David Crosby, a rock icon who rose to prominence in the 1960s as a founding member of both The Byrds and Crosby, Stills, & Nash (later renamed Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young), has died. He was 81.
Crosby’s wife, Jan Dance, announced his death in a statement to Variety on Thursday. Crosby’s representatives confirmed the news to Rolling Stone and Billboard. Patricia Dance, Dance’s sister, told The New York Times that he died on Wednesday.
“It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved David (Croz) Crosby after a long illness,” the statement says. “He was lovingly surrounded by his wife and soulmate Jan, as well as his son Django. Despite the fact that he is no longer with us, his humanity and kind soul will continue to guide and inspire us.
“His legacy will live on through his legendary music. All who knew David and those he touched wish you peace, love, and harmony. We’ll miss him terribly.”
She thanked fans for their support and requested privacy “while we grieve and try to cope with our profound loss.”
Crosby, who was born David Van Cortlandt Crosby on August 14, 1941, in Los Angeles, honed his musical skills as a teen at coffeehouses, clubs, and colleges.
“I took a job washing dishes and busing tables in the coffeehouse so I could be there,” the two-time Rock & Roll Hall of Famer told PBS in 2004. “That was the first time I ever got on a stage in front of people. Of course, I wasn’t paid, but it was a big deal for me.”
Crosby studied drama briefly at Santa Barbara City College, but music was his true calling. He was drifting from city to city by the early 1960s, performing and learning from other musicians, when he met folk singer Roger McGuinn. They began working together, electronically amplifying folk music to create a style that would eventually be labelled as folk-rock.
They formed The Byrds with Gene Clark, Chris Hillman, and Michael Clarke, who were known for their influential sound. The band’s first single, a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man,” reached the top ten in 1965, igniting a creative frenzy that resulted in hits like “Eight Miles High,” “All I Really Want To Do,” and “Turn! Turn! Turn!” (by Pete Seeger).
Despite their reputation for harmonies, The Byrds struggled with discord. Crosby had an unwelcome habit of interjecting political rants during live performances, and the rest of the band kicked him out in 1968.
Crosby began jamming with Stephen Stills of Buffalo Springfield after leaving The Byrds. Graham Nash of the Hollies completed the supergroup known as Crosby, Stills, and Nash. Their self-titled debut album in 1969 catapulted the group to a Grammy for best new artist.
When Neil Young joined the group, the trio was renamed Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. With their performance at Woodstock, CSNY cemented their place in music history. Their anti-war activism was evident in their songs “Ohio” (a protest song about the Kent State Shootings) and “Teach Your Children” in 1970.
Crosby spoke with USA TODAY in July 2021, on the eve of the release of his solo album “For Free.”
“80 isn’t a number you celebrate, darling,” Crosby jokingly said. “In general, being old is not something to celebrate.”
In the album’s closing track, Crosby, who is instantly recognisable for his signature mane and walrus moustache, also reflected on dealing with mortality. It was written by his son James Raymond, whom he reconnected with in the 1990s after placing him for adoption in 1962.
“It’s a lovely song, isn’t it? “A lot of my friends called me crying after they heard it,” he said. “When I met him, he was a good (songwriter), and we started writing together right away. But he’s just as good, if not better than me.”
Crosby had a prolific career, releasing 12 studio albums with The Byrds, eight with CSN&Y, three as Crosby & Nash, and eight as a solo artist (beginning with “If I Could Only Remember My Name” in 1971).
He also took part in side projects such as CPR (Crosby, guitarist Jeff Pevar, and son James Raymond) from 1996 to 2004. He frequently stated that his life was primarily spent on the road.
Despite a two-year hiatus from major touring due to health issues, Crosby has remained active in the recording studio.
“I miss being on the road because I did it for 50 years, but I don’t think I’ll do it again,” he said in 2021 to USA TODAY. “I have tendonitis in both of my hands… I’m only doing 85% of what I used to do, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Crosby struggled with a number of health issues, including three heart attacks, a liver transplant, and diabetes.
He famously donated sperm to Melissa Etheridge and her ex-partner Julie Cypher. Beckett Cypher, one of their two children, died in 2020 at the age of 21 from an opioid overdose.
His stellar career was frequently matched by a tumultuous personal life, as detailed in his 2018 documentary “Remember My Name,” directed by Cameron Crowe. Crosby struggled with drug addiction, weapons offences, and prison time throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
“Graham and I just don’t get along,” he admitted. “Human beings do not develop along parallel lines. The reason we can’t play together isn’t what most people believe, but I can’t tell you what it is. It doesn’t bother me. “I’m extremely busy.”
Despite his failing health, Crosby remained active in music and social issues.
Crosby, a frequent Twitter user, frequently interacted with fans, tweeting on Wednesday about topics ranging from the arrest of climate activist Greta Thunberg to his favourite Beatles song (“Eleanor Rigby”).
Pink told USA TODAY on Thursday that she had just talked to Crosby, a California neighbour, about songs he wanted to play for her last week.
“He was a deeply spiritual person. “My heart breaks for Jan,” she said. “We’ve lost so many wonderful people recently. It is truly heartbreaking.”