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Other Peoples' Songs: Laughing
Safe travels, Croz
I was raised on the music from one variation or another of the C,S,N, and Y initials, or at least the major arcana of those initials. We were a So Far family, an eponymous first LP family. It was always the Nash songs we, as kids, first gravitated to: our house was a very fine house, with two cats in the yard. Then came the Stills songs: “Suite Judy Blue Eyes” and “Helplessly Hoping.” Neil Young existed in his own orbit — it was the Crosby songs that were the head scratchers. “Cut My Hair” was so bizarre; “Guinevere” was too stoney. Plus, Crosby was the one on the album covers and on stage in the live footage that looked the most like a space cadet, with his ear-to-ear grin and long hair and mustache. He looked like the ur-hippie that, to a kid growing up in the eighties, was a symbol of a time long past.
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In my twenties and thirties, though, it all started to click. Right when I was writing a lot of fantastical, narrative songs, Crosby’s “Wooden Ships” became a kind of guiding light for me — I began unpacking the riches from his songs that I had passed over as a kid. “Guinevere” suddenly was as gorgeous as anything Stills had written; “Cut My Hair” was a funny, poignant commentary on conformity and rebellion. I started to recognize the brilliance that so many of his sixties comrades saw in him. I randomly picked up a tattered old copy of his debut solo LP, If I Could Only Remember My Name, and got transported by its wild, scattershot vibe. When this record came out, in 1971, Stills, Nash, and Young were all making these radio-friendly albums, records aimed directly at the billboard charts — this record seemed to exist on an entirely different plane. “Laughing,” the last song on the first side of the LP, was a song I really gravitated to — the melody was so understated and lovely, the beat was so lazy and swingy. I’ve tried my hand at it here, solo, in remembrance of its songwriter, who died yesterday at 81.
Fare thee well, David Crosby. Thanks for the music.