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‘He Wanted to Make Amends’: David Crosby’s Band Say the Singer Aimed to Make Peace with CSNY

On January 17, keyboard player James Raymond suddenly felt the urge to check in with his once long-lost father and now collaborator, David Crosby. He knew Crosby had already dealt with one bout of Covid, but he held out hope. In roughly a month they would be back onstage together for a show at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara, California, marking Crosby’s return to live gigs.

“I was overcome with the feeling that I should call Croz,” Raymond says. “I knew he was having a rough go with Covid. He picked up right away and sounded pretty bad, but said he was really looking forward to getting the new band in the same room to start rehearsing. I told him to stay hydrated and just keep resting, that we’d be ready to roll once he was fully recuperated and feeling up to getting together. I told him I loved him. He told me he loved me.”

Raymond didn’t realize it, but it would be his last conversation with his father. The next day, Crosby died at 81, reportedly of complications from the coronavirus. His planned comeback show was no more.

Next month, however, most of the musicians who were backing him, along with a few added guests, will resurrect the idea — playing the same set but now as a tribute to what guitarist and singer Steve Postell calls “our fallen hero.” And as the band members are now saying, the original show wasn’t just a way for Crosby to play live for the first time in years — it was also the volatile Crosby’s way of trying to mend all the broken fences with his former bandmates in Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. 

At one point, no one, especially Crosby, thought such a concert would even happen. About a year ago, he told Postell he was retiring from the road, thanks in part to arthritic issues. “He said, ‘My hands don’t work anymore — they tried to fix it and the surgery made it worse,’” says Postell. “But he said he could still sing and write and make records.” 

Postell half-jokingly offered to learn Crosby’s guitar parts if he were to do live shows again, and months later, Crosby took him up on his offer. After a jam session with Raymond and Postell, Crosby gave the go-ahead to putting together a band. Coincidentally, the Lobero Theatre, where Crosby had played and which was near his Santa Ynez home, reached out to him to celebrate the theater’s 150th anniversary. “It was a no-brainer,” says Postell. “I said, ‘David, I got a show for us to start this thing.’” With that, Crosby committed to two concerts in late February.

At one early rehearsal, Raymond says Crosby, who also had heart issues, wasn’t sure that he was up for the task. “He wasn’t totally confident he could pull it off,” he says. “He confided that he was nervous about it. A big part of it was not playing guitar.” But Raymond soon saw his father reignite: “He got on the mic and sang great and quickly got back into his form. He realized he could do it at that point.”

With Crosby’s diminished stamina in mind, the planned show would be a concise 13 songs — a main set of nine tunes followed by four encores. In recent years, Crosby prided himself on not being a nostalgia act and focusing on newly written material, but this time, he decided to focus entirely on songs from the CSNY family: CSN (“Long Time Gone,” “Guinevere,” “Delta,” “Anything at All”), CSNY (“Woodstock,” “Carry On,” “Déjà vu,” “Ohio”), and Crosby and Nash (“Naked in the Rain,” “Carry Me”). Keeping with the vintage feel, the plan was also to recreate the songs as much as possible. “Over the years, with different bands, the original arrangements had shifted away from the purity of the recordings,” Raymond says. “So there was something cool about trying to get back to those arrangements from the records.”

According to the musicians, the decision to focus on his CSNY-related catalog, rather than the slew of material Crosby wrote and recorded in his last decade, was intentional. Raymond and Postell say the inclusion of songs by Stills and Young (and two he’d cut with Nash alone) was Crosby’s way of extending a musical olive branch to his estranged bandmates. “We decided this was not just a celebration of Crosby — it was about the music of CSNY,” says Postell. “That was the concept, and it was David’s idea. David loved all those guys. He knew he’d made some mistakes and wanted to make amends as much as possible. Part of doing that was playing some of that music.” 

Adding to that dimension of the show, Stills’ son Chris also joined the band. Once he did, Stills’ father’s “Carry On” was added to the set list. “Chris blending with Croz was reminiscent of another vocal blend,” Raymond says with a laugh.  

Once the two Lobero shows were over, both Raymond and Postell say Crosby was talking about doing more concerts, either a small tour or a residency. Crosby was also preparing to be heard on record again. Both Lobero sets were going to be recorded for a live album. And in the months leading up to the them, Crosby was also at work on yet another album. According to Raymond, two tracks (including one, “Talked All Night,” featuring singer Sarah Jarosz) were cut and included Crosby’s voice; another three were written but weren’t completed. 

But then came the calls and texts on January 18. When Raymond texted Postell that Crosby had passed, Postell says he was initially confused and thought he meant Crosby had passed a Covid test. “It didn’t occur to me,” Postell says, who talked with Crosby four times the previous day. “My brain couldn’t process it. It was one of the most shocking things I’ve ever experienced.” 

“I think we got lulled into this place that he would always be with us,” says Raymond, who confirms that Crosby died in his sleep at his home. “He was doing pretty well and then came down with his second case of Covid. And as you know, he was compromised in many areas. The fact that he wasn’t in a hospital was such a blessing. He hated hospitals. It was the best-case scenario for him.”

Scheduled for August 20 at the same theater, the concert, now called “Stand and Be Counted — A Tribute to the Music of CSNY Performed by David Crosby’s Last Band,” will largely adhere to the February shows. The set list will remain, but guitarist Dean Parks is now part of the band, and Crosby’s vocals will be handled by a combination of Raymond, Postell, and Stills. Shawn Colvin, someone Crosby regularly talked up, will also join in, possibly singing “The Lee Shore,” and Richard Page of Mr. Mister will also participate.

Special guests are promised, but it’s unclear at this moment if any of Crosby’s former musical associates will appear. Graham Nash leaves for a European tour a few days before, but invites were also extended to Stills and Young. “We haven’t gotten no’s, but we haven’t gotten yes’s either,” says Lobero executive director David Asbell. “David had interesting relationships with his bandmates. So it’s hard to know where it all ended up.” (Crosby had reportedly called and left messages for Nash and Young shortly before his death, and he and Nash were planning to talk for the first time in years; Stills and Crosby were on more agreeable terms recently.)


What both Raymond and Postell emphasize is that the show isn’t intended as a memorial service for Crosby, especially since there has yet to be any such public event. “I want to be clear about it,” says Raymond. “It’s not in any way, shape, or form a memorial or anything like that. We don’t want to assume that there’s not still going to be a memorial. So the way that we’re approaching this is that we’re a CSNY tribute band that happened to be Crosby’s last band.”

“We’re doing what we were going to do,” adds Postell, “but David won’t be singing.”

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