I have been following, with great relish, the return of David Crosby to the complete emancipation of his creative spirit from the various chains of drugs, fame and the ego based disputes that anchored his muse for so many years.  The hard drugs, of course, are long gone, but the other two kept him enslaved longer than he realised.  It is only in the last five or so years, initially solo and then accompanied by three friends who call themselves The Lighthouse Band, that he has truly taken wing.  It is a joyous experience to hear them harmonise angelically, just like the glory days of CSN, which I would say were 69 through 75.

This winter of 2018, The Lighthouse Band has recently completed a fall tour, illustrating, amongst other things, that they can reproduce live, with almost magical ease, the sweet soaring vocals of their last two cd’s.  On the last gig at the Capitol Theatre, filmed and now online, the ripening of their charms is on full display.  And as has been common on Crosby’s solo tours of previous years, David has become more and more inclined to punctuate his songs with tales of their inception, whether foggy or focused, all accompanied by acerbic comments on the state of his ego at the time.

On a long intro to his classsic ballad “Laughing” from 71’s If I Could Only Remember My Name, he recounts his (and the other Byrds) obsession with The Beatles, and due to their first huge hit single, being enabled to tour England and meet the Fab Four.  He was, he says, terrified, even as Paul McCartney drove him home from a gig in some awful smelly messy dive, laughing and telling him they’d played the place three or four times themselves.  This was the tour where he, most legendarily, lent George Harrison his Ravi Shankar record, thereby providing the necessary link to Indian culture and philosophy, “Within You Without You”, Transcendental Meditation and gurus.

It was George’s later praise of one such teacher, the little chap with the beard and the giggle, the template for many later Hindu fakes, that prompted the song.  With its lyrical interplay of light, dark and shadow, and the reference to the laughter of children at play, it encapsulates the baby steps of spiritual seeking many rock stars of the period were taking.  Marihuana had freed them from the insistent dictates of authority and society, psychedelics like lsd had demolished every reality tunnel then available and gurus looked like they might be a spark of light in the ensuing chaotic darkness.  Many took to that light, some in glee, others in desperation.

Crosby’s song, as affecting now in concert as the stunningly radiant original studio version cut with his soulmates from the Grateful Dead, warns one away from seeking the light in others but fences off the seeker from any further understanding. I recall those days well.  As a young listener, in that 18 to 21 dash to maturity,  I heard much music that gave feeling to such sweet confusions.  It was the soundtrack to our reading of Castaneda, Gurdjieff, Krishnamurti and the like.  It was, of course, also the soundtrack to many parties and picnics where we playacted the hippie ethic against the background of consumerist war-mongering mainstream culture.

Listening to Crosby and his musical friends inhabit the song’s soul now, with its disavowal of the light, it being only “the reflections of a shadow”, I see how the stoned consciousness itself puts up barriers to understanding, making you jump over the hurdles of your doubts, maybe for decades if not your entire incarnation, unless you come to see, through spiritual practice of one kind or another, or from finding the courage to allow your own inner light to shine, that the hurdles were imaginary, erected by your intellect to defeat your inspiration and deliver it to denial.  Analytical intellects are clever that way, and the rewards for their employment are many.  Unfortunately enlightenment is not one of them.

Crosby still says you should be sceptical of anyone who says they know the truth, that its very utterance is good cause for doubt and many, having survived the fakes and liars, both political and spiritual, would agree.  I have written before (“Knowing The Meaning Of Life” as included in Confronting Your Immortality) of the burden of knowing the truth of those puzzling mazes in which we find ourselves and resisting the impulse to brag about it to those yet mired in anxious effort.  The solution being so simple, – that our many lives, whether tragic or triumphant, provide all the experience necessary for the working out of karma and eventual graduation – that many will not countenance it.  Surely it must be more than that?  But no, it is not.  And Crosby’s “Laughing” is, ironically, the greeting that we give ourselves, all our other selves, when we see it.  And a further insight might be cradled this way: – during our many incarnations we see this truth and its accompanying cosmic giggle quite often, and then quite as easily forget.

As Crosby sings in one of his more famous songs, one he still ends concerts with in 2018, “Deja Vu”, “we have all been here before, we have all been here before”.