David Van Cortlandt Crosby (August 14, 1941 – January 18, 2023) was an American singer, guitarist, and songwriter. In addition to his solo career, he was a founding member of both the Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash.
Crosby joined the Byrds in 1964. They had their first number-one hit in April 1965 with a cover of “Mr. Tambourine Man” by Bob Dylan. Crosby appeared on the Byrds’ first five albums and produced the original lineup’s 1973 reunion album. He subsequently formed Crosby, Stills & Nash in 1968 with Stephen Stills and Graham Nash.
After the release of their debut album, CSN won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist of 1969. Neil Young joined the group for live appearances, their second concert being Woodstock, before recording their second album Déjà Vu. Meant to be a group that could collaborate freely, Crosby and Nash recorded three gold albums in the 1970s, while the core trio of CSN remained active from 1976 until 2016. CSNY reunions took place in each decade from the 1970s through the 2000s.
Songs Crosby wrote or co-wrote include “Lady Friend”, “Everybody’s Been Burned”, “Why”, and “Eight Miles High” with the Byrds and “Guinnevere”, “Wooden Ships”, “Shadow Captain”, and “In My Dreams” with Crosby, Stills & Nash. He wrote “Almost Cut My Hair” and the title track “Déjà Vu” for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s 1970 album of the same name. He is known for having employed alternative guitar tunings and jazz influences. He released six solo albums, five of which charted. Additionally, he formed a jazz-influenced trio with his son James Raymond and guitarist Jeff Pevar in CPR. Crosby’s work with the Byrds and CSNY has sold over 35 million albums.
Crosby was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice: once for his work in the Byrds and again for his work with CSN. Five albums to which he contributed are included in Rolling Stone’s list of “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time”, three with the Byrds and two with CSN(Y). He was outspoken politically and was sometimes depicted as emblematic of the counterculture of the 1960s.
If I Could Only Remember My Name is the debut solo album by American singer-songwriter David Crosby, released in February 1971 on Atlantic Records. A number of guest musicians appear on the record, including Graham Nash, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, and members of Jefferson Airplane, Santana, and the Grateful Dead. The ensemble was given the informal moniker of The Planet Earth Rock and Roll Orchestra. It was one of four high-profile albums (all charting within the top fifteen) released by each member of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young in the wake of their chart-topping Déjà Vu album, along with After the Gold Rush (Neil Young, September 1970), Stephen Stills (Stephen Stills, November 1970) and Songs for Beginners (Graham Nash, May 1971). It peaked at No. 12 on the Billboard Top LPs chart and earned a RIAA gold record certification in the United States.
Crosby’s song “Laughing” had been written earlier in his time with CSNY, while a demo version of “Song with No Words” had been tried out during the sessions for Déjà Vu and would appear on the 1991 CSN retrospective package. “Cowboy Movie” recounted the tale of a group of Old West outlaws torn apart by a femme fatale; in actuality a recounting in thinly-veiled form of the encounter by the quartet with Rita Coolidge and her effect on the romantic aspirations of at least two of them, as identified immediately by Nash.
Recording sessions took place at the recently opened Wally Heider Studios in San Francisco. Many prominent musicians of that era appear on the record, including Nash, Young, Joni Mitchell, members of the Grateful Dead (most notably Jerry Garcia, who helped to arrange and produce the album), Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and Santana. The ensemble was given the informal moniker of The Planet Earth Rock and Roll Orchestra by Jefferson Airplane bandleader, longtime Crosby associate and fellow science fiction fan Paul Kantner; many from this agglomeration, including recording engineer Stephen Barncard, also worked on Kantner’s Blows Against the Empire, Songs for Beginners by Nash, and the Grateful Dead’s American Beauty, all recorded in part concurrently with the Crosby album at Wally Heider Studios. Even with the star-studded guest line-up, the final two songs feature Crosby alone, and only five songs have actual lyrics, “Orléans” being a 15th Century round listing various French cathedrals.
If I Could Only Remember My Name was released in February 1971 on Atlantic Records. Two singles were taken from the album, including the minor hit “Music Is Love”, a collaboration with Nash and Young that was released in April 1971 and peaked at No. 95 on the Billboard Hot 100. The album has remained continuously in print.
In October 1990, a compact disc version was released, having been digitally remastered from the original master tapes, using the equipment and techniques of the day, by Barncard. A double-compact disc version appeared in November 2006, with an audio disc remastered in HDCD, including a bonus track (the hitherto unreleased “Kids and Dogs”, previously earmarked for an unreleased Crosby solo album slated to appear on Capitol Records in the early 1980s) and a second DVD Audio disc of the original album remixed for 5.1 digital Surround Sound.
On October 15, 2021, a 50th anniversary re-issue of the album was released with numerous out-takes and demos, as well as liner notes by Steve Silberman.
If I Could Only Remember My Name was initially panned by many music critics. Writing for Rolling Stone, Lester Bangs deemed it “a perfect aural aid to digestion when you’re having guests over for dinner”. Village Voice critic Robert Christgau gave the album a D− rating and dismissed it as a “disgraceful performance”. Crosby has said of the contemporaneous reviews: “They were looking for another record that was full of big, flashy lead guitar and blues licks and screaming lyrics … [If I Could Only Remember My Name] was not where everything else was going, so they thought it was irrelevant.”
The album went on to achieve cult status and praise from latter-day critics for its austere mood, eclectic improvisation and otherworldly harmony singing. In 2000, it was voted number 156 in the third edition of Colin Larkin’s book All Time Top 1000 Albums. He stated “if you are not familiar with this miraculous record, please take the risk.”
Some reviews of the 2006 reissue compare the album with Nick Drake and Meddle-era Pink Floyd, and discuss it as a progenitor of the freak folk and New Weird America subgenres of indie rock. Other writers cite the album as belonging to the sub-genre of freak-folk or psychedelic folk, and being an early progenitor of the form.
In 2010, Crosby’s album was listed second, behind the Beatles’ Revolver, on the “Top 10 Pop Albums of All Time” published in the Vatican City newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.
On 18 November 2013, Crosby appeared on an edition of the BBC Radio 4 program Mastertapes, which was dedicated to the making of the album. The following day, he took part in the program’s “B-side” edition, answering audience questions and performing songs from the album. In 2016, Japanese musician Cornelius included If I Could Only Remember My Name in his list of “10 Albums Everyone Needs to Hear”.
In 2019, the album’s title was partly adopted for the Cameron Crowe documentary on Crosby, David Crosby: Remember My Name. (wikipedia)
David Crosby’s debut solo album was the second release in a trilogy of albums (the others being Paul Kantner’s Blows Against the Empire and Mickey Hart’s Rolling Thunder) involving the indefinite aggregation of Bay Area friends and musical peers that informally christened itself the Planet Earth Rock and Roll Orchestra. Everyone from the members of the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane to Crosby’s mates in CSNY, Neil Young and Graham Nash, dropped by the studio to make significant contributions to the proceedings. (Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, and Bill Kreutzman, primarily, act as the ad hoc studio band, with other notables adding bits of flavor to other individual tracks.) Crosby, however, is the obvious captain of this ship. With his ringing, velvety voice — the epitome of hippie crooning — and inspired songwriting, he turns If I Could Only Remember My Name into a one-shot wonder of dreamy but ominous California ambience.
The songs range from brief snapshots of inspiration (the angelic chorale-vocal showcase on “Orleans” and the a cappella closer, “I’d Swear There Was Somebody Here”) to the full-blown, rambling Western epic “Cowboy Movie,” and there are absolutely no false notes struck or missteps taken. No one before or since has gotten as much mileage out of a wordless vocal as Crosby does on “Tamalpais High (At About 3)” and “Song with No Words (Tree with No Leaves),” and because the music is so relaxed, each song turns into its own panoramic vista. Those who don’t go for trippy Aquarian sentiment, however, may be slightly put off by the obscure, cosmic storytelling of the gorgeous “Laughing” or the ambiguous (but pointed) social questioning of “What Are Their Names,” but in actuality it is an incredibly focused album. There is little or no fat despite the general looseness of the undertaking, while a countercultural intensity runs taut through the entire album, and ultimately there is no denying the excellence of the melodies and the messy beauty of the languid, loping instrumental backing. Even when a song as pretty as “Traction in the Rain” shimmers with its picked guitars and autoharp, the album is coated in a distinct, persistent menace that is impossible to shake. It is a shame that Crosby would continue to descend throughout the remainder of the decade and the beginning of the next into aimless drug addiction, and that he would not issue another solo album until 18 years later. As it is, If I Could Only Remember My Name is a shambolic masterpiece, meandering but transcendently so, full of frayed threads. Not only is it among the finest splinter albums out of the CSNY diaspora, it is one of the defining moments of hung-over spirituality from the era. (by Stanton Swihart)
Laura Allan (autoharp, background vocals on 06.)
Jack Casady (bass on 07.)
David Crosby (vocals, guitar)
Jerry Garcia (guitar (on 02., 03., 05., 07., pedal steel-guitar, vocals on 05.)
Mickey Hart (drums on 02.)
Jorma Kaukonen (guitar on 03. + 07.)
Bill Kreutzmann (drums on 03. + 04., tambourine on 02.)
Phil Lesh (bass on 02, – 05., background vocals on 05.)
Joni Mitchell (background vocals on 04. + 05.)
Graham Nash (guitar, background vocals on 01., 03. – 07.)
Gregg Rolie (piano on 07.)
Michael Shrieve (drums on 05. + 07.)
Neil Young (guitar, vocals on 01. + 05., bass. vibraphone, percussion on 01.)
background vocals on 05.:
David Freiberg – Paul Kantner – Grace Slick
01. Music Is Love (Nash/Young/Crosby) 3.19
02. Cowboy Movie (Crosby) 8.09
03.Tamalpais High (At About 3) (Crosby) 3.27
04. Laughing (Crosby) 5.21
05. What Are Their Names (Young/Garcia/Lesh/Shrieve/Crosby) 4.10
06. Traction In The Rain (Crosby) 3.42
07. Song With No Words (Tree With No Leaves) (Crosby) 5.54
08. Orleans (Traditional) 1.57
09. I’d Swear There Was Somebody Here (Crosby) 1.21
The official website: