I picked up an interesting though ultimately disappointing bargain book the other day: Stand and Be Counted, by—get this—David Crosby. Yes, hard to believe the man whose first solo album was called If I Could Only Remember My Name actually managed to find the brain cells to write a nonfiction book, but Stand and Be Counted was published in 2000. (How I missed it then can probably be explained by a simple look at the price tag on my copy, down to $5.99 from original MSRP of $25—curiosity got the better of me at the price of a super-size Big Mac meal.) The book was written with Crosby’s friend David Bender, author of The Confession of O.J. Simpson, A Work of Fiction, and subtitled, “Making Music, Making History. The dramatic story of the artists and events that changed America.” The idea was to write a history of musician activism. As are most recent Crosby endeavors—from his artificial insemination escapades to the most recent CSNY album—it’s an idea that might sound good when you’ve had a little doobage, but its execution leaves something to be desired.
The main problem with Stand and Be Counted is, surprisingly, not Crosby’s writing. His voice comes across loud and clear, like a literary “Almost Cut My Hair”; while there are some really awful passages (“Taking a stand shows a depth of character and a generosity of spirit. It shows the quality in human beings that makes me proud to be one.”), hearing Crosby tell the story is one of the book’s pleasures. If he could tell a more complete story, one that included a deeper exploration of the politics of activism or looked at musician activism before the rise of rock music, it might be a great book. A glance at the contents betrays instead, we’re just getting Crosby’s personal story, his autobiography of do-good-ism, from protesting during the Civil Rights movement through his participation in benefit concerts in the 80s and 90s. Fun reading, a lot of it is—the tales of rich and famous classic rockers as concerned citizens are just the ticket to fuel the fame machine—but at the end, I’m left with an overriding, “So fucking what?”
Like most of the baby boom generation, Crosby once had ideals and goals that would have changed the power structure in America. As we know, they largely failed or at best fell short. But unlike most boomers, Crosby hasn’t gone on to admit defeat, get a suit-and-tie job, buy an SUV and a house in the suburbs, and join the Republican Party. He still hangs on to the myth, figuring if he keeps telling the story about how the hippies changed the world, eventually someone will believe him. This book is the most egregious example of this revisionist history that tends to accompany any discussion of “The Sixties” by those boomers like Crosby who won’t recognize the great sell-out of America that’s led us to the current State of the Union.
As wealth and power in the United States continue to concentrate in fewer hands, while our elected representatives lie and cheat, when corporations can run roughshod over everyone and everything, and we all sit and sweat in this even-hotter-than-last-year summer (yeah, it’s just those tree huggers who believe in global warming), I have a hard time giving Crosby the peace sign for all the “activism” he’s been involved with. Activism has a component lost on Crosby and most of his musician friends in Stand and Be Counted and that’s actually achieving political or social ends.
9 thoughts on “Stand and Be Honest”
I don’t think it’s surprising at all that Crosby’s writing is good. He’s a pretty intelligent person.
I remember some writer referring to Crosby as ‘that moth-fingered old has-been’, and that was like 10 years ago. He should just dive back into the bongwater and fade away.But I totally agree with you, Sab-the boomers made cultural changes, but very little lasting positive politcal change. Their greatest gift was political correctness, thank you very much…
Actually i thing our greatest gift has been dress down fridays. monday tuesday wed thurs.
Good points about the idealized hippie generation. Had to research the first Woodstock recently and was amazed by the large number of dumb-asses in attendance. Favorite line: “If we think hard enough we can stop this rain.” The rain that resulted, of course, from “the fascist pigs seeding to clouds” to ruin the fun. Guess we should just be glad that loincloths weren’t also de rigeur at Rapestock.
hey, that rain stuff was a joke, ya know.My fav. line from Woodstock was one woman’s comment to a near naked hell’s angel, “Oh wow! That’s the smallest one i’ve ever seen”
>But unlike most boomers, Crosby hasn’t gone on to admit defeat, get a suit-and-tie job, buy an SUV and a house in the suburbs, and join the Republican Party. (1) He probably doesn’t notice that he’s lost.(2) He doesn’t need a job.(3) He probably owns not “an” SUV, but several.(4) The suburbs is too passe: it is undoubtedly acreage in the country.(5) He’ll probably wait vis-a-vis voting until he moves to Florida, land of the hanging chad.
I think it is sad to attack the presence of idealism in Crosby dispite all the proof that our society has turned its back on what really matters. Being a child of an idealist hippy who makes $16,000 a year working with disabled kids, I have come to realize that the people of that generation were lucky to experience such a extraordinary time. I believe that our generation is so cynicaland greedy that we can’t even understand what it really means to stand up for something and truly believe in a cause. I applaud Crosby for not rolling over and accepting defeat.
I mean despite. Oops!
For some of us activisim means simply being able to look oneself in the mirror each day knowing that we are trying to make a difference. Instead of being critical of Mr. Crosby why don’t each one of you reach out and begin making a change in your life and then someone else’s. Teach a child to play an instrument or sing a song. Turn off Britney and turn on CSNY for the kids in your life — or Joni Mitchell. Many kids just don’t know about the music we love and loved. That in itself would be a huge contribution. Sing to your kids — however off key — teach your children well.