DOO WOP DAVID CROSBY DIAMONDS FALLING DOWN LIKE RAIN
November 4, 2018
I wanna listen to this stuff for a month.
Ok that was ...random , maybe, Doo Wop is NOT a rainbow colour PARTICULARLY present in the masterful music weave of that exemplary, aged, Twitter friendly, member of the collective: the Walrus Lion Ambassador For A Beauty of the Heart, Mr David Van Cortlandt Crosby (Aug 14 1941, Los Angeles).
But thinking, on the whole, of what he has done and what he is, the totality of DCrosby...I'm thinking of Doo Wop for some reason, Stephen.
I mean - the harmony voice that has shone for so long, in so many incarnations.
And considering where David no relation to Bing has been, what he's done (you name it, Doctor) HOW DOES THE GUY GOTTA VOICE LIKE HE STILL HAS??
An American doing his sacred, solemn duty, David Crosby is .
GM: Righty-ho. And yeah, so you’ve been on a real what you’d call a purple streak the last few years. What do you date it from, the kind of prolific revival? And I mean, the quality, top notch.
GM: This album, it’s beautiful.
DC: Wow. Man, thank you. I think I’ve had a bit of a head of steam built up with songs and stuff before I left CSN and it wasn’t a good place to bring new songs right then. So I had a bit of a head of steam built up. And this is really where it’s at. I got incredibly lucky in life. I’ve got two bands, right, that I’ve fallen in with. And one of them is my son James. I’ve written more good songs for with him than any other human being in my life. James Raymond, he’s an unbelievable musician, a great producer. So that’s that electric band, the Sky Trails band. That’s the one that’s playing here tonight. And then there’s Michael League, and Becca Stevens and Michelle Willis who’s in both bands. Mike League in fact and Michelle and I made this record. Ah, it’s just… there’s a chemistry there. There’s something there. We walked into Michael League’s studio with two songs, and eight days later we had eleven. And we made the entire record in a month.
GM: And you’re revisited your past with two songs, 1974 and, yeah. So what was that like, going…
DC: Those are demos. One of them is fascinating because you can hear me actually writing the song.
I actually had a tape machine going when I found the melody to the song. So it’s probably the earliest in the process recording of a song ever in my time. Then what I did was I played them for them, for Becca and Michelle and Michael. And Michael’s a brilliant producer, man. He’s really good at it. He said “oh, hell yeah. We can do that. It’ll be a time machine. We’ll just take that stuff and bring it right up to now.” And we did. And what we wrote worked. I thought it worked out really well. I thought it was kind of daring, but Michael’s kind of daring.
GM: And did it take you thinking back to that time and place when you were in the process…
DC: No, not really. It’s just the music was pretty strong. And when we listened to it we said “mmm, that’s still valid. That’s a really good song there. We’ll just bring it up to now.”
GM: And do you keep a lot? Have you got your archive? Is it anything like Neil Young’s as well?
DC: No. No no no. His archive is stuff that’s finished. I have a lot of scrap lyrics on my computer, and I have a lot of scrap music in my head. And on my phone and stuff. And I do save anything that might turn into a song. But no, I don’t have that. I don’t keep all my stuff the way that Neil does. He keeps everything he ever did.
GM: And did you have a set process? I mean, has your process as far as creativity’s concerned, has it changed over the years?
DC: It’s gotten better with the advent of computers. I’m a better editor of my work, since I started putting everything onto a computer. Because it’s so easy on a computer. “Well, what if this goes here instead of there?” or “maybe this needs to end here and start there.” It’s so easy. Editing your work is much more, greater facility on a computer. It’s really wonderful.
GM: So James you’re playing with tonight, you met quite late in life.
DC: His mom put him up for adoption when he was born. And the people who raised him, wonderful people. So when got married and he was about to have his own kids, they said “well, you should find out who your genetic dad is.” And he went and found out, and it was me. And normally those meet ups don’t go well. With James, he gave me a chance. And I earned my way into his life. And that was a kindness at very high level.
GM: And how were you fixed at that point when your son that you hadn’t seen came to you?
DC: I had just nearly died. I had nearly died of liver failure. I’d gotten a liver transplant at UCLA. And I met him right afterwards.
GM: Wow. It must have been an emotional rollercoaster.
Son of the father with father. I'll leave you to work out who is who...
DC: Very. And I mean, it’s very encouraging in life. You meet your son and he’s a better musician than I am. That’s pretty astounding.
GM: Yeah. Incredible. So a full-formed collaborator and a son in one person.
DC: Exactly. And the best collaborator I’ve had. I do love writing with Michael League and Michelle Willis and Becca Stevens in the other band. But I’ve written more good stuff with James than with anybody.
GM: And how does your writing relationship differ from other people that you’ve written with?
DC: He’s completely not intimidated by me. [laughter]
GM: Right. What other people have been?
DC: Oh well, I suppose he’s just not… our relationship is extremely good. And he’s probably the adult of the two of us.
GM: And so two great bands currently, obviously two great bands, famous bands, previously. But isn’t out now a Byrds kind of reunion ongoing? Were you asked to be involved in that?
DC: Well, it’s a different Byrds. After they tossed me out of the group, they became a country rock band. Maybe the first country rock band. And of course that’s not the direction that I wanted to go at all. But they did. But when I went there, they did a really good job. They turned that band into the beginning of country rock. And so that’s what they’re doing now. They’re doing that music and that band. And (well times and feelings CAN change, folks!) I’m happy for them. They sound good and I’m proud of them.
GM: Yeah. And I have to ask, you’re in Manchester, home of your estranged partner Graham Nash?
GM: No chance or sign of any reunion or making up?
DC: I don’t think so, no.
GM: Is that a source of regret? Or just one of those things? Because you were tight for a long time really, you two. And I guess you went through quite a lot in life and he went through stuff as well, together…
DC: How it works is that lives don’t do in parallel patterns. They just don’t. And so you’re always either on a converging track with someone, or a diverging track. One of the two. And we did a lot of really good work and I’m very proud of the work, and I bear him no ill will, but no, I have no urge to work with him.
GM: And so you mentioned before James you had a liver transplant. I mean, that’s a massive thing. People that I know who have had liver transplants often didn’t make it too long afterwards.
DC: Yeah, that happens a lot. I was very lucky. But then, I’m a very lucky guy. Otherwise I wouldn’t be in both of those bands. It’s sheer luck. All I can do at the minute is be grateful for it, and work a whole lot. [chuckles]
GM: Yeah. And did you have a very rigorous health regime after the transplant?
DC: Yeah, you do. You have to do a certain pretty rigorous medical schedule of meds that you have to take and stuff. You have to be very careful with it. But it’s worth it, because you get to be alive. Being alive is fun.
GM: Yes. And having this sort of second spurt of a career, I don’t know what, gratitude? Or you sound lucky.
DC: Yeah, I feel like I’m lucky and I feel a great deal of gratitude. I think I should be very, very grateful that I get this opportunity. I think it’s fantastic.
GM: Yeah. And do you feel… you turned 76.
DC: 77 now.
GM: 77 a few weeks ago. So do you feel the hand of mortality on your shoulder?
DC: Sure, yes.
GM: And does that kind of drive you on? A lot to do before…
DC: I don’t feel it as a pressure, but I do feel it as an obligation, in the sense that I’ve got this opportunity to make this music, and it’s one real thing that I can do that makes a contribution. You know, that makes anything better for anybody. It’s the one place I can help. So I feel I have an obligation to do it to the best of my ability as much as I can. And I’ve been blessed with a voice that still works, and right now it still does, and songs coming, then I think I should take it as a responsibility to work as hard as I can right now.
I would like to lay back and rest on my laurels, but the truth is, because we don’t get paid on record anymore because of the streaming, we don’t get money from records anymore. So you pretty much have to work all the time anyway now. Because I don’t get that money from records anymore. I still make them, because they’re what I get to leave behind and they’re my art form. But we don’t get paid on them anymore. It means that I have to work all the time. But I’m pretty lucky how I get to work. I’m in good bands and I’m making good music.
GM: And that massive change that’s happened with the music industry, is that intractable? Do you think that’s…
DC: Yeah, pretty much.
GM: It’s just the way it is now.
DC: Yeah. The streaming companies pay us .0004 or something like that, .00. It’s like a hundredth of a penny. It’s as if you worked for three weeks and they paid you a nickel. You know. It’s really, really wrong, because they’re making billions of dollars and they’re not paying us, paying the people that makes music. And if you’re big, if you’re Taylor Swift, you can take all your stuff off of Spotify and force them to negotiate with you and pay you a decent rate. I can’t do that. The rest of us are just getting paid a shitty rate.
GM: Yeah, it’s shocking really. It doesn’t bode well for the future.
DC: It doesn’t look good for the future of the music business, no, because we can’t afford to get the money to even get into the studio. I have to, friends of mind have to let me use their studios for free because I don’t make any money on the records so I don’t have any money to go into the studio.
GM: So do you feel lucky then to have lived through the glory days in a way?
DC: Yeah, it was fun. That still doesn’t make it right for these guys to make billions of money off of my music and not pay me.
GM: And also on the new album, you’ve covered Woodstock. You covered Amelia on Sky Trails as well. Two Joni Mitchell songs from consecutive records. Tell me how you came to cover Woodstock, and why now doing that?
DC: Well, a couple of years ago I found a different way to play it. I found another set of chords. And I showed them to Becca Stevens. And she figured out a way to play them even better than I could. And we tried singing it with the four of us, Becca and Michelle and Michael and I. And we had a natural four-part. Now, I don’t know if you know much about singing, but normally four people singing together will sing a triad, three notes and an octave, the fourth note will be an octave of one of the other notes. This is four different notes. This is real, actual four-part. And the first time we sang it to an audience, the first time we hit the chorus, the audience started applauding in the middle of the song.
DC: So we just “well, okay, this is pretty good, we love this.” And we’ve been doing it ever since, every show we do with the Lighthouse Band, we sing that song because people just freak out, they love it. So I couldn’t resist putting it on the record.
GM: Yeah, if you get that instant, that kind of tells you something, if people are applauding in the middle of it. But has your relationship to this song changed then as result of doing it in a different way? Do you think of the song in a different way? Does it have a…
DC: Actually, I still think it’s a great set of words, a great song, and I just found it slightly different musically, a slightly different way to approach it. There are at least four ways that know, different ways of doing it. There’s Joni’s way, which is spectacular. There’s Stephen Stills’s, which is just spectacular. And there’s my way, and I think there’s a couple of others as well.
GM: Yeah. And those words, do they mean something different today to what they meant then?
DC: Well, you can hear the dream being alive for us there in that song. We were a bunch of idealists, young idealists and dreamers. And you can hear it in that music. Right now, it’s really tough to be a dreamer in America, because we have an asshole for President, and we have a really bad situation with the companies, corporations, owning our Congress. And so things are not good in the United States for us. They’re are not real hopeful in the Unites States right now. But you can hear in that song how hopeful we were then.
GM: Yeah. We’ve got to keep hope alive. And Joni, has she responded to the cover of Amelia? Have you had any contact with her in the recent past?
DC: I had dinner with her a couple of months ago, and she was very sweet. But I don’t think she’s heard it.
GM: Right. And do you think we’ll hear any more music from her?
DC: Mmm. Yeah, it’s a tough one.
GM: [laughs] Yeah. And so are you still in touch with Phil Collins? He paid for your liver transplant, is that right?
DC: He helped. A terrific amount. He’s a very good guy and a good friend and I love him.
GM: Yeah. And do you have any…
DC: I’m really happy that he’s going to go out and sing, man, because even if he can’t play drums now, he’s still a fantastic singer.
GM: Yeah. I mean, you mentioned your own voice. Do you do anything to maintain your voice? Considering how you…
DC: No. I can’t explain it at all. The only thing I didn’t do was I didn’t smoke cigarettes. And I don’t drink very much at all. But I can’t really explain why I’m singing the way I am now. I don’t know how that could be. But as long as it works, I’m going to work it.
GM: There’s no special kind of exercises like opera singers do or any warming up sort of thing? Do make a point of singing every day?
DC: I sing a bit before I go on stage to warm up. The normal stuff.
GM: Right. And obviously you’re writing a lot as well. What’s the key to your prolificity? And who taught you the most about songwriting?
DC: Mmm, the key to the thing with me is that I work at it, I try really hard and I’ve been incredibly lucky in the people I’ve chosen to write with. I’ve also had really good heroes, the people that I aspire to be like, the James Taylors and Joni Mitchells of the world. The Bob Dylan and the Randy Newmans and the Paul McCartneys and the Paul Simons. I love those guys. I love their work. Particularly Joni above all others.
GM: Right. And did you ever write together, you and Joni?
DC: We did, yeah. We wrote one song, and it’s called Yvette In English, and it’s a wonderful song.
GM: Why did you not write more together? Because you were together for a while.
DC: Ah, it’s not that easy. [laughter]
GM: What, your or her?
DC: Yeah. She did a set one time and I was thrilled. Good song. You listen to it. We both recorded it. Both of our recordings of it are completely different too. Really interesting. Listen, I’ve got to roll on here, buddy.
GM: Yeah, okay. Thanks for your time. And yeah, thanks for the music, man. And yeah, keep on keeping on.
DC: Well, if you can, come down, go to the show, man. The songs will speak better for me than I can.
GM: Yeah. Don’t worry, I’ve got a stack of them here for sure. Yeah, have a good one.