The past few months haven’t seemed that different from the darkest days of 1968 to David Crosby. The biggest difference was that Nixon was a villain he was able to largely understand. Trump is a very different story.
“I would paint the villain in darker colors this time,” he tells Rolling Stone. “I’ll tell you how I envision this guy [Trump]. He feels to me like an 8-year-old kid that has never been allowed in his dad’s office and he’s broken and he’s peeing on the papers, running around madly with his dick flopping out, peeing on the papers saying, ‘I’ll show you!’”
“He’s not even really sane,” he adds. “And he is far more dangerous than Nixon because he’s got a gigantic ego and he was raised by monsters. His dad must have been one of the most horrifying people you ever could have encountered. The signs are all over him.”
Needless to say, Crosby feels that Trump’s reaction to the protest movement that has erupted in recent weeks due to George Floyd’s killing by a Minneapolis police officer has been pathetically inept. And all of this comes at a very difficult time for the singer. Not only has the concert industry shutdown had a devastating impact on Crosby’s already-bleak financial situation, but he’s also dealing with tendonitis that may make it impossible for him to play guitar ever again. As bad as all of that has been for him, it was put into devastating perspective last month when Beckett Cypher, his biological son who was raised by Melissa Etheridge and her partner Julie Cypher, died from an opioid overdose.
Crosby is trying to distract himself from all of this pain by recording a new album that, at least for now, he’s calling Lifting Force or simply Lift. He’s also mobilizing to assist the Joe Biden presidential campaign any way he can.
Rolling Stone spoke with Crosby about his personal troubles, the protests sweeping the country, and how the Sixties compare to 2020.
How did you feel watching the George Floyd video? I presume you watched it.
I did. I don’t know if you’ve ever been arrested, but they are rough. Those boys are rough. And it’s easy to murder. The guy [Derek Chauvin] is a murderer. Why was he still in the police force? He has had [multiple] complaints against him.
That’s not acceptable. That’s when you have to go in and say, “This is on tilt. We have to readjust, restart on our value system here. We have to teach you guys what is valuable here. You have to have the respect of the people, and you don’t get it by demanding it. You get it by earning it.” That has to get explained to them. We also have to go for a higher grade of people, just like we do with the teachers.
What concrete changes do you hope to see happen to police tactics and practices in the future?
Well, moral superiority. If a policeman comes onto the scene and he’s uniformed and armed normally and isn’t trying to pretend he’s a combat guy going into the Iron Triangle or some shit, he’s a normal guy where he can look me in the eye and I can look him in the eye, I have respect for him.
A guy who comes up to me in combat gear and armed with armor-piercing rounds and multiple clips of ammo, probably carrying 1,000 rounds and he’s got a full-auto war machine, that’s completely wrong. That’s not what it’s for. That is not their job.
It’s been argued that the protest movement in 1968 and all the chaos that swirled around it helped elect Nixon. People wanted “law and order,” and they went for him. Do you worry that sort of dynamic might come into play again and help re-elect Trump?
I don’t think so. The manipulation of the demonstrations has been caught. They have responded to everything badly. The response to his little play with the church [photo op with a Bible] was a full 99.99 percent negative. I think we can count on him to step on his own dick repeatedly, all the time. I think his mistakes are a blessing because they make it plain that he’s a friggin’ idiot and that he’s crazy.
I don’t think we’re going to get away with this without it getting much worse. I hate to say that. There are a lot of us who think he’s not going to leave office willingly and you will see actual armed conflict. But I have to tell you, those people posing with all those rifles and shit where they go around armed to the teeth trying to look all badass? They’re a bunch of pussies, man. They’ve never been in combat. They don’t know fuck-all.
I know you were supporting Mayor Pete at first and you were skeptical about Joe Biden. How do you feel now?
I think my analysis of all of them was careful and I took a long time and I did a pretty good job of figuring them out. I liked Pete Buttigieg because he was the brightest guy in the field. I think that is pretty much a given. I don’t think anyone comes close to him in terms of sheer brainpower. That’s how I see it.
I also think he’s a dedicated, really, really good human being. I believe in him as a human being. I think he would be an exceptional leader of this country. Do I think this country is mature enough to accept a gay guy leading the country even though he’d be the best one? No. Would he make a great Secretary of State? Fuck yes! So would Warren.
Do you think Biden is rising to the moment?
I think he’s trying. Here’s how I feel about Joe. He’s a good guy. There’s a decent human being in there and he’s paid lots of dues, which makes him humane. He understands what pain is. These other dicks don’t. He knows. He’s had serious, weeping pain. I like that in a human being. I like scars on a human being because that is how you learn. He has. He’s very humane and a very decent guy.
I believe in him as a human being and I am working for him. I have already worked for him. I joined up with Joe Walsh and Whoopi [Goldberg] and some other buddies of mine and we already did a thing for him. We raised a couple of million and that’s good. We have to do a whole shitload more.
I believe in Joe because I believe in his values. What matters to him is the same stuff that matters to me: Intelligence, humanity, compassion, curiosity, humor. These are all qualities that I really care about in a human being, and he has them all.
What did you take away from the aftermath of the Sixties? There was a huge protest movement in America, but society didn’t wind up changing in the ways that young people hoped.
The biggest lesson that I think I’ve learned overall is this: I believe in democracy. I believe it is the best way we can live together. We’ve tried monarchy. We tried juntas. We tried dictators over and over again. I believe in democracy. And I believe in an open financial society. You just can’t have it so the money society can buy the political society. You can’t have it so the huge corporations can come and buy the government the way they are able to now.
To switch gears, how are you doing? I know things have been tough recently in a lot of ways.
The biggie is my kid died.
I’m so sorry, David. I can’t even imagine.
I didn’t get to raise that kid and I didn’t mean to raise that kid, but he was here many times. I loved him and he loved me and he was family to me. [Pause.] It’s hard. You’re not supposed to have your kids die before you die. That’s a real punch in the face. It’s like a train hits you and then you have to get back up. So I’m having a hard time. It’s a real hard one and I haven’t yet cried and I’m gonna and it’s hard.
In the middle of all that, I get trigger-finger tendonitis in my hands. I went in to get it fixed and it didn’t work. Now I’m in a tremendous amount of pain in my right hand. It’s entirely possible that I may never play guitar again.
And my democracy that I love so much and that I believe in so much and I’ve believed all my life is failing and being abused to death, just being raped, shot and strangled. And then I don’t think we are addressing climate change because these assholes don’t see a profit in it. They have no way to even conceive that it’s real. That’s disturbing me tremendously because I have children and I want them to have a world.
You ask me how I am? I’m having a hard time keeping my goddamn head above water. I’m a pretty positive guy. I’ve been through a lot. I mean, a lot. I’ve been tested a lot. And it’s hard to slug me down. You punch me, OK, I can’t really fight back. I’m old. But I’ll get back up. And I have been. But I’m loaded up good, man. I’ve got more on my plate then I can handle and I have been crying. I’ll admit it.
Are you going to be able to keep your house or is that in jeopardy now?
That is in jeopardy. What do you expect, man? You know the story as well as I do. You even know how it happened. They don’t pay me for records anymore. It’s like you did your job at Rolling Stone for a month and they paid you a nickel. That’s half my income gone and now there’s the other half, gone. I don’t have any savings. I haven’t been making any money to put savings away. I have lost both of my income streams for a year. And I don’t know if I’ll be able to go back to work when I go back to work. It’s a bitch. It’s a really hard time.
I need people to know that I am not whining and sniveling about not being able to work. I’m just saying it’s hard on people that can’t make any money. Now, it’s much harder on the young people that I know that I’m working with that I love very much and are my friends. They’re going home to live with mom!
I think fans assume that you have all this money because CSN toured so heavily over the years.
Can you spell cocaine?
But the group toured through 2015, way after your drug years.
It had devolved some already by then, and I wasn’t making a ton of money, but I was making a good living and I’m certainly not now. I’m not making any money from anywhere. Again, I’m not whining about it. I think it’s what we have to do or we can’t beat the coronavirus, and we have to beat it. But I don’t think most people know what it’s done to the music business. It’s everyone that I know. They’re completely out of work and a lot of them don’t make a lot of money.
Everyone is like, “You’re a rock star and you drive in a Cadillac and you burn money.” Bullshit. Ninety percent of us are working people and our job is gone.
Next year you should hopefully be back on tour.
I hope so. The thing that happens to me is I’m not sure I’ve got a next year. That’s the thing. I’m almost 80 years old. So when you take away my next year, you might have just taken the last one I got.
That’s a dark thought.
I’m not whining. I’m telling you the truth. You might have just taken the last chance I had to go out and do it. And that’s a bitch. And I still don’t think that’s the wrong thing. I think they are doing the right thing to not have aggregations of people, but don’t kid yourself about the effect. To us? To the musicians? It’s a goddamn disaster.
If you can’t play the guitar, will you tour and just sing?
Yeah. I’m a good singer. Man, I wish I could play you the record that James [Raymond] and I just finished. Oh, fuck. I sang my ass into the middle distance.
Are you done with it?
Pretty much. I think it’s going to be called Lifting Force or Lift. I think it’s going to be really good. We’ve got three singles. I’ve never had singles before, but I’ve got three of them this time. I got one we wrote with Michael McDonald that’s just killer. That’s “River Rise” and Michael sings harmony with me on it. He and I kill it. When we sing together, it’s scary.
And then we’ve got a song that I wrote with Donald Fagen. It’s really fucking good, man. I’m so honored he gave us a set of words. I’ve been asking him for a couple of years. He started to trust us, I think. It took a long time, but he gave us a set of words that are really wonderful and we just wrote the shit out of them.
I think people are going to love the record. I think people are going to like the music. And that is great. That is what I’m holding onto, fiercely, to try and get through all the crazy. And there’s a lot of crazy.
You’re a fighter. You’ll get through this.
I will. I’ve been through so much, man. I’m hard to kill.