INTERVIEW: Son of the Revolution – David Crosby

Photo of David Crosby are from the website, copyrighted Eleanor Stills & Buzz Person. (Used with permission from David Crosby.) / Portrait of William Floyd painted by Ralph Earl. (Independence National Park, Philadelphia.)

By Shoshanna McCollum ~ SINGER SONGWRITER DAVID CROSBY is an American legend. His work as a founding member with The Byrds, then Crosby Stills & Nash has earned him his place as a two-time inductee in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. He has also enjoyed a successful solo career and working with other groups, including CPR (Crosby Pevar, and Raymond). Mr. Crosby is a direct descendant of Declaration of Independence signer William Floyd whose homestead in Mastic Beach is part of Fire Island National Seashore. We are thrilled that he agreed to speak with us about music, family, and politics.

Fire Island News (FIN): Of course we are excited to speak with you today, both as a musician and a descendent of William Floyd. Were you aware of that connection before we called?

CROSBY: I was aware, my mother always told me that, as parents want to let you know about illustrious ancestors. I never did much investigation of it myself, or made anything out of it, but yeah, it is true. I am also descended from the Van Cortlandt, Delafield, and Crosby families, all from the upstate New York area.

FIN: Well if you ever seen a picture of William Floyd, or knew about his life, I think you would see a resemblance in appearance and in spirit.

CROSBY: (Laughs.) Really, how so?

FIN: Let me just say he was a son of the revolution and so are you. I know you are a California boy, but have you ever visited the William Floyd Estate in Mastic Beach, or Fire Island?

CROSBY: Well I still have family in New York that I visit, and I’ve toured there many times. But the William Floyd Estate or Fire Island itself? No, I can’t say I have.

FIN: Well perhaps this interview will pique your interest.

CROSBY: Oh, I’m interested and have every intention of visiting, I just can’t right now.

FIN: Let’s talk about the music. From your catalog, you have a lifetime of work. What songs would be among your personal favorites?

CROSBY: Well that’s a little like asking which one is your favorite child. You ask the writer, they’ll always tell you the most recent one they just wrote is their favorite, because right then it is. Now I can understand that, and frankly feel the same way. People tend to pick out favorites based on their degree of popularity and I’m sure my favorites would not necessarily be the most favorite of my fans or people who like my music. Personally I try not to pick favorites, because that makes it into a sort of footrace. There are dozens of songs that I think are valuable. Songs that are the more sophisticated, the ones with the more interesting words, poetry, cord changes or the best story to tell. I’m best known for the songs that happened with Crosby, Stills and Nash or Crosby Stills Nash and Young; and they’re good songs – “Déjà vu,” “Guinevere,” stuff like that. But “Cut May Hair” is a pretty dumb song, but probably the one I’m best known for. It’s tough for me to pick, I like one called “Laughing.” I like another called “Rusty in Blue.” There are several off my last record “Croz.” I like some of the ones I did with CPR. Gosh, there must be a half dozen off the new record that I just finished I really like enormously, one called “Things I Do for Love,” especially. Like I said my picks would be different than the fan picks.

FIN: From my research I also understand that you have a love of sailing?

CROSBY: I’ve been a sailor all my life. I started when I was 11, so that’s 66 years I guess that I’ve been sailing. And yes, I had an old wooden schooner that I sailed all over the Pacific and around Caribbean. Sailed it about 50 years.

FIN: Have you ever sailed the northeastern waters near where Fire Island is located?

CROSBY: Oh no, it’s cold up there!

FIN: (Laughs.) You don’t like the cold?

CROSBY: No, of course not!

FIN: Fair enough. At 74 I understand you are busy with some new projects. Can you tell me about them?

CROSBY: Yes, we have just finished recording a brand new solo album called “Lighthouse,” it should be out in September. And then I’m working on another one. I’ve had a burst of songs recently, so I’m working on a second solo record also. I don’t know what the next one is going to be named, but I’m about halfway through it at least. You know, it’s such a joy to record, such a good thing to have forward motion in your life. It’s a very joyous prospect in my life. Most of my friends my age have sort of petered out. They would like another hit, but they are happy to rest on their laurels. I just really just still have stuff that I want to do.

FIN: I understand one of the more recent projects has been with your son, James Raymond; who was put up for adoption when you were quite young, but you later reunited with?

CROSBY: Yes, that’s the one I’m working on right now.

FIN: I have to say that’s such an uplifting story about how you found each other again, and now you are making music with him.

CROSBY: Yes it’s fantastic! One thing is definitely true; if anybody ever tells you that music is not genetically passed on, have them talk to me. He is a better musician than I am. He didn’t know I was his dad. He had no idea, no preset. He is an amazing writer, player, singer, producer, everything! He’s producing this record that we’re working on right now.

FIN: Let’s talk about some of your other children. I understand you are the biological father of the children of signer Melissa Etheridge and her former partner, Julie Cypher. Do you keep in touch with them?

CROSBY: Yeah, as much as I can. You know I agreed not to have any authority there. They’re her kids, not mine, but I still love them both and they’re pretty amazing kids. So she’s been kind and open about it. The kids used to come over when they were younger, but they are off on their own now as grownups with their own lives now. Essentially our job as parents is to put ourselves out of a job.

FIN: I’d be remiss if I did not ask your thoughts on the current political climate and America in general.

CROSBY: The way I see it we no longer have a democracy, we have a “corporatocracy.” The corporations have so much money, that they bought Congress. Our Congress no longer answers to any pressure at all from people. Because in general people are dumb enough to where if you spend enough money you can buy the election. If they were smarter, Trump wouldn’t be a candidate. So that pretty much proves I’m right. If you spend enough money you can convince the electorate to do almost anything.

We have a situation where America isn’t doing well by the standards that I count by, which makes me unhappy. You know we used to be ranked number one in educating our kids, now we are 26th to 28th. Every other developed country is doing a better job than we are, and that is going to come home to roost.

We are involved in wars for profit. The corporations that arm, clothe, feed, house, and transport our armies just call up Congress and say “Hey our quarterly report’s down we need another war.” Congress says “Sure, where would you like it?’ So now we are involved in a religious war with the Middle East, which we should not be in.

The political process has devolved so drastically. When you see people like Trump and Cruz involved in a presidential election, you know the wheels have come off. Imagine a world where Trump and Putin are the two strongest guys. That’s not a good thing!

I would like to see a better America, because I believe in it. Too many people determined to rule other people, rather than help other people. I’ve been devoting a lot of my energy in closing local nuclear plants in CA. Things can go awry there very quickly. I do spend a fair amount of time trying to help kids get a better education because public schools just aren’t doing it, and that’s just a really dangerous thing.

FIN: Please correct me if I’m wrong, but is it true that you once tried to run for President yourself?

CROSBY: No, I have a much better job.

FIN: While not a direct parallel, it might interest you to know that when William Floyd signed the Declaration of Independence he paid a great price. The British took over his property. He and his family were displaced from their home for many years. His wife died of a broken heart as a result. He had to pick up and start over again. Somehow in you I see a person who can pick up and start over again, just like he did.


CROSBY: Yeah, well I just may have done that. Tell me is there a biography where I can learn more about William Floyd?

FIN: There was a book about him published in 1956 by William Quentin Maxwell, but it’s long out of print. I have heard talk that there may be a new one may be in the works, but would have to check on that. Is there anything else you wish to discuss that my questions have not touched on?

CROSBY: No Honey, you’ve been very good. I’m happy to express my views about this stuff. Most people only want to talk about stuff like Woodstock, but I prefer to go a lot deeper, and that’s what you’ve done.