Rock And Rules: David Crosby

Life lessons from the outspoken music legend...

The guide to surviving a life in music, by those who know best…

David Crosby: supergroup veteran and self-confessed political troublemaker.

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There’s a thing that happens with bands: they start out and they’re in love with each other and they really like each other’s music and it’s all working, and then it kinda devolves from that, down to 40 years later and you’re turning on the smoke machine and playing your hits. And it’s not good enough.

That’s why I left Crosby, Stills and Nash: it was not good enough. We didn’t like each other, we weren’t having any fun, and there was no joy to it. So I quit.

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Coke and heroin don’t induce good thinking. I don’t think I made good choices at all in the past, but that’s the nature of addicts. When I got straight, I think my decision making process got better, and I made – in this thing of leaving CSN and doing these new groups – a hell of a decision, and I think it’s the right one.

Judging from the quality of the music, it’s a good decision.


Our main job is to make you boogie, tell you emotional stories and take you on little voyages – that’s what we’re supposed to do. Every once in a while, we’re supposed to be a witness.

When America starts shooting its own children on a college campus in the middle of doing something legal, unarmed, guns down, their own children, we’re supposed to talk about it. ‘Ohio’ was a good idea.

That said, it’s only our job when it’s really crucial. Adopting the cause of the weak just to get attention – ‘Oh, let’s save all the puppies!’ – no, that’s bullshit.

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If you want to make art, the only way to do it is to make good stuff. Making crap pop, being famous, being popular, being a celebrity is junk. It doesn’t mean squat.

Making decent art that can make people feel something? A worthy cause.

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One afternoon, Joni [Mitchell] and I were hanging out, I said something to her, and she said, ‘Write that down.’

I said, ‘What?’ She said, ‘Write that down!’

‘Write what down?’ ‘What you just said!’

‘What did I just say?’ ‘David! You said something good. You say things that other people take a month to try and figure out on paper. Write it down or it didn’t happen.’

Click! A big light bulb goes off in my head: Write it down or it didn’t happen.


Don’t do it unless it is the only thing you can do that will complete your life. Unless it’s the most important thing in the world to you, don’t try it, because it’s a bitch.

You will have a very tough time making a living. But if you can’t not do it – if it consumes you, if you feel you must do it – do it wholeheartedly. Leap in and try your best.

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David Crosby’s latest album, ‘Here If You Listen’, is out now on BMG.

Interview: Simon Harper
Photo Credit: Anna Webber

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