and to eat in the general dining room.
Yet the guards soon had trouble with him. On March 15, David was warned about eating food off the cafeteria carts as he served the other inmates. The following day he missed work and was again reprimanded. Complaining about not feeling well, he came late to work the next four days. David was stripped of his privileges and put in a more restrictive setting.
Confined for most of the day to a 40-square-foot cell, David spent the next month in virtual isolation. He constantly telephoned Casanova and lawyer David Vogelstein and pleaded with them to get him out. “[Jail] was worse than the hospital,” says Casanova. “It scared the shit out of him. He tried to get hold of me every day. He was afraid he’d never get out. He’d just plead with me and say, ‘Jack, you gotta get me out of here, please, please, man. I’ve been good, I did everything people told me to do. I took off for a little while, I know that was wrong. Please, get me out of here. I’m going crazy, I’m going to kill myself.'”
Except for lawyers Etherington and Banks and five people from the Dallas area, David received no visitors. Graham Nash, CSN management, his father, and even Casanova stayed away. Until he was released on May 1, David battled with drug withdraw and incarceration alone.
* * *
Philadelphia, July 13, 1985—it is an emotional benediction. Joan Baez, the Mother Teresa of the ’60s counterculture, moves onto the Live Aid stage and dramatically proclaims to the crowd, “Welcome children of the ’80s, this is your Woodstock.” As she sings “Amazing grace / How sweet the sound…” Baez seems to be trying to evoke ghosts of that rain-soaked, three-day conclave. But that’s a long time gone, an dLive Aid isn’t “Woodstock II.” Too much has changed in America, in the music industry, and especially in David Crosby to justify such a comparison. In 1969, skinny-dipping hippies were taking LSD and chanting obscenities at Nixon, while JFK Stadium short-haired preppies were waving the Stars and Stripes. back then rock raged against the Establishment; today it’s a multibillion-dollar enterprise, a cornerstone of the American mainstream.
CSN has interrupted their troubled cross-country tour to appear at Live Aid. Initially, no one knew if there would ever be a tour, since David was still in jail. Worried promoters called Bill Siddons to ask about David’s release, and Siddons could only fend them off with, “The lawyers are working on it.” Attorneys were also rumored to be working for Stills, who, reportedly tired of David’s drug problems, had allegedly filed legal papers to dissolve the group.
Nash remained more of a friend. once David was released from jail, he spent a few weeks relaxing at Nash’s Hawaii home, returning to his Marin County haunts just before the trio regrouped in L.A. to rehearse for the tour. While CSN publicity people restricted David’s public appearances to create a new drug-free image for him, the old David was in evidence when the tour opened in Sacramento on June 28.
David Barton, a reviewer for the Sacramento Bee, told me David’s eyes were glazed onstage and that he seemed “very detached.” Barton called the show “pathetic.” “His voice was very weak, and he looked pale,” said Barton. “But the most depressing thing of all was David’s only comment to the audience. He told the crowd to hang on to loved ones, because ‘you don’t know how long you’ll have them.’ It was clear he was referring to Christine Hinton.”
* * *
Live Aid is a welcome break from the tensions of the tour. Graham Nash and Stephen Stills mingle with old friends in a “hospitality” area and watch other performers on a TV monitor outside their van. They show no ill effects from the early-morning flight and seem to be genuinely enjoying themselves.
Siddons had barred me from seeing Nash a few months earlier in L.A., saying, “It upsets Graham too much to talk about David; I don’t want his time in the studio to be affected.” As I approach Nash and tell him of Siddons’s ban, Siddons walks up and denies it. “I’m a big boy, I can handle myself,” says Nash. He invites me into the van to talk about “losing his friend” David.
“The prison term shocked him,” says Nash. “I think he fears the jaws of the wolf. But I haven’t seen it scare him enough. It’s terrible for me. I rarely see my friend. I don’t have the same rapport with him that I used to have. David likes to get high, he’s a sick man.”
“I’m amazed that he’s still alive,” Nash says. “He’ll eventually die—it’s only a question of when. He won’t want to hear that. He’ll read that and despise me for awhile. I’ve armored myself, but it’s heartbreaking.”
As Nash speaks, David remains closeted in a back-stage van. Newly hired bodyguard “Smokey” Wendell (reporters are told that he’s a road manager) stands watch by the door. Except for CSN management people and an unidentified, tall, foxy-looking Oriental woman, no one gets past Wendell, who in 1980 was hired to keep John Belushi “clean” (at $1,000 a week). The solidly-built Wendell had previously been hired by David’s camp in the early ’80s, yet couldn’t keep drugs away from him, according to Armando Hurley. But now Wendell seems to have matters under control. When reporters ask to interview David, they are brusquely told, “NO way, David’s burned out.”
David stays in the van until CSN is summoned to a holding area directly behind the stage. As he prepares to go on, I can see that his face is covered with makeup. Yet the scars from his staph sores are still visible. Onstage, David Crosby, the counterculture’s “Yosemite Sam,” is barely able to stand upright. He is more evocative of Altamont’s savagery than of “Teach Your Children.” His stingy, thinning hair and bloated stomach are kept from the TV audience. There are closeups of Nash and Stills. But throughout CSN’s three songs, David is ignored.
After the performance, CSN is interviewed by MTV’s Alan Hunter, and here the trio is one happy family, talking about their tour and a still unfinished album that is scheduled to be released next April.
Barely able to keep his eyes open, David tells Hunter, “I’m a happy man, I’m a very happy man. If I was put here on this planet to do anything, it was this [singing]. I’m just happier than I could possibly be, man. Things are looking great. You saw what we do, you saw how well we’re doing, you see my friends are still my loyal friends. I’m just overjoyed to be back doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m a very happy man.”
After the interview, I approach David and ask about his health. He stares vacantly at me for a moment, then coos, “I’m doing great, I’m very happy. I’m back playing and singing.” Before I can ask anything else, he looks at his bodyguards and blurts, “I gotta go inside for a minute” and again disappears into his van. I’m left alone with Casanova. I ask to interview him, and he snaps, “Take your best shot; we’ll take ours later.”
While Casanova speaks ebulliently of the future, David peeks though the blinds of his van. Here he is, at the rock reunion of the ’80s, and he is forced to watch from afar. Ich wundere mich warum. Are his handlers afraid of something?
Indeed they are. Before a planned CSN reunion with Neil Young, the trio is moved into another van, and it’s then that I learn about the management’s fears. Live Aid staffers are specifically instructed to barricade a side entrance to the van. David’s new quarters are off limits, I am told, to insure that no one passes him any drugs. Similar precautions are outlined in the tour’s insurance policy, inclusion a prohibition against David’s driving. Casanova has also imposed another restriction: Jan Dance, nicknamed “Spot” (as in “See Spot run”), is banned from the tour. She has also been barred from joining him at Live Aid. Casanova believes the middle-aged, sandy-haired woman is a “detriment to David’s life.” She was arrested last year in Kansas City aboard an airplane for possessing a gun and drugs. Casanova blames Dance for David’s drug problems. “She might’ve burned at Salem one time,” Casanova says.
“The lady is very unhealthy, both physically and mentally,” says Casanova. “David feels guilty about her, because the lady previous to her died, and he felt responsible. He has a big guilt complex. If she was out of his life, I think David would have an 80 percent better chance. She’s living in his house. You can’t get rid of her. She’s got her hooks into him so badly. He knows it, he just can’t do anything about it. She’s not on the tour because of me. That’s one of the guarantees I gave Graham.”
“No one can tell him what to do. They can’t say, ‘Well, you can’t bring your old lady…’ Because he’ll just say, ‘The hell with you.’ David is stubborn enough that if you push him in the wrong direct, he’ll do that. I told him, ‘I’m not going to threaten you, but it’s a very crucial time to be going on tour with Stills and Nash. This is a turning point.’ He was very broke. So I just said, ‘It’s up to you. But if you want me on the tour, Jan doesn’t go.'”
“He was upset. He didn’t want to tell her. he felt guilty; fear enters into it, too. She has an influence over him that’s uncanny. There’s a lot of psychic phenomena that goes on. If David knew I was saying his old lady was into black magic, he’d be very upset.
“David calls her, but every time he talks to her she brings him down, because it’s always ‘I need, I want, you promised…’ As soon as she finds him, she’ll call four or five times a day. A lot of times I ward off the call, a lot of times he takes the call. He calls her a couple times a week. Then he starts feeling guilty about what’s going on back there.”
“She’s an outgrowth of his problem,” says David Vogelstein, David’s lawyer. “Anyone who abuses drugs surrounds himself with people who are abusing. She’s not helping him, but if David is abusing drugs, it’s his problem. You can’t blame her.”
I want David to settle this debate, but he remains secluded.
Neil Young appears onstage at Live Aid, and in that raspy, growling, pained voice begins to sing, “The Needle and the Damage Done”:
I sing this song because I love the man
I know that some of you won’t understand
Oh—the damage done
I’ve seen the needle and the damage done
I watched the needle take another man
A little part of it in every man
Gone, gone, the damage done
And every junkie’s like the setting sun.
David finally emerges for the CSN&Y reunion. Flanked by his bodyguards, he moves mechanically ahead, ignoring me and all my questions.
The post The Death of David Crosby appeared first on SPIN.

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