As It Happens

David Crosby promises not to 'butter your toast' in new Rolling Stone advice column

When people ask Rock and Roll Hall of Famer David Crosby about his new gig as an advice columnist for Rolling Stones, he usually giggles.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer has taken on a new gig doling out advice for Rolling Stone magazine

Rock musician David Crosby is now an advice columnist for Rolling Stone magazine. (Taylor Jewell/Invision/Associated Press)
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When people ask Rock and Roll Hall of Famer David Crosby about his new gig as an advice columnist for Rolling Stone, he usually giggles.

He might not be the most obvious choice. He's famously fallen out with friends. He was addicted to drugs. He served time in a Texas prison. But hard-earned life experience can sometimes translate into poignant wisdom.

When one reader asked for advice for his brother who is headed to prison, Crosby said: "Tell him, mind his own business. There are a lot of people in there looking to pick a fight because they have nothing else to do."

The 77-year-old rock legend spoke to As It Happens host Carol Off about getting older and passing on life lessons to the next generation. Here is part of their conversation.

At the beginning of your first advice session, you warned people they might not like the advice that you give them. Why is that?

Well, because I'm famously kind of a blunt person. I don't generally butter your toast, so to speak. I actually tell you what I think. And sometimes that's good and sometimes it's funny, and sometimes it may be distressing to be confronted with my truth or my opinion.

Truthfully, I gotta tell you, when Rolling Stone called me up and said this, I called them back and I said, "Listen, you guys are nuts. Nobody in the whole world is going to ask me for advice about anything. I'm a notable crazy."

And they said, "Yeah, that's why we think it's good."

 

But you have had a tremendous amount of life experience, haven't you? And when you're giving advice to this fellow whose brother is headed to prison, the time you spent in prison in Texas, I wonder how did that change you as a person?

Completely. You gotta understand, I went in there as a junkie. I was fully, completely addicted to cocaine and heroin, both at the same time. And prison is the worst way to kick. I don't think there is any worse way, actually, than that. But that's what it took. So, you know, you're locked up. That's it. Period. You just got to work it out.

And it was horrible. You know, nothing short of that really describes it. It was horrible. But, you know, it got me off the dope. And so, truthfully, if I had to choose about going back to being a junkie or going back to prison for another year, I'd go back to prison for another year.

Being a junkie is a prison you carry around with you. You don't get to leave.

You have talked about the others from [the] Woodstock generation — artists like Mama Cass and Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, who did not make it through. What do you reflect on when you think of them?

I think it's the saddest goddamn thing in the world. These are really good human beings. I knew them. Cass, really well. She was a very close friend. I mean, we spent a lot of time together. I know these people. These are not scumbags. These are good human beings. They just got lost, and they messed with something that killed them. And that's heroin. That's how it is. It kills you.

Graham Nash, Stephen Stills and Crosby look on during a press conference at Woodstock '94. (Reuters)

You're getting a lot of questions about later life because you are 77 years old now and people want to know if they'll be happy in the last part of their lives. You had your advice for what you still think you have to do in your own life.

I think most people are defeated by age. You know, it's so demeaning and degrading and disturbing. It's really hard. Getting old's really hard. You're kind of creaky and you can't really do much that you used to be able to do. And I think it's hard to stay positive.

I think most old people are very dependent on their families to keep them loved and keep them feeling like they're still valid human beings. You start feeling like an old piece of trash somebody dropped, and that's really hard on you.

But look at what you're doing. I mean, you've put out four solo albums in the past five years. You're on tour. Anyone would look at you, thinking, "Well, obviously it doesn't slow you down to be in your 70s."

OK, here's how I look at it. I got a certain amount of time, whatever amount of time that is. Maybe it's 10 weeks. Maybe it's 10 years. It's certainly unlikely that it's 10 years. But whatever time we got, the amount isn't the significant part. It's what you do with it. 

What are you going to do? Are you going to sit there and snivel and say, "Oh, poor me. I'm dying, oh it's terrible!" Or, you going to do something?" 

The way I see it, things aren't too good right now in the United States of America. And you know damned well what I'm talking about. People are very discouraged. People like me who believe in the democracy and who actually love the idea of this country, if not the reality, we're pretty discouraged.

And a lift is a good thing. And music is a lifting force. Music makes things better. It makes you feel better. It's the same way that the war drags humanity down and brings out the very worst in the human race. Just so does music lift the human race up and make it better.

So, OK, I got one way I can contribute, one way to make living better for anybody. That's what I'm supposed to be doing, so I'm doing it as hard and fast as I can to get as much of it done in whatever time I got. It makes sense to me. I don't know why anybody is surprised by it. What do they think I was going to do? Sit down and watch TV? No, absolutely not. I'm not volunteering for that.

Crosby performs onstage at the Light Up The Blues Concert on April 5, 2014, in Los Angeles. (Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images for LUTB)

But you had very intense relationships with the other artists. And people, of course, will just think of Crosby Stills & Nash and sometimes Young. But you've talked about how these past musicians, people you played music with, won't talk to you, that you seem to have pissed off a lot of people.

I think you start up those relationships in bands and you really like each other a lot. You're kind of in love with each other's music and you're thrilled with the idea that you're going to make music together, and it's fun.

Forty years later, when it's devolved, to turn up and play your hits and you don't like each other, it's a fake, man. It's not the real deal.

That's why I left. And I was right. If I had stayed there, it would've ruined music for me. And music's more important than those guys.

You felt compelled to apologize to Neil Young, though.

I did, yeah, because I shot my mouth off about his girlfriend and I shouldn't have done. Duh. I mean, that's high school level stuff. He's holding onto it, though, which I think is silly. He's got a right to if he wants to. It's his life.

I can't wait around trying to live out a therapy session with these guys, who are not interested in doing that, believe me. I can't wait around for it. I don't have the time, man. 

I have to make music to stay alive. It's what I'm here for. I got two important things in my life — music [and] my family, right? Period. That's it. I can't not do it. If I stop doing that, I will turn myself into a husk and lay down and die. And I don't want to do that.

Written by Kate Swoger and Sheena Goodyear. Produced by Kate Swoger.

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