David Crosby, a rock icon who rose to fame in the 1960s as a founding member of The Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash (later known as Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young), has died. He was 81 years old.
Crosby’s wife, Jan Dance, announced his death Thursday in a statement to Variety. Sources close to Crosby confirmed the news to Rolling Stone and Billboard. Dance’s sister, Patricia, told The New York Times that he died on Wednesday.
“It is with great sadness after a long illness that our beloved David (Croz) Crosby passed away,” the statement read. “He was lovingly surrounded by his wife and soulmate Jan and his son Django. Although he is no longer here with us, his humanity and good soul will continue to guide and inspire us.
“His legacy will live on through his legendary music. Peace, love and harmony to all who knew David and those he touched. He will be dearly missed.”
She thanked fans for their love and asked for privacy “as we grieve and try to come to terms with our profound loss.”
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Born David Van Cortlandt Crosby on August 14, 1941 in Los Angeles, Crosby honed his musical talents in cafes, clubs and colleges as a teenager.
“I agreed to wash dishes and serve tables in the cafe so I could be there, and I would ask permission to sing along with the guy singing on stage,” the two-time Rock & Roll Hall of Famer said. at PBS in 2004. “It was the first time I went on stage in front of people. Of course, I didn’t get paid, but for me, it was the big moment.
Crosby briefly studied acting at Santa Barbara City College, but music was his calling. In the early 60s, he was drifting from town to town, playing and learning from other musicians, when he crossed paths with folk singer Roger McGuinn. The two began collaborating, electronically amplifying folk music to create a style that would eventually be defined as folk-rock.
They teamed up with Gene Clark, Chris Hillman and Michael Clarke to form The Byrds, famous for their influential sound. The group’s first single, a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man,” entered the top 10 in 1965, sparking a creative drive that generated hits such as “Eight Miles High,” “All I Really Want To Do” and “Turn! Turn! Turn! (by Pete Seeger).
Although known for their harmonies, The Byrds suffered from discord. Crosby had an annoying habit of interrupting live performances with political rants, and the rest of the band ousted him in 1968.
After parting ways with the Byrds, Crosby began jamming with Buffalo Springfield’s Stephen Stills. Graham Nash of the Hollies ended the supergroup which took the name Crosby, Stills & Nash. Their 1969 self-titled debut album catapulted the band to Grammy Best New Artist status.
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The trio became Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young when Neil Young joined the group. CSNY claimed their place in music history with their performance at Woodstock. In 1970, their songs “Ohio” (a protest song about the Kent State shootings) and “Teach Your Children” demonstrated their anti-war activism.
In July 2021, Crosby spoke with USA TODAY about releasing his solo album “For Free.”
“80 is not a number you celebrate, sweetie,” Crosby joked. “Being old is not something to be celebrated in general.”
Crosby, instantly recognizable for his walrus mane and mustache, also reflected on the fight against mortality in the album’s closing track. His son James Raymond, whom he reunited with in the 1990s after putting him up for adoption in 1962, wrote it down.
“It’s a beautiful song, isn’t it? I had a bunch of friends call me crying (after hearing it),” he said. “He was a good (songwriter) when I met him, and we started writing together right away. But he’s at least as good as me, if not better.”
Crosby had an extremely prolific career: 12 studio albums with The Byrds; eight with CSN&Y, three with Crosby & Nash; and eight as a solo artist (beginning with 1971’s “If I Could Only Remember My Name”).
He was also involved in side projects such as CPR – Crosby, guitarist Jeff Pevar and his son James Raymond – which existed from 1996 to 2004. His life, he often said, was mostly spent on the road.
Despite having retired from major touring for the past two years due to health issues, Crosby has remained active in recording music.
“I miss being on the road because I’ve done it for 50 years, but I don’t think I’ll do it again,” he told USA TODAY in 2021. “Both my hands have a tendinitis…I’m 85% of what I used to be, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Crosby faced a series of health issues, including three heart attacks, a liver transplant and diabetes.
He served as a sperm donor for Melissa Etheridge and her former partner Julie Cypher. One of their two children, their son Beckett Cypher, died in 2020 at the age of 21 from an opioid addiction.
Her stellar career has often been accompanied by a chaotic personal life, detailed in her 2018 documentary, “Remember My Name,” directed by Cameron Crowe. Throughout the 80s and 90s, Crosby struggled with drug addiction, weapons offenses and prison time.
In recent years, Crosby has publicly argued with his CSNY bandmates, particularly Nash, for reasons he would never disclose. In his USA TODAY 2021 interview, Crosby was optimistic about the reality of ever fixing that relationship.
“Graham and I don’t like each other very much,” he said. “Human beings don’t grow up on parallel paths. The reason we can’t play together isn’t what people think it is, but I can’t tell you what it is. I don’t care. I’m busy as hell.”
Despite his declining health, Crosby still remained committed to music and social issues.
A regular on Twitter, Crosby interacted frequently with fans, tweeting Wednesday about topics including the arrest of climate activist Greta Thunberg and her favorite Beatles song (“Eleanor Rigby”).
On Thursday, singer Pink told USA TODAY that she just spoke to Crosby — a neighbor in California — last week about songs he wanted to play for her.
“He was a very spiritually deep person. My heart goes out to Jan,” she said. “We’ve lost so many great people lately. It’s really heartbreaking.”
Contributor: Kristin McGrath, USA TODAY