David Crosby’s last breakup set him free, musically, and he’s been on a creative bender ever since.
About four years ago, he realized that he’d likely never play in the rock super group which bore his name – Crosby, Stills Nash and Young – again. Ill feelings among the group, especially between Crosby and Graham Nash, had gotten too strong to be mended. Performing the same songs with guys who didn’t like him much was getting old.
Since that time, Crosby has made three albums of original material and is working with his grown son. He says that in the last 20 years or so, while battling with his former band members, he had “built up a head of steam” about the kind of music he wanted to make, and now he is getting to do it.
“It’s the people I’m writing with, like my son, and just getting to be happy on stage again,” said Crosby, who will perform at Portland’s State Theatre on Sunday. “By the end (of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young), we didn’t like each other much, and that wasn’t fun.”
Crosby, 76, is touring to promote his latest album, “Sky Trails.” His high-pitched voice is still strong, and the songs sound like one would expect from a musician who helped invent folk-rock in the 1970s. He co-wrote songs with his son, James Raymond, who plays keyboards on the album and sometimes adds a jazzy feel to songs.
Like a lot of things in his life, Crosby’s relationship with his son was complicated. Raymond was born to a woman Crosby had a relationship with in the early 1960s and was given up for adoption. When he was 30, Raymond sought out his birth mother and found that Crosby was his father. About a year later, when Raymond read that Crosby was in need of a liver transplant, he sought him out.
Though he didn’t know he came from rock royalty, Raymond was a musician long before he met Crosby. As a youngster, he was more partial to keyboard music, songs by Billy Joel and Elton John for instance, than his father’s music.
“If anyone thinks that musical talent isn’t genetic, tell them about my son and I,” said Crosby.
Also for the album, Crosby wrote a piano tune, a ballad actually, with former Doobie Brothers lead singer Michael McDonald called “Before Tomorrow Falls on Love.” Crosby, when talking about McDonald, called him “one of the two greatest singers alive.” Who is the other, according to him? Stevie Wonder. He also said that Joni Mitchell is the greatest living singer-songwriter alive, but quickly added, “Though Bob (Dylan) is right on her heels.”
Crosby, who grew up in Los Angeles, is a two-time inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, with The Byrds and with Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, which performed off and on for 40 years, often without Neil Young. Though he doesn’t think they’ll ever reunite, he says he’d be open to it, but only if Young were involved.
“Nash doesn’t like me, and I don’t like him, and I think Neil is pissed at me. We don’t hang around, so I really don’t know what those guys are thinking,” said Crosby. “I still care for them. They are all very talented and all of us did some of our best work together.”
WHEN: 8 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: State Theatre, 609 Congress St., Portland
HOW MUCH: $31 to $61