David Crosby on Neil Young, former girlfriend Joni Mitchell and the lessons of age

The American folk-rock legend discusses the Sixties and his former bandmates

by Will Hodgkinson
October 13, 2018

This is an excerpt of the published article.

He has far greater esteem for Mitchell, whom he first saw playing at the Coconut Grove club in Florida in 1967 and was so blown away by her talent that he took her to Los Angeles (the city he was born in) to become her champion and, briefly, her boyfriend. The two remain close, but Mitchell has not released an album since Shine in 2007. I ask Crosby how his old friend is doing.

"Not good," he says, looking resigned to life's tragedies. "I had dinner with her a month ago. She had an aneurysm in 2015. It happened to her on a Friday, they found her on a Monday, and she lay on the floor with a broken arm the whole weekend. She's learning how to walk and talk, and she can think fine, but I don't think she will play again. It's tough because she is the best songwriter alive, easily as good as Bob [Dylan] and ten times the better musician. When she was my old lady I'd write something and go, 'Listen to this!' She'd say, 'That's lovely, Dave,' and play me three new songs of hers that were far, far better than mine."

What was the one year they spent being romantically involved like? "Emotionally, it was like falling into a cement mixer. She is a turbulent woman and very, very crazy." Sounds like fun. "I wouldn't say fun was the word, but it was educational as hell. I liked all the complex chord inversions you hear in jazz, but I wasn't good enough to play them, and then Joni showed me how to retune the guitar. Suddenly I was writing Déjà Vu and Guinnevere."

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