An Interview With David Crosby
Written by Taylor Pierce on November 5, 2017
Photos by: Kassi Jackson
David Crosby was a founding member of both The Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash and also maintained a solo career. Crosby has been making music for over 50 years and has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice.
Crosby, Stills & Nash famously performed “Ohio,” a protest song written and composed by Neil Young in reaction to the Kent State shootings that took place on May 4, 1970.
I had the absolute privilege of talking to Crosby about all things rock music related, the impact of the song ‘Ohio,’ and his thoughts on the Kent State May 4 Visitor’s Center. He even shared with me one of his experiences at Woodstock.
When you first recorded and released the song ‘Ohio’ did you expect it to resonate so well across the entire country and across so many generations?
David Crosby: Yes. We didn’t think about it that way, we didn’t realize it would be a gigantic hit. We knew that there were a whole lot of people like us that were shocked that four of America’s children had been gunned down on a campus doing something that they were legally allowed to do.
Tell me about the process behind releasing the song ‘Ohio’
David Crosby: The cover image for the song was a picture of the Constitution with four bullet holes in it. We got it out right away. The president of our record company said ‘I want this out now.’ We pulled all the stops. We had a song already climbing the charts, ‘Teach Your Children,’ that was going to be a big hit probably, but we pulled it. Nash pulled it. Then we put out ‘Ohio’ right away. It was immediate, it was topical and it was the truth. You could feel that we were angry.
How do you feel when you perform ‘Ohio’ after all these years?
David Crosby: As soon as I hit that opening guitar riff, I’m in it. It comes right back. I’m screaming “four, why?” and I’m damn near in tears every time. Our music is basically for another purpose. Our music will basically take you on an emotional voyage. That’s what we really do. It’s part of our job, but only part. The single most important factor here is courage. These people were brave. They were very brave and they got shot to death for it. But, they’re still inspiring us. To this day when I walk into a demonstration, when I walk out into the street and face cops, I think of these people.
What are your thoughts on coming through Kent State’s May 4 Visitors Center?
David Crosby: This Visitor’s Center is really good. It’s really effective, the people who built it really care. They executed this center intelligently, skillfully and artfully. I can’t walk through here and not be affected.
While we were talking all things rock music related, Crosby also shared this story about a Woodstock experience he had.
David Crosby: I saw this girl. She was a blonde girl, pretty, short dress, good legs and she was walking in the mud barefoot. She cut her foot on a piece of glass in the mud and she was really bleeding. She was definitely really hurt. I saw this guy who was a New York State cop, and I noticed his shoes were polished and shiny. He looked at the girl and without any hesitation at all, walked right over to her into the mud and picked her up. He got the blood and mud all over himself while he carried her all the way to his car. He gently laid her down, showing care and compassion, and put her into his car to take her over to a doctor or somewhere she could get care. Fifteen hippies saw this and stepped forward to push that police cruiser out of the mud, to make sure she would reach the doctor as fast as possible. This is how it’s supposed to be.
A thing happened at Woodstock where people were nice to each other, it was real. It was there, you could taste it and you could feel it all around you. There was a generosity of spirit to each other. That’s what Woodstock was about, really. It wasn’t about half a million people, it wasn’t about naked kids in the mud. It was about the spirit of humans being nice to each other for once.
David Crosby is performing live tonight at The Kent Stage to a sold out crowd. For those of you who haven’t heard the song, check it out below.