AS PUBLISHED IN THE HAMILTON SPECTATOR, MONDAY, JANUARY 22, 1990

 

by Nick Krewen

 

TORONTO - Four years ago, a new DAVID CROSBY album would have been out of the question.

At 43 years of age, Crosby - founding father of American electric folk rock legends THE BYRDS and responsible for an assortment of classic albums with partners GRAHAM NASH, STEPHEN STILLS and NEIL YOUNG - was a junkie. A destructive addiction to heroin and cocaine had left him unhealthy, in debt and ignored by most of his friends.

Various drugs and weapons charges had finally caught up with him and when he failed to appear at a bond revocation hearing, it netted him a prison sentence.

Even worse, it had robbed him of one of life's great pleasures - music-making.

"My creativity had been dead for the last three or four years of my addiction," acknowledged Crosby during an interview at a Toronto hotel Saturday afternoon.

"So much for the drug-enhanced creativity theory."

Now a roly-poly 47, his greying hair inching past his shoulders and a clear, friendly twinkle in his eye, the mustachioed musician with the velvety voice has taken some important steps to reclaim the life that nearly escaped him.

CROSBY, STILLS, NASH And YOUNG's first album in 18  years -American Dream - is topping the charts as the unforgettable layered harmonies are saturating the airwaves, and his new Doubleday autobiography Long Time Gone  is a best-seller.

He's remained clean and sober since his August '86 release from prison, and is set to release his own personal triumph on A&M Records - a solo disc called Oh Yes I Can.

"That's an album I've been trying to make for the past seven or eight years," Crosby says of the album, his first solo since '71's If I Could Only Remember My Name. "I got close a few times, but then I finally sat down and did it. The result is the most satisfying album I've ever done."

This may be an early call, but fans who hear Oh Yes I Can  will probably agree with him. The album is a brilliant collection of emotional catharcism - an honest portrayal of his past battles with demons (The hard-rocking "Drive My Car" and "Monkey And The Underdog" are about his battles with drugs, while "Melody" is about his unconditional love of music), and a spirited exorcism of sorts.

It's presented by a tasteful, passionate variety of musical styles that will probably surprise CSNY fans and please old Byrd watchers, while the stellar supporting cast of fellow all-stars JACKSON BROWNE, JAMES TAYLOR and guitarist LARRY CARLTON should attract the proper radio attention.

Asked if he ever thought he would write and record music again, Crosby replied with a lengthy, extended, "Noooooo."

"(My creativity) didn't reactivate itself until I had been in prison for six months," said Crosby. "And then I began lyric writing, which came back a little and then a lot. And I snuck into the music room once in awhile, and played a little guitar."

News of his attempt at recovery was optimistically noted by the media - the complete opposite of earlier articles in rock magazines SPIN and Rolling Stone that published pre-epitaph cover stories at the height of Crosby's misfortunes.

"They were very painful," said Crosby, "But they were very true. The guy from SPIN was irresponsible. He lied about a lot of things, and fabricated a lot of the facts. The Rolling Stone article was just as harsh, but truthful.

"I did literally almost die from drug overdoses. I was revived from heroin overdoses and seizures. I suffered a seizure from the toxic saturation due to cocaine when I was behind the wheel of a car doing 65 miles an hour on the freeway. I wiped out on a fence, but I could have taken out cars or a busload of kids.

"And that's something I would have had to live with the rest of my life. There are some things that are worse than dying."

Crosby said he didn't realize he was an addict until it was too late.

"You don't go into addiction saying, `I think I'll become an addict,'" he said, "It starts by smoking a joint, and then you experiment with heavier drugs. Before you know it, pretty soon you can't do without it. And then your life is out of control.

"I repeatedly tried to regain control of my life," he emphasizes." I kept asking myself, `Who's driving this thing?' And I would take steps to help myself - and end up going in the completely opposite direction.

"I didn't mean to lose control. And I'm ashamed of myself for being so stupid."

He refers to the decision to change his lifestyle as "his moment of clarity."

"Anyone who is a recovering alcoholic or a recovering drug addict will tell you that they have a moment of clarity," Crosby explains, "You hit rock bottom, and suddenly, you say to yourself, `This is too much. I've got my nose in the gutter, I've trashed everybody and everything I care about, I can't do this anymore.'

"That's the point where I called the cops and turned myself in."

Although he's been "clean and sober three years ago last December 3," Crosby said the spectre of his drug addiction still haunts him.

"I still get the cravings, but it gets easier as time goes on," admits Crosby. "I'm still scared about drugs, and I still dream about it, but I do my best to lead a good life.

"I don't go where drugs are. And most of the people in my scene - most came to the same conclusion about drugs when they watched my life go down the tubes. It's not much fun. A lot of them were far more sensible than I was. Of the people I respect, only one is still using hard drugs. And nowadays, if you're still using hard drugs, most people figure you to be a dinosaur."

Crosby also gives a lot of credit to his current wife JAN DANCE, who stuck by him and almost suffered the same fate as he did.

"I fell in love with her almost immediately when I first met her," recalls Crosby. "But I didn't really know how lucky I was until I got out of prison.

"We spent eight years together on the downhill slide of drug addiction - which snaps most relationships like a twig. And then we lived on a truckload of drugs (he estimates seven grams ofcocaine and a half-gram of heroin PER DAY), and people were trying to actively break us up - and we still survived.

"I didn't see her for a year, but we kept letter correspondence when I was in prison, and the day I got out - there was this sparkling woman standing there. She was all shiny haired and clear-eyed, not the skin-and-bones junkie she was when I went into prison.

"And she put her arms around me and said, `Hey, we tried dying together over the past eight years, now let's try living together.' She's stronger than the rock of Gibraltar, and I'm very lucky."

Apart from the book and album projects, Crosby is also planning a solo tour and preparing to hook up with Graham Nash for recording purposes. The duo were supposed to join a calvacade of international stars in the Soviet Union for a benefit for the victims of the Armenian earthquake in mid-February, but the show has been rescheduled and Crosby has prior commitments.

"I'm playing a date in Florida I can't get out of," said Crosby, "But I'd love to play in the Soviet Union. I'm very happy with the current direction of the Soviet Union - (President MIKHAIL) GORBACHEV is a smart man. When the youths see us having this much fun, they don't want to go back to the collective and drive a tractor. They want to wear jeans and play rock 'n' roll and have fun. And I'd love to light a fire like that."

He also reunited with CHRIS HILLMAN and ROGER McGUINN of the Byrds for a few West Coast club dates, and described the occasion as "the most fun I could have with my clothes still on."

"Chris is pretty hot right now," said Crosby. "Three #1 hits with THE DESERT ROSE BAND, and Roger - I've forgotten how fantastic he is as a musician. Unquestionably, I'd like to do more work with that combination."

And he still attends meetings at rehab clinics.

"Hanging out with other people who you share experiences with helps you in the fighting - and it is a fight," said Crosby. "That's what I meant in `Monkey and The Underdog' on the new album- I am fighting to get from four o'clock to five - but the longer you do it, the easier it gets."

The words of wisdom he imparts about drug-taking are the sober thoughts of experience.

"Look what happened to me, " said Crosby. "Drugs ruin lives. This is a dead end. It kills you. It kills your heart. It kills your soul. Dead."

"But no matter how bad it gets, the struggle to live is worth it."

 

-30-

DISCOGRAPHY

THE BYRDS

1965 -- Turn! Turn! Turn!

1966 -- Fifth Dimension

1967 -- Younger Than Yesterday

1990 -- The Byrds

CPR

1999 -- CPR, CPR

CROSBY & NASH

1972 -- Graham Nash/David Crosby

1975 -- Wind On The Water

1976 -- Whistling Down The Wire

1977 -- Live

1978 -- The Best Of Crosby & Nash

1998 -- Another Stony Evening

 

CROSBY, STILLS & NASH

1969 -- Crosby, Stills & Nash

1977 -- CSN

1981 -- Replay

1982 -- Daylight Again

1983 -- Allies

1990 -- Live It Up

1994 -- After The Storm

CROSBY, STILLS, NASH & YOUNG

1969 -- Crosby, Stills & Nash

1970 -- Deja Vu

1971 -- Four Way Street

1974 -- So Far

1988 -- American Dream

1999 -- Looking Forward

SOLO

1971 -- If Only I Could Remember My Name

1989 -- Oh Yes I Can

1993 -- Thousand Roads

1994 -- It's All Coming Back To Me Now

1996 -- The King Biscuit Flower Hour

CONTRIBUTIONS

1970 -- Stephen Stills, Stephen Stills

1971 -- Graham Nash, Songs For Beginners

1971 -- Stephen Stills, Stephen Stills 2

1974 -- Graham Nash, Wild Tales

 

©1990, 1999 Nick Krewen, Octopus Media Ink

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