David Crosby has one of the best voices in rock ’n’ roll. Along with Roger McGuinn’s jangling Rickenbacker 12-string, Crosby’s rich tenor and adventurous harmonies defined the Byrds’ early sound (no disrespect to Gene Clark and Chris Hillman).
He doesn’t get enough credit for the great, offbeat songs he penned as a member of that band. “Renaissance Faire” from 1967’s Younger Than Yesterday is, in many ways, the prototypical Crosby song (although it was co-written with McGuinn), kick-starting the songwriter’s fascination with elaborate guitar chords that drift ambiguously between major and minor moods. “Lady Friend,” Crosby’s sole A-side with the Byrds, is perhaps the greatest ’60s pop single that never was (it barely cracked the US Top 100, which I guess is considered a “complete failure” if you’re coming off a run of hits).
Though he wasn’t the Byrds’ official leader, Crosby began to eclipse his bandmates. Nowhere is this more apparent than during the band’s set at the Monterey Pop Festival—a sloppy performance intercut with Crosby’s hippie proselytizing. (His rant on the Kennedy assassination blocked the band from being included in TV and film coverage of the festival.) Shortly afterwards, Crosby was fired from the group.
“I was just saying what I really believed,” Crosby tells me over the phone. “I really believed that the Kennedy thing was a scam, so I said it. I think the other guys in the band didn’t want me to be shooting off about politics; they were intending to be ‘good pop musicians’ and a success, and the idea of being politically relevant [hadn’t really caught on yet].”
Fifty years later, Crosby is still shooting off about politics—and virtually everything else that irritates him. When it comes to the Trump administration, he certainly doesn’t mince words: “It’s terrible,” he says. “The guy is an idiot. He couldn’t run a Kleenex box, let alone a country.”
Crosby is currently on tour promoting his most recent record, last year’s Lighthouse—a collection of plaintive, acoustic songs co-written with Snarky Puppy bandleader Michael League that bring to mind Crosby, Stills, & Nash classics like “Guinnevere” and “Anything at All.” “I think Lighthouse is a really exceptional record, even for me,” Crosby says. “It’s certainly got some of the best reviews I’ve ever had.”
But Crosby’s righteous Twitter trolling has been earning him the biggest headlines. In 2015, he called Kanye West an “egomaniac” and “dumb as a post.” Last May, he criticized former bandmate Neil Young for not contending Trump’s appropriative (though technically legal) use of “Rockin’ in the Free World” on the campaign trail. When someone asked him about Jim Morrison last month, his response was merely, “Did not like him.”
“Twitter works for me,” he says. “I have a lot of fun on there because I’m very honest and I say exactly what I think, which I don’t think most people do.”
While not always on point, Crosby’s disjointed, single-sentence Twitter takedowns are a refreshing contrast to the calculated internet personae of his celebrity ilk. Though more than anything, Crosby’s social media mudslinging is indicative of his willingness to communicate with fans. He’ll answer any question you’ve got. (Unless it’s about Woodstock.)