Carry On, David Crosby

Having put out four albums in five years, the legendary harmonizer feels a sense of urgency to keep this burst of productivity going.

David Crosby. Photo by Anna Webber

“I need to make music now, right now,” David Crosby says. “As much as I can, as often as I can, and as fast as I can.”

This sense of urgency has several causes. Crosby, 77, has had several health issues — most famously a liver transplant, but most recently a cardiac catheterization — and as a walking embodiment of the 1960s counterculture, he’s genuinely worried about America’s direction. He’s also has gotten a little testy on Twitter with right-wing rocker and Donald Trump fanboy Ted Nugent, most recently dismissing Nugent’s claim that he deserves to be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. He’s a “hack player and no singer at all,” according to Crosby, who was inducted twice, as part of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and as a member of The Byrds.

But the biggest reason for Crosby’s later-career productivity may be that it’s simply what he knows best.

“Frankly, man, it’s one thing I can do to make anything better — and things are hard now,” he tells SF Weekly. “This is serious. People need that lift.”

People are going to get that lift this Tuesday, Nov. 6, when “David Crosby and Friends” arrives at the Castro Theatre for a rare acoustic show with musicians Michael League (of Snarky Puppy), Becca Stevens, and Michelle Willis, playing classics from Crosby’s back catalog, selections from his well-received 2016 album Lighthouse, and songs from his Here If You Listen, released on Oct. 26. In all, Crosby has released four studio albums in under five years, after a drought of more than two decades.

“You won’t see this band for another year-and-a-half, probably,” Crosby says. “It’s pretty rare that we get to do it. It’s four-part harmonies pretty often, a lot of three-part, counterpoint, a lot of really advanced thinking on arrangements and a lot of jazz influence, I suppose. … It’s not like anything anybody else we know about is doing.”

Since most performers of Crosby’s vintage tend to get pigeonholed into the “legacy act” zone, it’s all the more remarkable that the Castro Theatre show will be “front-loaded,” as Crosby says, with newer work. He’s hot off an un-billed performance of CSN’s “Wooden Ships” with Jason Isbell at the Newport Folk Festival this summer, and the two are collaborating on at least one song ahead of a 2019 performance at Red Rocks in Colorado. Elsewhere, filmmaker and rock journalist Cameron Crowe is finishing a documentary about Crosby’s life.

“The opportunity arose, the funding was there, there were people who were interested, and it sold,” Crosby says matter-of-factly.

A sense of social responsibility is only part of a performer’s job, he insists. Fundamentally, the duty is to entertain, or “take you on little emotional voyages and make you boogie.” In light of all this, is there any possibility of a Crosby, Stills, Nash, and/or Young reunion? After all, 2019 is the 50th anniversary of Crosby, Stills, and Nash, the album that gave the world “Guinevere” and “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.”

“The right approach is probably ‘Never say never,’ and leave the door open,” he says. “I personally have no bad stuff in my heart about any of those guys and I would do it happily if it were up to me. I also feel that I only have a certain amount of time and I don’t have time to wait for anybody.”

Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane, with whom Crosby and Stills wrote “Wooden Ships,” died in 2016, which may add to that rush. Among the core group, there’s been a bit of bad blood over the years, chiefly unkind remarks Crosby made in 2015 (and later apologized for) about Daryl Hannah, who is now Neil Young’s wife. The ball would appear to be in Young’s court now, although Crosby appears willing to bury the hatchet with even the odious Ted Nugent.

“He’s a terrible guy,” Crosby says. “But what I realized afterward, and this is kind of a disappointing thing, is that I got 10 times as many reactions to putting him down as to putting someone else up. I thought, ‘Oh, that’s characteristic of [Twitter] to be that way, I guess,’ but I don’t like it. So I’m going to do a New Year’s Resolution to try not to abuse him or Kanye West or our president or any of the other people I really despise.” 

David Crosby and Friends, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 7:30 p.m., at the Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St.,  $64-$89, castrotheatre.com

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