Off the Highway: Jarvis Coffin – Where have you gone, David Crosby?

  • Jarvis Coffin COURTESY PHOTO

Published: 1/26/2023 9:00:10 AM

David Crosby died last week. I liked his music. I respect that he was a two-time inductee to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as part of The Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash. Five albums to which he contributed are among the 500 greatest ever recorded, according to Rolling Stone magazine.

In his book, “Waging Heavy Peace,” Neil Young wrote that no one was ever more enthusiastic about touring and performing than Crosby, which shows up in the videos I have seen over the last several days paying tribute to his work. Crosby is the ebullient one on stage, strumming and grinning, his long brown hair flowing out behind him. He was reportedly working on a new album up until the day he died at age 81.

What is important now is that I need to rehabilitate our stereo system. We have an NAD receiver and a pair of Morel bookshelf speakers in lovely walnut casings. The receiver seems fine. The speakers need new components, and we must purchase a new turntable. This is the time. I have said the old stereo would be a winter project. It is winter now, with over a foot of snow on the porch outside the sliding glass doors of my office.

And David Crosby has just died.

Crosby was an iconic figure of the counterculture age. The Beatles may have ushered in a new generation, but they were unaware of it until later. Early on, they hewed to standards set in the 1950s, wearing matching jacket-and-tie uniforms and remaining rigorously clean-cut, even with the longer hair. Ultimately, they were carried out early by the tidal wave of change they propelled.

Behind them, riding the wave, came David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Mama Cass and others. They became the New Age icons – the Age of Aquarius, the Summer of Love, the hippie generation. The boomers. Whatever. Us. Me. Those born to it and shaped by it.

In the eaves under our roof at the cabin are boxes of old record albums. Once upon a time, I explained to the boys and girls, we had libraries of records that followed us like our libraries of books. You got to a new place – dorm room, apartment or house – and in came the stereo, followed by the milk crates of albums. All of it was assembled where space allowed, usually in a closet or on shelves. Wires traveled from the closet around the room's perimeter, along the walls and behind the furniture to connect to the speakers.

The albums were a source of interest and conversation. We thumbed through them at parties, comparing collections to our own. My music-loving friends would have hundreds of albums. Modest aficionados, such as I, would have scores, maybe 100.

Today, we can fetch any recorded song by relying on the internet. The question we might have asked while thumbing through records, “Hey, do you have ...” is gone from the lexicon. It has been replaced by, “Hey, play...” On command, in a moment, we can retrieve any song off any album, ever.

The loss of David Crosby has me worried about this. What replaces, in this day and age, the first album cover of Crosby, Stills & Nash, the one that was part of virtually every record collection in those days, with the picture of the three young men on a beat-up red couch, a guitar in the arms of the guy in the middle, all of them in blue jeans and boots? 

I have seen this album cover repeatedly in connection with Crosby’s demise. No surprise. I saw it everywhere for years. If a picture is worth 1,000 words, it tells you what you need to know about David Crosby, his life, and times. And mine.

What compares today? What do we hold in common? What is going into boxes in eaves under the roof? Things appear and disappear so fast in this information age, buried in seconds by more stuff, turned to mulch with every page refresh. In a content world built around sharing, there is very little to hold on to.

I worry this is why we hear about so many people being lonely.

I will get my stereo to the shop, and when it comes back, I will crawl into those eaves, retrieve my album boxes and search – the old-fashioned way – for Crosby, Stills & Nash. Then I think I will invite a few people over to listen and share.

Jarvis Coffin and his wife Marcia owned New Hampshire’s oldest inn, The Hancock Inn, during which time he wrote a popular newsletter for the inn’s mailing list. Retired from innkeeping, he now writes full-time, mostly essays on rural life and fiction. You can reach him at, and visit to keep up with his other musings on the Monadnock region.

Sign up for Monadnock Ledger-Transcript Newsletters
Monadnock Ledger-Transcript Headline Alerts
Monadnock Ledger-Transcript MLT Minute North
Monadnock Ledger-Transcript MLT Minute South
Monadnock Ledger-Transcript Real Estate & Transactions
Monadnock Ledger-Transcript Contests and Promotions
Monadnock Ledger-Transcript Dining & Entertainment
Monadnock Ledger-Transcript Sports


Support Local Journalism

Subscribe to the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript, your source for Peterborough area news.

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

20 Grove St.
Peterborough, NH 03458


© 2021 Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy