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Buddha on a hill: A conversation with David Crosby

David Crosby. Anna Webber David Crosby. Anna Webber

The world has gone haywire and David Crosby is mad as hell about it.

And though the years may change on the calendar, the issues affecting our society tend to remain front and center — corruption, discrimination, poverty, pollution, and so forth. 

Sadly, for Crosby, it’s been a sentiment he’s carried with him since his early days of rock-n-roll stardom in the turmoil and counterculture of the 1960s — nothing’s the same, everything’s the same. 

But, even at 77, the iconic singer-songwriter remains empowered and hopeful. Those traits deep within his soul are trademarks of his music, whether it was his time with The Byrds over 50 years ago or being part of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young — one of the most important musical acts of all-time, politically and sonically. 

And yet, even in the here and now, good ole Croz remains a voice of reason in dark times, using his signature vocal styling and keen lyrical aptitude to provoke not only societal dialogue and intrinsic thought, but actual positive and tangible change on our planet. 

Smoky Mountain News: You’ve always been a politically active and vocal person. What does that mean to you right now at 77?

David Crosby: Quite a bit. I’ve had time to watch a whole lot of stuff. So, I’ve become one of those old opinionated guys who grovels expressing his opinions about the world all the time. I’m pretty disturbed [about the world right now]. I’m one of those corny old people that really believes in democracy, and I don’t think we have a democracy anymore. I think we’ve got a corporate-tocracy. And I don’t think that’s good at all because I don’t think it serves the people of the United States of America at all. 

SMN: So, are you optimistic about the future? 

DC: Man, it’s tough to be optimistic in the face of this imbecile in the White House. I’m very afraid he’s going to start a war so he can be a wartime president and posture and pose. It’s hard. But, I’m encouraged by the kids. The kids getting out and doing these demonstrations, that and the women’s march before that — it thrilled me. Those two things give me hope. Whether that’s enough hope to counter the really disastrous stuff happening to our government and to our country? I don’t know, man. 

SMN: Where does that fire within you come from? Some might say the older you get, the less you might care…

DC: Gee, you know, it’s just not working out that way. It comes from belief. I truly and honestly believe in democracy. It’s a great system for people to live together under the rule of law. It’s a great idea. Representative democracy — it’s a good way to govern. I believe in it, and I don’t like that way it’s worked out for the way corporations have been able to buy our Congress, which is what they’ve done. 

SMN: How has the meaning of the word “love” changed or remained the same as you’ve gotten older? 

DC: It hasn’t changed a bit. It’s still the most important thing in the world. It’s very easy to be distracted early on in life with treasure, with fame, with other stuff that seems really shiny and attractive. But, at this point in my life, none of it comes anywhere close to love. Your love of your life and your family — that turns out to be the best part of life. 

SMN: What’s the role of the songwriter in the modern world? 

DC: Well, where we come from — the songwriter — is the troubadours in the Middle Ages. We were the ones that carried the news from town to town — the town crier. That’s part of our job. It’s not the whole thing, because we evolved from that into entertainers, as well. And it’s not good to preach at people. It’s good to be witness to people. If you see something you really think has to be witnessed — like [Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s] “Ohio” [about the 1970 Kent State University shootings] — that was a really good witness song. And, frankly, we need another one right now. We need a song, a fight song, a battle song — we shall overcome. I don’t care who writes it, just as long as we get one. 

Editor’s Note: If you would like to listen to the entire audio stream of this conversation, go to YouTube and search: “David Crosby Garret K. Woodward.”

 

Want to go?

David Crosby & The Sky Trails Band will headline the Songsmith Gathering at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, May 18, on the Auditorium Stage at the Brevard Music Center. 

Kicking off at 11:45 a.m. on the Lakeside Stage, other acts hitting the stage throughout the day will include Mipso, Hush Kids, Stand and Sway, Sarah Siskind, Suitcase Junket, Erin Rae, and more. 

Tickets start at $37 for lawn seats and $55 for auditorium seating. Children under 12 are free with a paid adult lawn seat. For more information and/or to purchase tickets, visit www.songsmithgathering.com or call 800.514.3849.

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