David Crosby – one of the legendary artists behind the Byrds, Crosby, Stills & Nash, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – has died, according to his wife, Jan Dance. He passed at the age of 81 after a long battle with an illness.
Born in California in 1941, David Crosby's interest in music began when his older brother gave him a guitar as a teenager. In the mid-1960s, after spending time in Chicago and New York, Crosby co-founded the Byrds in Los Angeles with Gene Clark and Roger McGuinn. The Byrds grew in popularity with their versions of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” and Pete Seeger’s “Turn! Turn! Turn!” before shifting their folk-rock sound to something more psychedelic on albums like Fifth Dimension, Younger Than Yesterday, and The Notorious Byrd Brothers.
After being fired from the Byrds midway through recording the latter album, Crosby began singing with Graham Nash and Stephen Stills. Crosby, Stills & Nash released their self-titled debut in 1969. The following year, they won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist. Neil Young joined the group for 1970’s Déjà Vu, released under the extended moniker Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. They shifted back and forth from CSN to CSNY over the following two decades. The supergroup was known for songs such as "Our House," "Teach Your Children," and "Southern Cross." In 1999, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young released their final album, Looking Forward.
Crosby also had a solo career. He released his debut, If I Could Only Remember My Name, in 1971, but went another 18 years before his next album, Oh Yes I Can. His third record, Thousand Roads, dropped in 1993, but Crosby went another 19 years before sharing Croz in 2014. He went on to release several more albums, including last year’s For Free.
Crosby also overcame struggles with addiction. In the mid-1980s, he spent time in prison in Texas on drug and weapons charges. He reflected on the incarceration in a 2016 interview with Rolling Stone, saying, “Prison is a very effective tool for getting your attention. When I went in, I was a junkie and a freebaser — as far down the drug totem pole as you can go. And I was psychotic. But what happens is, it’s no longer a matter of choice: You’re there and you can’t get any drugs. Eventually, you wake up from that nightmare you put yourself in and remember who you are. I don’t regret going to prison a bit, man. Later I wrote a letter to the judge saying, ‘I understand how much the system fails, but I wanted you to know that this time, it worked. Thank you.’”
Tributes have poured in from the likes of Brian Wilson, Melissa Etheridge, Micky Dolenz, the band Jefferson Airplane, and many more. Graham Nash remembered his former band mate in a statement posted to Instagram. “I know people tend to focus on how volatile our relationship has been at times, but what has always mattered to David and me more than anything was the pure joy of the music we created together, the sound we discovered with one another, and the deep friendship we shared over all these many long years,” he wrote.
Stephen Stills also shared a statement of his own with Deadline. “He was without question a giant of a musician, and his harmonic sensibilities were nothing short of genius. The glue that held us together as our vocals soared, like Icarus, towards the sun. I am deeply saddened at his passing and shall miss him beyond measure.”
Crosby is survived by his wife and their son Django, as well as son James Raymond and two daughters from previous relationships: Erika and Donovan. He was also the biological father of two children singer Melissa Etheridge had with former partner Julie Cypher.
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