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David Crosby's big money is a long time gone

David_CrosbyIn the annals of rock music, few have had as turbulent a ride as David Crosby.

Crosby saw initial fame with The Byrds, contributing to hits such as "Eight Miles High" and "Turn, Turn, Turn." But if the Byrds made him a star, his collaboration with Graham Nash from The Hollies and Stephen Stills from Buffalo Springfield set him on the path to something greater. Crosby, Stills & Nash's self-titled 1969 debut album featured hits such as "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" and "Wooden Ships." Crosby, Stills & Nash ushered in a melodic hybrid of rock and folk-influenced harmony that set the tone for many musicians of the era. On their next album, Stills' old band mate Neil Young joined them and solidified their super-stardom with the album "Deja Vu."


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Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young were among the defining performers of the Woodstock era. But while many of the rockers of the day found their easy attitude toward drugs got them into trouble, Crosby sank deeper than most. As the '70s wore on he fell into heavy drug use. Heroin, cocaine, speed: You name it, Crosby ingested it. Crosby's downward spiral continued throughout the '70s, until in 1985 he was imprisoned on drug-related weapons charges.

By the time he emerged from jail a year later, he had nothing -- no money, no home, no career.

Were it not for the generosity of family and friends, that might have been the end right there. But friends took him in while he rebuilt his life, and his old partners -- amazed that he hadn't died -- put him back to work. Crosby, Stills, & Nash went back out on the road and gave a man who had lost everything something to live for. Neil Young had previously told Crosby that he would record with him again if Crosby ever cleaned up, and Young honored that commitment, joined with his former band mates for 1988's "American Dream" album.

While Crosby and friends never again achieved the heights of superstardom they had in the early '70s, he did find a steadier course for his life. Crosby has now been clean since 1985 and records and performs steadily. In 1994, he had a liver transplant, in part because of his past drug abuse. He made headlines again in 2000 when rock star Melissa Etheridge announced that he was the biological father by artificial insemination of two children that Etheridge and her then-partner Julie Cypher were raising.

Bankrate spoke to Crosby about his turbulent ride through the heaven and hell of showbiz.

Bankrate: You had some disasters with your business affairs -- what happened?

David Crosby: I had an accountant. Half of the worst stories in Hollywood start with "I had an accountant." I had an accountant who said he paid my taxes and didn't. And the IRS came after me. That accountant wound up in jail, and I wound up down $1.2 million to the government. They wanted to take my house and stuff. It was very hard -- it was a long, tough fight, climbing my way up. But I did it. It took a lot of work to pay it back.

Bankrate: So the government doesn't account for a crooked accountant?

David Crosby: Absolutely not. Their take is, you hired him, it's your fault. That's how they treat it.

Bankrate: Let's talk about the music business from a personal perspective.

David Crosby: I've had it every which way. I've been tremendously successful, with huge, multi-platinum albums, and made lots of money back when it was relatively easy to do that. But that's no longer the same situation at all. The music business now is in the tank. It's headed for destruction. All the big record companies are tanked, they are absolutely going under. They're huge, monolithic companies, with hundreds of employees who do nothing, and four women in the basement who do all the work. They have jets, retreats, buildings, splendiferous parties, but they're completely inefficient, and that's a bad business model. They were fine when they were selling stuff for $15 dollars a record and paying us a dollar. But we got smarter and kept taking more, and they kept spending more to do it, and their expenses have gone up, and their business model stinks. So they are going to eat it.

Bankrate: Specifically to you, though, how has it affected you?

David Crosby: It was a very distressing downhill curve. When Ahmet Ertegun was running Atlantic Records, we went from being his golden boys -- us, the Stones, and Aretha, we were pumping that label. When we finally left there, it was because they no longer had anyone in the building who even knew who we were, and couldn't have cared less. They wanted Britney Spears because someone else had Britney Spears, so they wanted one, too.

-- Posted: Feb. 3, 2003




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