MFD Interview with David Crosby


As a founding member of the Byrds and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, David Crosby has been at the center of many of the political and social movements of his generation -- from Woodstock, to the anti-nuclear movement, to speaking out against the war in Iraq -- and he has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice. Crosby is also the co-author of Stand and Be Counted, a history of musicians -- ranging from Woody Guthrie and Joan Baez to the Red Hot Chili Peppers and REM -- who put their art in the service of progressive change. Now a controversial new documentary by Neil Young called Déjà Vu, filmed during CSNY's "Freedom of Speech" tour in 2006, has put the angelically voiced, passionately political singer-songwriter back into the national spotlight. Crosby spoke with MFD while on tour with CSN this summer.

Steve Silberman: Why are you supporting Barack Obama for President?

David Crosby: Obama has some obvious characteristics that are very unusual in a politician, like dignity, gravitas, and a kind of personal magnetism. But one thing that especially appeals to me is that he's not as connected as his opponent. Obama will upset more apple carts than Hillary Clinton would have, and that's what needs to happen. He believes that change is still possible, and I think he'll do his level best to make it happen. By "connected," I mean the connection between multinational corporations and their ownership of the government -- the degree to which they can buy the government. That's why we're in the war in Iraq.

Silberman: What's at stake for the country in the upcoming presidential election?

Crosby: There's so much at stake in the next election, and it's not just obvious things like getting the hell out of a war we shouldn't be in. The current administration has messed with the balance of power in the United States. They've tried their best to destroy the tripartite system that was a brilliant check on the natural greed for power in human beings. They've tried to amass all the power in the executive branch, taking it away from the legislative branch and stacking the courts. They've spent money they didn't have. They abrogated our civil rights with the so-called Patriot Act and took away habeas corpus and our right to privacy -- things that were basic building blocks of this country. They've tried repeatedly to open the door to establishing a state religion, which is why we left England in the first place. All that doesn't work, because it's too much power centralized in one place. The founders of this country knew that, and wrote it beautifully into the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

Silberman: A lot of young people have come out to support Obama, but many Democrats in your generation supported Hillary in the primaries. What would you tell your peers who have been listening to your music for decades?

Crosby: We're at a very, very pivotal point in American history, and we need to make some good choices. I believe with my whole heart that Barack Obama is the good choice. And I would say to young people that if they're not already involved in electoral politics, they should get involved, because it's what's going to happen to them tomorrow. If you don't get involved, other people will, and they will make the system serve them, rather than you.

Silberman: What would you say to your fellow musicians about this election?

Crosby: A lot of us started out thinking, "It would be great to have a woman for President." We've been waiting for one for a while. But Hillary wasn't the one. She was business-as-usual -- a fully political animal. Most musicians are smart enough to make up their own minds. I think if they look at the evidence, they'll come to the same decision about Obama.

Silberman: Much of the momentum of Obama's campaign has come from grassroots organizing on the Internet. How do you think websites like YouTube are changing politics?

Crosby: There's no censorship. If you're a musician, you don't have to go through a record company anymore to get your messages out. We would try to put something out and the record company would say, "That doesn't mean what we think it means, does it?" And we would say, "Oh no sir." It was like trying to smuggle diamonds into the shit stream. But the Internet puts everyone on an equal footing and encourages the spread of unfettered ideas, and ideas are the most powerful things on the planet. That's a fantastically good thing for politics. The level of political dialogue in the mass media is so low right now. It ranges from attack dogs like Hannity and Colmes, Bill O'Reilly, and others to some fairly good reporting -- but not much. Most of the news is at the National Enquirer level. It does not serve us or the country at all. All it does is sell papers and products. And having an idiot for a President has been degrading for the whole country. I know George isn't really running things -- he does what he's told. He's a hood ornament. But it feels really good to think that we might have a president with dignity, intelligence, and honor again. Obama is a highly unusual level of human being to be involved in politics. I believe that Obama is a man who truly loves his country and wants to do the right thing. That's why I'm supporting him.