Anything at All - Crosby, Stills and Nash
David Crosby, founder member of the Byrds in 1964, left them and formed Crosby, Still, Nash and Young in 1968, with whom he made albums and performed sporadically together and in various combinations until 2016. Up until the time of Crosby's death, a month ago today, there was talk of another possible reunion. In recent years, the reason most often given for the unlikelihood of a reunion, was because one or other bandmember was upset with Crosby.
David Crosby, by anyone's reckoning, had a colourful life, even for a rock star. In 1985 Crosby served 6 months in a Texas prison for drug and firearms possession offences, and was found guilty and fined for similar offences elsewhere on subsequent occasions.
He was the biological father / sperm donor for rock star Melissa Etheridge and partner Julie Cypher's two children. When one of these, Becket Cypher, died from drug abuse, Crosby worried that this could have been inherited via his DNA and was relieved to be assured by experts this could not be the case.
In 1995, James Raymond, a successful musician in his own right, contacted Crosby and announced that he was Crosby's son who's mother and Crosby had given up for adoption in 1962. Raymond had not known who his father was until he was 30, suggesting that, in this case, DNA had indeed proven significant. The pair subsequently played, toured and recorded together.
Crosby was an avid sailor, having bought a 74 foot two-masted schooner way back in his Byrds days. Over the years Crosby sailed the Pacific Islands as far as Hawaii and crossed via Panama to cruise the Caribbean. He loved swimming and being on or by the sea.
As Crosby was usually the first to admit, he could be an awkward customer, big-mouthed, argumentative, often misbehaving due to excessive amounts of alcohol or drugs. But more often than not, he was charming, generous to a fault, with a heart that was usually in the right place. And one of the great characters (and singers) of the 60's West Coast music scene to boot. One of his most endearing traits was his awareness of his shortcomings, and his honesty in acknowledging them.
"Anything at All" is the second of the 3 great songs he wrote for the album "CSN" (see last post). It's one of those introverted Crosby songs that often work out pretty badly, but this time he gets it right, with a good melody and a beautifully pitched vocal from Crosby himself, delicately set against tight and light harmonies from Nash and Stills. Stills' sympathetic piano and guitar remind us that Crosby was at his best when working in partnership with those same mates he was often falling out with.
Here Crosby is in confessional mode, admitting that underneath his charm it's all just bullshit, he can wax lyrical on "anything at all". The great trick of the song is that, by articulating it, he wins you over, because you can see his tragedy: that of the wise fool who knows he's a fool. As an epitaph, Crosby's honesty here, sincerity even, is moving:
"Anything you wanna know, just ask me:
I'm the world's most opinionated man.
I'll give you an answer if I can
catch one passing through
that feels right for you.
Anything you wanna know just ask me - it's worth every cent it costs and you know it's free for you -
Anything you wanna know - it should be perfectly clear - you see, just beneath the surface of the mud there's more mud here. Surprise.
Is there anything you wanna know on any subject at all? I've go time for one more question here before I fall, fall
Is there anything at all?"
However, Crosby was never one to take himself too seriously for long, so he'd probably prefer the lines from the penultimate song from the Crosby, Stills and Nash 1982 album "Daylight Again". He didn't even write it ( it was penned by Judy Henske and Craig Doerge) but he did take the lead vocal:
"I belong on the shore,
hustling nickels and dimes,
'cause it ain't long before it's gone:
you might as well have a good time."