Author Archives

David Gambacorta
David Gambacorta is a writer-at-large at the Philadelphia Inquirer. He has also written for Esquire, The Ringer, and Politico Magazine.

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s Lost Album, Human Highway

CSNY, January 1, 1970. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

David Gambacorta | Longreads | March 2021 | 15 minutes (4,190 words)

They needed a song, but not just any song. It had to be a throat-clearing, lapel-grabbing, hey-what’s-that-sound number that could open what was shaping up to be one of the most anticipated albums of 1970: the debut of the super group to end all super groups, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. “We don’t have that song where you know that a listener will not take that needle off the record,” Graham Nash told Stephen Stills sometime in the fall of 1969, after they’d already labored for countless hours in a recording studio in San Francisco. “We need that song where we’ve got them from the very beginning.”

Nash, a skinny, shaggy former member of the British group The Hollies, and Stills, a soulful, straw-haired survivor of Buffalo Springfield, knew plenty about grabbing listeners by the ear. A year earlier, they’d discovered — at Joni Mitchell’s house in California, maybe, or Cass Elliot’s, no one’s quite sure — that they could create heavenly harmonies with David Crosby, the ex-Byrds singer who wore a droopy mustache, and the amused grin of a man who was in on some cosmic joke. They released an album, Crosby, Stills & Nash, that was filled with instant classics like the soaring “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.” Then, at the urging of Ahmet Ertegun, the owlish Atlantic Records honcho, the trio turned themselves into a quartet, adding — with some reluctance — Neil Young’s reedy voice, barbed-wire guitar playing, and unpredictability to the mix. After the four of them played in front of 400,000 swaying, stoned people at Woodstock, their own concerts started to take on the feel of what Rolling Stone described as “mini-Woodstocks” that unleashed “effortless good vibes.”

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Took You By Surprise: John and Paul’s Lost Reunion

Illustration by Homestead

David Gambacorta | Longreads | June 2019 | 20 minutes (5,128 words)

The sun was beginning to set over a mostly deserted expanse of beach in Malibu, casting long shadows behind a pair of visitors as they strolled a few feet from the water’s edge. They had the innocuous, no-particular-place-to-go demeanor of average beachgoers, except for the fact that their every step was being recorded by a local news cameraman. One was a guy who was intimately familiar with being filmed, photographed, analyzed, idolized, ridiculed, and praised: John Lennon. Read more…

David Brown’s Quiet Resilience

(Photo by Stewart F. House/Getty Images)

David Gambacorta | Longreads | June 2017 | 15 minutes (3,755 words)

David Brown was a few months into his tenure as the head of the Dallas Police Department when his cell phone started to hum on a Sunday morning.

He’d been on the job long enough to know the drill: At any given moment, a phone call could be the harbinger of an administrative headache, a tactical crisis, or some gut-wrenching tragedy. But he resisted the reflexive urge to answer.

Brown was standing in a pew at the Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship Church. A low-slung building with a sharply pitched roof, the church and its weekly service was his temporary refuge from a chaotic world. He actually considered turning away from his faith once, when he was a younger man and inconsolable over the murder of a former partner, a blow that nearly drove him to quit the police force altogether.

But Brown came to understand loss, the way it coursed through and connected everyone around him like an unseen river. Such lessons had been present in his life from an early age. Brown was born at Parkland Memorial Hospital in 1960, three years before a team of trauma doctors there tried in vain to revive President John F. Kennedy after an assassin’s bullet had exploded through his skull. The very place that had given Brown life became synonymous with the death of a country’s tenuous sense of innocence.

He checked his phone when he left the Sunday service. It was hot outside; the temperature would touch 100 degrees that day. A voice message from the chief of a small-town police department 16 miles outside of Dallas was waiting. It was about Brown’s 27-year-old son, D.J., who suffered from adult-onset bipolar disorder.

D.J.’s behavior had turned erratic that morning, prompting his girlfriend to call 911. But everything was fine now, the chief calmly assured Brown. He tried to get in touch with D.J., but thought better of rushing to him; maybe his son just needed some time to cool down. A few hours later, Brown’s phone started rattling again. This time, it was a no-nonsense detective who took his breath away with just a few words: D.J. was dead.

He’d shot and killed an innocent passerby and a local police officer, the detective explained, and then engaged in a shootout with other cops. D.J. was cut down by police gunfire. The news hit Brown like a sledgehammer to the spine.

It was June 20, 2010. Father’s Day.

The grief could have broken a lesser man, could have swallowed him whole. But Brown clung to his faith, and he somehow endured. What he didn’t know then was that more sorrow was waiting for him down the road, the kind that would draw the world’s attention to Dallas like it was 1963 all over again. And Brown, a quiet, contemplative man who never imagined he’d be a police chief, would emerge from all of the darkness as the embodiment of grace—and the unlikely face of law enforcement in America. Read more…