Thursday, 14 February 2013

What Are Their Names?

Here's a little song for you.  Apologies about the crowd noise, they quieten down once he starts singing.  It's called What Are Their Names?.  It was written by David Crosby and first recorded on his 1971 solo album, If I Could Only Remember My Name.  He has been singing it ever since with Crosby Stills and Nash, Crosby Stills Nash and Young or as here in duet with Graham Nash. 

Who are the men who really run this land
And why do they run it with such a careless hand?
What are their names and on what streets do they live?
I'd like to ride right over this afternoon and give
Them a piece of my mind about peace for mankind
Peace is not an awful lot to ask.

Crosby and co are well known peacenicks.  They sang at Woodstock, protested the Vietnam war, sided with the anti-war protestors killed at Ohio State University, and wrote a large number of anti-war and anti-nuclear anthems.  They're still at it.  In 2006 Neil Young got the band back together to do a tour singing nothing but anti-war songs in protest at the US invasion of Iraq.  Of course this song was on the set list.

However, you can also read the song another way.  To help with that, here are two facts about David Crosby you might not know.

Fact 1 - In 1985-86 Crosby spent almost a year in prison.
After repeated breaches of his bail conditions, the judge saw no alternative but to send him to jail.  His cocaine addiction was so bad he couldn't go half an hour without a hit.  His famously uncut hair was matted beyond redemption.  His teeth were rotting.  His skin was covered with infected sores.  He was simultaneously overweight and malnourished.  He hadn't written a song in two years.  He had no assets and owed millions to the US tax department.  Every dollar he had earned in a glittering 20 year music career had been passed on to his drug dealers.

He went on to become a textbook example of the drug addiction cliche - you have to reach the bottom before you realise you need to change.  Change he did, getting clean, straightening his life out, repairing his fractured relationships, getting his music back on track.  If not completely drug free (he was arrested for drug possession again in 2004) he is still alive and functional in his early 70s.

Fact 2 - The charge Crosby was facing was a firearms charge.
Possessing drug paraphenalia was also on the rap sheet, but the most serious charge was of carrying a loaded firearm on a commercial plane flight.  Crosby is a well known gun nut with a huge collection of lethal weapons, and carries a loaded pistol with him wherever he goes.  While very remorseful about the results of his drug addiction, he is completely unrepentant on the matter of firearms.  Here's what he had to say on the matter in his 1988 biography.

I don't really believe in gun control.  I think it's absurd.  As a matter of fact, in the states where it's legal to carry guns, you don't see a lot of bank robberies.  You don't see a lot of armed robberies because if somebody pulls out a gun and says, "Stick 'em up," the nearest five people will drill the son of a bitch.

Weapons of mass destruction are an entirely different ballgame.  I do not approve....I can't see how anyone is ever going to convince me that I should relinquish my ability to defend my hearth and home and my children and my wife from some goddamn crazies who want to come in and do a Manson on us.  If they want to just take the TV, I'll help them load it in the car.  It's insured; I don't give a damn.  But if they want to rape my wife and cut my kid's hand off and then stick me with a bayonet, they're going to have to do it through a hail of gunfire.  It's not conjecture - I've been assaulted in my own home and I did shoot at the intruders.

I'm not a pacifist by any stretch of the imagination.  I'm anti-war, which is a whole different ballgame....

So what I want to know is this: when Crosby has successfully stalked the real and faceless rulers of his country and driven to their homes to have it out with them, will he be carrying his pistol?  Or does he really just want to talk?

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