At the height of his drug abuse, David Crosby was discovered by police freebasing cocaine behind the scenes at a Dallas nightclub while holding a propane tank, a brown bottle, and a.45-caliber semiautomatic rifle. He was detained and given a five-year prison term. But while he challenged the accusation, things only got worse. When authorities pulled him over after noticing him riding his motorcycle recklessly, they discovered that he was in possession of cocaine and heroin. He was therefore given a drug rehabilitation term, which his girlfriend subsequently assisted him in escaping.
After his spectacular escape, he was quickly detained again, this time in New York City. This time, there was no way to get away. After spending a few grueling months in jail, where solitary confinement was used as a form of punishment for his “bad behavior,” he was freed on bail while filing an appeal. Crosby made the decision to flee after hearings because he anticipated receiving further jail time. After six weeks as an outlaw, he eventually turned around, started working on getting sober in jail, and started playing music again. He also made a judge promise that he would never step foot in their courtroom again.
On his rocky path to recovery, Steely Dan’s “Deacon Blues” stood out as a crucial tune. The famous Aja tune explores the mind of a tortured person who imagines his own spiritual development and is somewhat inspired by Alfred Bester’s 1952 novel The Demolished Man. Crosby was attempting to imagine a similar scenario for himself. Despite the fact that the song was released in 1977, 10 years before Crosby pledged sobriety in a gratitude letter to the court that sentenced him, the song acted as a light for Crosby amid the gloom of his fight.
Crosby said to American Songwriter, “I let drugs become the most important thing in my life—more so than making music, more so than almost anything. But somehow the music hung in there for me and it’s what kept me alive. I was listening to this song an awful lot at that time because it’s spectacularly strong: ‘They call Alabama the Crimson Tide / Call on me Deacon Blue.’ That whole record [Aja] helped me stay alive at that point.“
Crosby carried this adoration with him throughout his life. The late folk legend said in 2020, “Steely Dan is my favorite band in the world, period.” Finally, he even realized his desire of working with the band. While talking with NPR, he said, “I worship them because of the writing. Donald and Walter were two of the best writers that ever laid a pen on paper. They’re just incredible musicians and incredible poets, and they just really, really did my favorite music. […] Aja and Gaucho are in my top ten records of my life, both of them.”