A FREAK FLAG FLIES BEFORE THE DAWN: The Strange Saga of David Crosby’s Saved, and Savored, Life

David Crosby, Byrds and CSN&Y member and both an iconic symbol of the ’60s counter-culture and ’70s rock star excess, died yesterday at the age of 81. Long embattled by his own drug demons and then emboldened by a new lease on life in his later years, Crosby’s story — as well as the genre-stretching music he created across the decades — is a legacy of twists, turns, and detours — some intended, some not. My conversation with David back in 1998 as he was embarking on yet another new personal and professional chapter — this one of redemption, fulfillment, and triumph — has remained a vivid memory. How many of us, for instance, find out in our 50s after being at death’s door before a life-saving liver transplant, that we’ve become a father and a grandfather at the same time? And then proceed to build new music around that discovery?  As Crosby himself told me with a bemused chuckle, if you pitched his life story to a movie studio, no one would believe it.

RPM: Jonathan Perry's Life in Analog

David Crosby in his Byrds days, circa 1966. David Crosby in his Byrds days, circa 1966.

The Cheshire Cat grins. Did he just eat Alice? The Cheshire Cat grins. Did he just eat Alice?

And speaking of cats, here's whiskers #1 and whiskers #2 in repose. And speaking of cats, here’s whiskers #1 and whiskers #2 in repose.

David Crosby flying high with fellow Byrds Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman. David Crosby flying high with fellow Byrds Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman.

12 Jul 1970, USA --- Musician David Crosby smokes a cigarette while Neil Young looks on. They are in a backstage bathroom. --- Image by © Henry Diltz/CORBIS 12 Jul 1970, USA — Musician David Crosby smokes a cigarette while Neil Young looks on. They are in a backstage bathroom. — Image by © Henry Diltz/CORBIS

Some guys called Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young Some guys called Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

David Crosby turns an improbable 72 today, August 14. If the mustachioed muso were a cat, he’d have used up the lion’s share of his nine lives by now — but David Crosby being David Crosby, he’d probably figure out a way to make it to ten. Call it good fortune or luck, miracle or circumstance, but the man was right when he once told me that the truths of his sometimes tumultuous, often remarkable, life…

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