David Crosby, iconoclastic rocker, dead at 81

David Crosby, iconoclastic rocker, dead at 81

David Crosby, the singer, songwriter and guitarist who helped shape the sound of sixties rock and beyond, died Thursday at the age of 81. A source close to Crosby confirmed the musician’s death to Rolling Stone but did not reveal the cause.

Crosby was a founding member of the Byrds, playing guitar and providing harmony vocals on many of their most enduring songs, including “Eight Miles High,” “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star,” and “Turn! Turn! Turnaround!” Shortly after being pushed out of the group due to personality conflicts with frontman Roger McGuinn, he formed the supergroup Crosby, Stills and Nash with Buffalo Springfield’s Stephen Stills and the Hollies’ Graham Nash. The trio – which became a quartet in 1969, when Neil Young joined them – played a major role in the development of folk rock, country rock and the emerging “California sound” that dominated rock radio in the mid-’70s Croz wrote many of their most popular songs, including Almost Cut My Hair, Long Time Gone and Deja Vu.

“It is with deep and deep sadness that I learn of the passing of my friend David Crosby,” Crosby’s former bandmate Graham Nash wrote in a statement. “I know people tend to focus on how explosive our relationship was at times, but what David and I always cared about more than anything else was the sheer joy of the music we created together, the sound we discovered together and the deep friendship we shared over the many long years.

“David was fearless in life and in music,” he added. “He leaves a tremendous void in this world in terms of personality and talent. He spoke his mind, heart and passion through his beautiful music and leaves an incredible legacy. Those are the things that matter the most. My heart is truly with his wife Jan, his son Django and all the people he has touched in this world.”

“I am heartbroken to hear from David Crosby,” wrote Brian Wilson. “David was an incredible talent – such a great singer and songwriter. And a wonderful person. I just can’t find the words.”

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While his success continued through the 1970s and ’80s, Crosby’s personal life was marred by heavy drug use, which devastated his career and led to a brief prison sentence in 1985. However, he recovered and continued making music for three more years and touring for decades. “I have no idea how I live and Jimi [Hendrix] not and Janis [Joplin] not and all my other friends,” he told Rolling Stone in 2014, years after cleaning up. “I have no idea why me, but I was lucky.”

David Crosby was born in Los Angeles in 1941. His father, Floyd Crosby, was an Oscar-winning cinematographer. He briefly attended Santa Barbara City College, but dropped out to pursue music. In 1964 he joined a band called Jet Set, which consisted of Roger McGuinn and Gene Clark. They changed their name to Beefeaters and then Byrds. Crosby’s beautiful harmony, heard on hits like the Bob Dylan cover of “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Turn! Turn! Turn!” was an integral part of the Byrds’ folk-rock sound.

By 1967, tensions within the band reached a breaking point, culminating in Crosby’s departure from the group. Crosby and Stephen Stills, who had recently split from Buffalo Springfield, began writing songs together in 1968. They were soon joined by Nash, who had just left the Hollies, and the trio made their first appearance together at Cass Elliot’s LA home on the mamas and the papas. Her self-titled 1969 debut was a hit and produced the classic single “Suite: Judy Blues Eyes” about Judy Collins.

Later that year, the quartet added Neil Young and played their second gig at Woodstock to a crowd of almost 500,000, heralding the arrival of one of rock’s first – and biggest – supergroups. CSN&Y’s debut album Déjà Vu sold 7 million copies and spawned the hit singles “Woodstock”, “Teach Your Children” and “Our House”. Crosby later said, “I think when the Beatles bomb went off, we were the best band in the world.”


CSN&Y released a live double album, Four Way Street, before disbanding. Crosby recorded his solo debut If I Could Only Remember My Name in 1971, assisted by Nash, members of the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane, and Joni Mitchell (whom he dated for a time and famously compared Crosby’s walrus mustache) . see Yosemite Sam). Though critically ravaged at the time, the languid, meditative album later acquired a cult following, whose influence can be heard in the contemporary neo-folk of Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear. In 1977, Crosby, Stills & Nash regrouped for the four-time platinum CSN. In 1979 they performed at the Musicians United for Safe Energy (MUSE) sponsored anti-nuclear benefit concerts.

1982’s Daylight Again was another hit, producing the hits “Wasted On the Way” and “Southern Cross.” During those years, Crosby was a frequent voice on Grace Slick and Paul Kantner records of Jefferson Starship, Hot Tuna and Phil Collins (including the hit “Another Day In Paradise”).

However, in the early 1980s, his drug abuse had a devastating effect. In 1985, he was sentenced to nine months in prison after leaving the drug rehabilitation program he was allowed to attend instead of serving a five-year sentence for possession of cocaine and carrying a gun. He performed on Live Aid with Stills, Nash and Young while on appeal bond. Crosby was fresh out of prison in 1986 and married longtime girlfriend Jan Dance in 1987. In 1990 he published an insightful, widely acclaimed memoir, Long Time Gone.

He received a liver transplant in 1994 and recorded another album with CSN, the commercially unsuccessful After the Storm. In the ’90s, Crosby attracted more attention for a unique act of celebrity generosity when he became a sperm donor to Melissa Etheridge and Julie Cypher. “I mourn the loss of my friend and Bailey’s birth father, David.” wrote Etheridge. “He gave me a family. I will forever be grateful to him, Django and Jan. His music and legacy will inspire many generations to come. A real treasure.”

In 1995 he reunited with his son Raymond, whom he had given up for adoption in the 1960s, and they recorded three albums together as CPR. (Crosby’s survivors are three other children, two daughters (Erika and Donovan) and a son Django, the only child from his marriage to Dance.)

Crosby retained a sense of humor regarding his troubled past. As he angered the recovery community by admitting to smoking weed, he joked, “Our great crime is that we eat ice cream, let’s face the truth.” He also embraced his rep as the archetypal “Wasted Sixties Guy.” , especially in his burgeoning acting career. He was a hippie in 1991’s Backdraft, a bartender in 1992’s Thunderheart, and an AA sponsor on an episode of The John Larroquette Show. (He also occasionally appeared as himself on The Simpsons.) Although Crosby was much more toned down in the 2000s, Crosby made no apologies for his pro-gun views. In 2004, he pleaded guilty to criminal gun possession when police found a gun and a small amount of marijuana in his hotel room the night after a concert in New York. He was not serving a prison sentence.

Towards the end of his life, Crosby recorded the 2014 solo album Croz, his first record in 20 years, featuring Raymond as a guest musician and a cover photo taken by Django. “Most guys my age would have done a cover record or duets on old material,” he told Rolling Stone at the time. “It won’t be a huge success. Probably 19 copies will be sold. I don’t think kids will like it, but I’m not doing it for them. i do it for me I’ve got this stuff I need to get off my chest.”


More solo albums followed between 2016 and 2021. “I’m freaking lucky,” he told Rolling Stone in 2021. “I don’t know if I have two weeks to live or 10 years, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is what you do with the time. If you’re sitting there on your butt worrying about dying, you’ve fucking wasted it. I didn’t waste it. I’m having a really good time and feeling wonderful about it. Sooner or later something will break. My life is pretty great right now.”

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