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Thoughts Upon David Crosby’s Death
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The opposite of a good thing can be counted on to also be a good thing. That reality—as I see it, anyway—prompts me to think about the opposite of whatever I consider true and valuable to discern how it might be true and valuable. Giving impetus to this activity is the assumption that, whether it be for a group or an individual, living well—accomplishing important things and being happy and healthy and whole—involves harmoniously integrating opposites (or apparent opposites, perhaps polarities rather than opposites is a better way of looking at them): the public and private; work and love; selfishness and altruism; gentility and fierceness; the present, past, and future; and so on. The January 18, 2023 death of singer, songwriter David Crosby encouraged me to offer an illustration of this value-and-integrate-opposites perspective in this writing.

David Crosby helped create two of the most popular and influential American musical groups in the 1960s and ‘70s, the Byrds and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. He continued to perform successfully with others and individually until the end of his life. Important here, he endured the ravages of a severe drug problem, including addictions to cocaine and heroin that landed him in jail, as well as obesity and a general lack of self-care. Crosby’s life involved a stark contradiction: while he gave an enormous gift to the world through his music, for many years he badly abused himself and paid a great personal price for it. What first drew my attention to him, it must be a decade ago, was how, in mid-life, he managed to confront his personal demons admirably well, enough to remain productive professionally and, apparently, do well in his personal life, and, as it turned out, make it to 81. I wrote a brief reflection on it at the time and filed it away. I share it here.

In 2016, I authored an article from a White racial angle entitled “Blacks as Emotional Abusers of Whites: The Exploration of a Possibility.” It considered the phenomenon of abuse in the public realm, race relations. Going along with the basic contention in this writing, if public abuse is an important concern, and I hold that it is, very likely so too is its opposite: personal abuse, self-abuse. Thus, and staying within a racial frame of reference, the potential worth in looking into what went on with an individual White man, David Crosby—a prime example of self-abuse if there ever was one—to see what insights can be gained from it. Motivating this activity from the perspective of this publication is the assumption that White racial well-being is advanced by concurrently attending to the state of the race as a whole and the state of the living, breathing, mortal White individuals that comprise it and noting how each affects, contributes to, the other and acting accordingly.

With that as the context, here’s what I wrote about David Crosby these many years ago. In particular, see what you think of my take on what his example implies in the “my commentary” section at the end.

Booking photo prior to serving a sentence for drugs and weapon possession in Texas.
Booking photo prior to serving a sentence for drugs and weapon possession in Texas.

* * *

Excerpts from two hospital intake reports on David Crosby in late 1983.[1]The material below is from David Crosby, with Carl Gottlieb, Long Time Gone: The Autobiography of David Crosby (New York: Doubleday, 1988).

Ross General Hospital

Crosby, David

42-year-old, single, white male, rock musician.

Patient describes chills and sweats five to six times a day beginning 24 hours after admission and says he “feels bad all over.”

Describes ringing in the ears and a dull headache in the frontal and occipital areas.

He has a stomach ache with nausea. He notes increased bowel rumbling. He has constipation chronically. He last bowel movement, which was hard and dry, was approximately two days ago.

He states that he periodically notices a left pain in the costovertebral angle [abdomen] so that a question of urinary tract obstruction on a periodic or intermittent basis should be considered.

There is a past history of seizure on one occasion. This was apparently a gran mal seizure and may have been related to drug intake.

Physical Examination

Reveals a disheveled man who appears his stated age and is obese.

Reveals long hair that is in need of shampooing, scalp has plaque build-up. The nasal septum is perforate [a hole in the inside wall of the nose from cocaine use] with purulent material [pus], dried and old on either side. Mouth exam reveals four teeth that are broken and badly carious [decayed], left upper, lower and right upper.

Reveals edema [retention of fluid] in the lower legs and hemorrhage of small capillary vessels with subsequent hemosiderin staining [discoloration from internal bleeding]. The skin of the feet is wrinkled and dry. On the upper extremities, his skin is characterized by healing staphylococcus lesions that are pink and slightly pigmented. There are lesions on his right hand, where he has apparently suffered flash fires handling the freebase unit needed to produce his cocaine for inhalation. There are several open draining wounds on the neck.

Diagnostic Impression

Chemical dependency, opiate and cocaine.

Chronic staphylococcal neurodermatitis [infections].

Perforate nasal septum.

History of lower urinary tract obstruction and urinary retention with gross hematuria [blood in the urine] secondary to probable renolithiasis [urinary tract infection] and colic [gas].

Fixed tissue eruption [skin lesions].

Hemosiderin staining of both lower extremities.

Disposition

The patient will be treated for chemical dependency. He will be encouraged to participate in group activities, to begin a program of self care physically by washing and shampooing and then to move into daily exercises, group therapy, and stress management.

Gladman Memorial Hospital

The indications are that this patient has used drugs over the years to contain his agitations and depressions.

* * *

My Commentary

I presume the drugs Crosby used did contain his agitations and depressions—or at least for a time they did, a few hours. The problem, however, is they didn’t bring lasting containment: he was soon back to where he started and even worse. Not only had the agitations and depressions returned, they were more acute than before. Whatever self-abusive actions we—let’s bring this around to you and me and everyone else—take to make things better—drugs, alcohol, food, neurotic buying, promiscuity, gambling, excessive video gaming, pornography, masochistic relationships—works in the short run (or we wouldn’t be doing them), but they intensify whatever issues we are masking and at some level we knew that when we did those things; that’s what makes what we did self-abusive. Plus, we now have new problems to deal with—read through Crosby’s list, constipation and infections and the rest. And if it isn’t Crosby’s list it is some other: broken relationships, lost jobs, missed opportunities, financial hardship, depression and despair, hurt loved ones, etc., etc., etc.

I believe that for just about all people who are torturing themselves, the way out is clear, and it isn’t complicated, and they know what it is, and, even though it may be very tough sledding, it is within their power to go down that path. It’s not that they—we—don’t know what to do, or that we know what to do and can’t do it; rather, we know what to do and can do it, but we don’t do it. And, I offer, the knowledge that we could have done it and didn’t persists within us as a physically felt inner reality and gnaws at us despite all the assurances we may be getting from others and from ourselves that our problems are bigger than we are. Bubbling just beneath the surface and insistingly pressing on us, we know the truth: we are failing ourselves and those in our lives, and we won’t be self-respecting and at peace until we conduct our lives in alignment with that reality.

Other people can help us, programs can help, therapies can help, books can help, but when all is said and done it comes down to invoking two powers that remain available to us no matter how low we get: our rational mind and our power of volition. Even when things hit rock bottom, as long as we are alive, we can pose and answer an existential question: am I going to stop abusing myself and do what reason tells me is the best way to get out of the mess I’ve put myself in or am I not? To his great credit, David Crosby answered “Yes” to that question, and he carried through with it. Creative to the end, his last album was released in October, 2022. He should be an inspiration to all of us.

Endnote

[1] The material below is from David Crosby, with Carl Gottlieb, Long Time Gone: The Autobiography of David Crosby (New York: Doubleday, 1988).

(Republished from The Occidental Observer by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Arts/Letters • Tags: Drugs, Rock Music, White Americans 
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  1. The farther down the path one goes, the narrower it gets. Anyone can choose a different path at any time. This is admirable, though not heroic. David was a good role model for those on the path that was less traveled for a reason. It is easier to make better decisions in the aggregate when one’s thinking is not clouded with obsessions. As the saying goes, “Life is hard. It’s harder when you’re stupid.”.

    • Replies: @Priss Factor
  2. Realist says:

    Davis Crosby was great in the music industry…otherwise, a dolt.

    • Replies: @Realist
  3. Realist says:

    One of my favorites…currently apropos.

    • Replies: @Notsofast
    , @ChipperB
  4. The need to harm oneself is a central characteristic of the complex compulsive behavior called addiction. A recent line of thinking is that addiction, like so many other forms of what is termed “mental illness,” is the result of early trauma or neglect. In 12-Step circles what the literature terms “character defects” are also often called “character defenses,” the ways our younger selves developed to cope with difficult circumstances. That they used to work is what makes them so hard, if not impossible, for so many of us to let go of them. Children (and far too many adults) believe that everything that happens around them is about them. Rather than realize that the adults who are failing them are at fault, children will think that there is something wrong with them that deserves the cruelty they experience from those who should be loving them. Consciously or unconsciously, drowning this deeply internalized sense of shame becomes a way of life, and compulsive acting out, with substances or people or behaviors, gradually becomes all-important. Its attendant self-pity is also a very powerful drug that draws us like flies to dung, even after we put down the substance or behavior. It is the flip side of the coin of grandiosity, allowing us the belief (so often heard at meetings) that we are the tiny little specks of shit around which the universe revolves.

    While I have no use for traditional god or religion, it is a matter of experience that without faith, that is, a new positive irrational belief to offset an old negative irrational belief, recovery is not possible. Hence the emphasis in AA on the first three steps. It alarms me greatly that the venture capitalists have found addiction recovery, promoting their so-called “evidence-based” theory to be more effective than the proven Twelve Step “spiritual” approach. For-profit fast-cure “recovery centers” with rates of relapse as high as their billings to the insurance companies are everywhere now, yet another signpost of the moral bankruptcy of a culture that values the private accumulation of excess capital above all other considerations. For many of us a fundamental collateral question is: how do you define health in a society that is so fundamentally sick?

  5. Notsofast says:

    lost all respect for c,s,n and y, for their response during covid, gained respect for clapton and van morrison.

    • Agree: Mark G.
  6. Notsofast says:
    @Realist

    this song was written by crosby, stills and paul kantner of the jefferson airplane, who also recorded it and released it two months after cs&n in 1969.

    https://youtu.be/hlccZsURyLc

    • Thanks: Realist
    • Replies: @LargeMarge
  7. Realist says:
    @Realist

    Should read David instead of Davis.

  8. He had everything financially the average person could only dream about, but totally screwed up his life.

    • Agree: p38ace
  9. G. Poulin says:

    The best we can say for Crosby is that he survived his own stupidity. Good for him, but I think I’ll pass on making him an object of admiration.

  10. @Jim Richard

    Isn’t he the father of Melissa Ethridge’s kid?

    • Replies: @Anon
  11. Trinity says:

    NEVER could understand WHY anyone would listen to Crosby, Stills and Nash. A couple of alley cats fighting sound better than Neil Young. Good lawd, to have a medical report like that at 42 years old??? What sort of demons was this guy fighting? He at least had the money and fame to get help. Kind of hard for a person that is poor to get help. Crosby, rich and well off garners little sympathy from me for destroying himself like that. Neil Young singing about the “Southern man?” Lolol. Young would shit his pants if he spent more than 5 minutes with ghetto Blacks. Stupid moronic Canadian.

    • Replies: @AceDeuce
  12. Trinity says:

    IF Crosby had been born later he would be marching with (((Antifa/BLM.)))

  13. @Notsofast

    NotSoFast,
    Dead link.
    Name of song?

    • Replies: @Notsofast
  14. David Crosby was a scion of one of the richest and most well-connected families in the country.

  15. You and me don’t get to be stars. Very rich people, like David Crosby, do.

  16. Notsofast says:
    @LargeMarge

    wooden ships, for some reason my links have not been posting properly. see if this works.

  17. AceDeuce says:
    @Trinity

    Young would shit his pants if he spent more than 5 minutes with ghetto Blacks

    Wasn’t Neil Young in a Canadian band with none other than Rick James?

    Young, if I remember right, was one of those stars who palled around with Charlie and the Manson family back in the day, although he kept quiet about it afterwards.

    Regarding David Crosby–My brush with “greatness” LOL:

    I was taking a leak once in Hugo’s Restaurant in Hollywood circa 1993 (West H’wd, I think to be exact), and David Crosby came in and took a leak at the next pisser.

    • Replies: @p38ace
  18. duncsbaby says:

    This article reminds me that in the 80’s, David Crosby was in a death-watch. Very few thought the guy would survive the decade, let alone make it all the way to the 2020’s. At the time I wasn’t a big fan but during the 90’s I started to get more into that folky sound of the 60’s and 70’s and C,S, and N’s first album is one of the best from that era. I still think Crosby was the weakest link in the Byrds and the aforementioned alphabet band but he did write one timeless song:

  19. p38ace says:
    @AceDeuce

    Neil Young considered Crosby the most dangerous man in Hollywood. Remember Young knew Charlie Manson.

  20. jinkforp says:

    Didn’t much care for him one way or the other, but I came to despise him for taking a liver transplant that could have gone to a less well connected person who was not responsible for their own bad liver.

    -Discard

  21. Anon[743] • Disclaimer says:
    @Priss Factor

    Wasn’t that a crazy choice of surrogate? A fat, balding addict. Curse the kid from the start.

  22. ChipperB says:
    @Realist

    Realist,
    Thanks for the song. First time I heard it must have been about 1969 or 1970. Beautiful song and I still love it and miss my youth.

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