As the story goes, David Crosby‘s girlfriend Christine Hinton had recently been killed in a car accident, and out of the haze of grief (and with a lot of help from his friends) came 1971’s If Only I Could Remember My Name, his first and best solo album, and one of the finest folk-based, free-form exploratory records of any era. Case in point, the mostly instrumental What Are Their Names? which just sort of creeps along at first but by the time it’s done, it’s delivered a defiant punch. Like hanging out with your friends, getting high, yet bemoaning the deep inequities of the world, how the rich keep on getting richer and the poor just keep getting eaten. And guess what? The masters of war behind it all live just over yonder hill. Perhaps we should go pay them a visit, do a little sharing.
“Speaking of reggae, I’d be lying if I said the Clash weren’t one of my key entry points, still to this day maybe the only white reggae band that ever truly mattered. Because somehow or other, they got well past the easy, stoned sunshine grooves, found the depth of it. Like Sean Flynn (concerning Errol Flynn’s son, a photojournalist who was killed on the job in the Cambodian spillover of the Vietnam war) a song which maybe isn’t reggae at all, but it’s definitely dub, high and somewhat ethereal, like you’re floating above all the horror below, finding just enough altitude to see some beauty without denying any of the tragedy.” (Philip Random)
Imagine was the big deal John Lennon song of the moment (all that pie-in-the-sky god-free utoptianism). But I Don’t Wanna Be A Soldier Mama was selling a harder, louder 1971 truth. Because the Vietnam War just kept dragging on, and even if it did end soon, everybody knew there’d be another one coming along soon to keep all the young boys busy tearing each other apart, so they wouldn’t have time to wise up, turn on the old men whose corrupt souls kept conjuring the f***ing things.