"I play every day. I sing every day. I work like a fool and I just have the greatest time doing it."

David Crosby sounds very happy to be alive. It's hard to think of anyone with more right to feel that way.Having just celebrated his 47th birthday last weekend, he's on a hot summer tour with Stephen Stills and Graham Nash; his autobiography, "Long Time Gone," is being published by Doubleday; he's finishing his first solo LP since 1971, "Yes I Can"; and a new LP set for fall release reunites Crosby, Stills and Nash with Neil Young.

And best of all, having kicked cocaine, he's singing like the Crosby of 20 years ago.

It's something of a miracle. Just a couple of years ago, no one with even a passing interest in pop music would have bet he'd still be alive. It looked as if Crosby were becoming a statistic, one of the 50,000 Americans killed by drugs since the '70s.

It was 20 years ago this summer that Crosby and Stills first joined voices with Nash at a party at either Joni Mitchell's or John Sebastian's house; no one remembers where. But the effect that vocal blend had on pop music is undeniable.

With Crosby (the Byrds), Stills (Buffalo Springfield) and Nash (the Hollies), it was hyped as a super-group. And CS&N lived up to the hype: Its 1969 debut featured "Long Time Gone" and "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes," inspiring much of the music of the '70s, including singer-songwriters and mellow country-rock.

CS&N's "wooden music" made rockers turn off their amps. Sales of acoustic Martin guitars, featured by the trio, tripled from 1968 to 1970.

Stills' old bandmate, Neil Young, joined for 1970's "Deja Vu." And the group became even more popular. But egos clashed; by 1971's "4 Way Street," the band had split. Occasional reunions followed through the '70s.

Meanwhile, Crosby was descending into what became rock's most public private hell.

In 1983, his cocaine addiction was trumpeted from the cover of People, while Rolling Stone read like Crosby's police blotter, each issue detailing arrests and convictions.

In 1986, convicted in Texas on drug and weapons violations, Crosby spent five months of a five-year sentence "in prison, which pretty much saved my life."

"Frankly, that was the best investment I ever made _ you invest a year in prison, get your whole life back." The convictions were later reversed.

When he'd lost it all, including his beloved schooner, he knew it was time to change.

"When you bottom out, when you've actually just trashed everything as bad as you can trash it, you usually come to a moment of clarity, a moment when you kind of look around and say, `Gee . . . I can't be this guy anymore."

While writing the autobiography, he said, "the worst part of the drug years was really the toughest to handle, because I did a lot of stuff that was very, very difficult for me to look at. I was dishonest a lot. I cheated a lot and stole; and, most importantly, I let people down in awful ways, made promises and didn't keep them and did mediocre work.

"But, when you're trying to recover, you have to look at all that stuff and say, `OK, I did that. But I'm not gonna do it now."'

The temptations remain.

"Occasionally, someone will walk up and say, `Hey, man, you want a bump (cocaine)?' And I say, `No, I don't do that anymore.' I used to be kind of angry at them at first, but I've gotten pretty relaxed about it. Believe me, all my friends are only too happy to throw out dealers.

"These are people who love me. They did not want to see me die, and I was definitely headed to death, make no mistake about it," he said.

All of which leaves Crosby thinking about the time wasted on the way.

"Since the beginning of this year I've made two albums and co-written a book, for God's sake. Look at what I could have been doing" all along.

* Larry Nager is a Cincinnati Post reporter.