Any musical career that lasts more than 50 years is going to have its share of highs and lows. But very few musicians have seen the stratospheric highs and catastrophic lows that David Crosby has seen in his career, which began when he joined the Byrds in 1964 and which reached the highest pinnacle of success during his years with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (CSN&Y) in the ’70s and ’80s. Crosby has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, along with the other members of those two bands. Along the way, a long-term addiction to drugs almost killed him, personality clashes led to his ongoing estrangement from numerous musical partners, and at several points he even served time in prison for drug and weapons offenses.
That’s why it’s all the more surprising that now, at the age of 76, Crosby can still sing with the voice of an angel, can still play guitar with great fluidity, and is in the midst of a creative rejuvenation that shows no sign of letting up. David Crosby stops at Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center on June 9 to give the East End a chance to hear this rock legend and survivor in person. He’ll be joined by his current touring group, which he calls the Sky Trails Band.
“I’ve got an amazing band,” says Crosby. “We’ll do stuff from Sky Trails (Crosby’s latest release), plus Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young stuff and other solo stuff.” Audiences will doubtless be most familiar with their CSN&Y favorites, which might include such Crosby-penned classics as “Wooden Ships” and “Long Time Gone,” but will surely find themselves drawn in by Crosby’s more recent work as well.
“I think these last three records speak for me better than any I’ve done since If I Could Only Remember My Name,” says Crosby, referring to his first solo record, released in 1971. “My music’s going in the direction I want.” Sky Trails features Crosby’s unmistakable, pure voice on a collection of mostly original songs, treated with subtle but sophisticated arrangements and productions. The record was produced by James Raymond, who also plays keyboards in Crosby’s touring band. In a twist that seems only fitting, given the complications of Crosby’s personal life, Raymond is actually Crosby’s son—a son Crosby never knew until he was in his 50s.
“James was born in 1962, and his mom put him up for adoption,” says Crosby. “When he got married he decided to find out who his biological father was. That was about 20 years ago, and we’ve been writing music together ever since we met.” Crosby credits Raymond, who has a background in film scoring, for the deft arrangements on Sky Trails. He singles out the song “Curved Air”—a gorgeously snaky number on the new record—for special attention. “James played that flamenco guitar line on a keyboard,” he says, chuckling at the thought. “Nobody can figure out how he got it to sound so good!”
Another gorgeous song on the new release is “Before Tomorrow Falls on Love,” which Crosby co-wrote with Michael McDonald, who appears on the recording. The lyrics seem like a comment on the nature of a late-in-life burst of creative energy—a phenomenon Crosby knows something about.
Crosby has been a Californian from birth, but he’s no stranger to the East End. You might even say that the East End had a hand in the formation of Crosby’s biggest success. Back in the ’60s, Sag Harbor had become a kind of nexus for folk rockers, and it was in Sag Harbor that Crosby, Stills and Nash first sprang to life. “We rented an A-frame in Sag Harbor for a couple of months and rehearsed and tried out bass players,” Crosby recalls. “John Sebastian came out to visit,” he adds.
So welcome back, David Crosby.
David Crosby plays WHBPAC on Saturday, June 9 at 8 p.m. Tickets can be purchased for $96–$161 at whbpac.org and 631-288-1500.