Crosby’s seen it all – except the Comox Valley

As a teen, he bused tables in a coffeehouse and sometimes sang harmony with the musicians performing there. When he was 19, his brother gave him a guitar.

MUSICAL ICON David Crosby has led a roller-coaster life that has included drugs

MUSICAL ICON David Crosby has led a roller-coaster life that has included drugs

As a teen, he bused tables in a coffeehouse and sometimes sang harmony with the musicians performing there. When he was 19, his brother gave him a guitar.

He had no idea he’d become an icon of the music industry. Or that he’d lead a roller coaster of a life that included incredible musical accomplishments, as well as serious problems with drugs, alcohol, the law and his health.

A major headliner for Vancouver Island MusicFest, David Crosby will perform at the mainstage at the Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds on Sunday, July 10.

And in case the name doesn’t ring any bells, think Wooden Ships, Eight Miles High and Woodstock. Yep, the creator of The Byrds, Crosby, Stills and Nash, later joined by Young, is coming to the Comox Valley.

“I’m writing a lot and that means things are right with the world,” Crosby said in a recent phone conversation from his home in central California. “Writing is a good window into how any song or book writer is doing with their life. If they’re writing, they’re doing something right.”

Crosby credits his love of music to the fact that his parents played folk and classical music all the time.

“It made me feel something,” he says.

After high school, Crosby took his music on the road, playing gigs wherever he could get them. And he started writing songs.

“Writing music came easy to me and right away,” he says. “The songs come every which way; I don’t have a routine like Bob (Dylan). He’d get up and be pecking away at his typewriter before breakfast; that’s how he wrote such incredible stuff.

“For me, the words usually come first and often just before I fall asleep,” Crosby explains. “I’ve learned to get up and write them down, otherwise they’re gone in the morning.”

Crosby’s personal favourites include Guinevere, Deja Vu and more recent songs composed with his son James Raymond, such as On the Edge.

In 1963, when he was 22, Crosby formed The Byrds, whose hits Turn! Turn! Turn! and the Bob Dylan cover Mr. Tambourine Man gained them critical and popular acclaim. And, as pioneers of the folk/rock genre, the sound of The Byrds influenced many musicians of that era.

Four years later, Crosby left The Byrds to create Crosby, Still, Nash and eventually Young. The band’s impact on the music scene was immediate, and Crosby, Stills and Nash’s self-titled first album is on the Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

With Woodstock, numerous awards and two inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Crosby’s career was flying high. He was, too.

The drugs, alcohol and debilitating lifestyle took their toll in the form of hepatitis C, liver failure, diabetes and heart attacks. He was also arrested on more than one occasion and spent time in Texas jails.

But Crosby’s a survivor.

Not only did he turn his life around, he wrote three books, Stand and Be Counted: Making Music, Making History/The Dramatic Story of the Artists and Causes That Changed America, Long Time Gone and Since Then: How I Survived Everything and Lived To Tell About It, chronicling his incredible life journey.

These days, Crosby’s writing songs, touring and taking care of himself.

“My one big regret is doing other stupid stuff when I could have been making music,” he admits. “That’s a big one for me. But I’m doing great health-wise. I go to the gym and work out and am very glad to be healthy and alive.”

This spring, Crosby spent a couple of months touring with Graham Nash, and the duo heads to Europe for five months this fall.

“Graham and I have a special relationship,” Crosby says. “When we sing together, it’s like two fighter pilots — we fly in tight formation and always know where the other guy’s wing is. We also agree on what’s important in life, family and music. To have a connection like that is extremely rare.”

“I’m really busy these days; I don’t have the time not to be,” he adds. “I’m old as dirt (Crosby turns 70 in August) and have to hustle. I have a lot of songs I want to write and sing.”

Crosby’s advice for aspiring musicians is blunt.

“Don’t do it unless you’re so driven you can’t do anything else. If you wake up in the morning and want to sing and write songs and can’t force yourself to do anything else and don’t care if you make any money at it, then go ahead.

“But if you want to be a star and on the cover of Rolling Stone, go get a real job because the odds of you succeeding to that level are a million to one.”

July will be Crosby’s first visit to the Comox Valley, and he’s excited about being part of MusicFest.

“My dear friend, Spider Robinson, told me about it five years ago,” he says. “He kept telling me I had to be there, and it’s finally happening.”

And the concert Crosby’s looking forward to hearing most? “Randy Newman, he’s so great.”

For more info about the July 7 to 10 VIMF, visit


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Comox Valley-raised Shay Sandiford has earned a spot on the Canada skateboard team. Facebook
Courtenay skateboarder selected to first-ever national team

A young man from Courtenay is among 12 athletes who have been… Continue reading

A WestJet flight on the runway leaving Comox. Photo by Erin Haluschak
Aviation company seeks contracted employees to fill former WestJet roles at YQQ

Menzies Aviation from Edinburgh Park, Scotland, operates in 34 countries across the world

A cougar was spotted Monday near Queneesh Elementary. (WildSafe BC photo)
Cougar sighted Monday near Courtenay school

Conservation officers are warning the public to avoid the wooded areas around… Continue reading

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 90+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
SD71 to address COVID-19 exposures with virtual town hall

The meeting is set for Thursday, March 4

Langley resident Carrie MacKay shared a video showing how stairs are a challenge after spending weeks in hospital battling COVID-19 (Special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Stairs a challenge for B.C. woman who chronicled COVID-19 battle

‘I can now walk for six (to) 10 minutes a day’

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The south coast of B.C. as capture by the Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission. (European Space Agency)
VIDEO: Images of B.C.’s south coast from space released by European Space Agency

The satellite images focus on a variety of the region’s landmarks

A copy of the book “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” by Dr. Seuss, rests in a chair, Monday, March 1, 2021, in Walpole, Mass. Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the business that preserves and protects the author and illustrator’s legacy, announced on his birthday, Tuesday, March 2, 2021, that it would cease publication of several children’s titles including “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” and “If I Ran the Zoo,” because of insensitive and racist imagery. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
6 Dr. Seuss books won’t be published for racist images

Books affected include McElligot’s Pool, On Beyond Zebra!, Scrambled Eggs Super! and The Cat’s Quizzer

FILE – Oshawa Generals forward Anthony Cirelli, left, shoots and scores his team’s first goal against Kelowna Rockets goalie Jackson Whistle during second period action at the Memorial Cup final in Quebec City on Sunday, May 31, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
B.C. government approves plan in principle to allow WHL to resume in the province

League includes Kamloops Blazers, Kelowna Rockets, Prince George Cougars, Vancouver Giants, Victoria Royals

The fundraising effort to purchase 40 hectares west of Cottonwood Lake announced its success this week. Photo: Submitted
Nelson society raises $400K to save regional park from logging project

The Nelson community group has raised $400,000 to purchase 40 hectares of forest

AstraZeneca’s vaccine ready for use at the vaccination centre in Apolda, Germany, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michael Reichel/dpa via AP
National panel advises against using Oxford-AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine on seniors

NACI panel said vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna are preferred for seniors ‘due to suggested superior efficacy’

Most Read