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), of Death has happened. He was 81 years old.
Crosby’s wife, Jan Dance, announced his death in a statement to Variety on Thursday. 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 that our dear David (Kroes) Crosby has passed away after a long illness,” the statement read. “He was surrounded by love by his wife and soulmate Jan and son Django. Though 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. Peace, love and harmony to all who knew David and whom he touched. We will miss him greatly.”
He thanked fans for their love and asked for privacy “as we grieve and try to deal with our deep loss.”
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Born David Van Cortlandt Crosby on August 14, 1941, in Los Angeles, he honed his musical skills in coffeehouses, clubs and colleges as a teenager.
“I took a job washing dishes and tending tables at coffee houses so I could be there and ask permission to sing harmony with the person on stage,” the two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Famer told PBS in 2004. “That was the first time I got on a stage in front of people. Of course, I didn’t get paid, but it was huge time for me.
Crosby briefly studied drama at Santa Barbara City College, but music was his calling. In the early ’60s, he was moving from town to town, performing and learning from other musicians, when he crossed paths with folk singer Roger McGuinn. The two began collaborating, electronically enhancing folk music to create a style that would eventually be defined as folk-rock.
He joined with Gene Clark, Chris Hillman and Michael Clarke to form The Byrds, known for their influential sound. The band’s first single, a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man”, hit the Top 10 in 1965, followed by “Eight Miles High,” “All I Really Want to Do” and “Turn! Turn! Turn!” (by Pete Seeger).
Although known for cohesion, The Byrds were plagued by discord. Crosby had an unwanted 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 Stephen Stills of Buffalo Springfield. Graham Nash of the Hollies ended the supergroup that took the name Crosby, Stills and Nash. Their 1969 self-titled debut album garnered the group a Best New Artist Grammy.
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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, her songs “Ohio” (a protest song about the Kent State shootings) and “Teach Your Children” demonstrated her anti-war activism.
In July 2021, Crosby spoke with USA Today about the release of his solo album “For Free”.
“80 is not a number you celebrate, dear,” Crosby joked. “Getting older is not normally something to celebrate.”
Crosby, instantly recognizable for his signature mane and walrus moustache, also reflected on dealing with mortality in the album’s closing track. Her son James Raymond, with whom she placed him for adoption in 1962 in the 1990s, wrote it.
“It’s a beautiful song, isn’t it? I have a bunch of friends who make me cry (after they hear 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 a highly prolific career: 12 studio albums with The Byrds; eight with CSN&Y, three as Crosby and Nash; and eight as a solo artist (starting with 1971’s “If I Can Only Remember My Name”).
He also participated in side projects such as CPR – Crosby, guitarist Jeff Pever and son James Raymond – which existed from 1996 to 2004. His life, he often said, was mainly lived on the road.
Although he withdrew from any major touring in the last two years due to his health issues, Crosby remained active in recording music.
He told USA Today in 2021, “I miss being on the road because I did it for 50 years, but I don’t think I’ll do it again.” “I have tendonitis in both hands… 85% of what I used to do, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Crosby faced several health challenges, including three heart attacks, a liver transplant, and diabetes.
He famously served as a sperm donor to Melissa Etheridge and his former partner, Julie Cypher. One of their two children, son Beckett Cypher, died of opioid addiction in 2020 at the age of 21.
Her illustrious career was often matched by a chaotic personal life, as detailed in her 2018 documentary, “Remember My Name,” directed by Cameron Crowe. During the ’80s and ’90s, Crosby experienced drug addiction, weapons offenses, and prison time.
In recent years, Crosby has publicly feuded with his CSNY bandmates, especially Nash, for reasons he has never disclosed. In his 2021 USA Today interview, Crosby was optimistic about the reality of ever mending that relationship.
“Graham and I don’t like each other very much,” he said. “Humans don’t grow on parallel paths. The reason we can’t play together isn’t what people think, but I can’t tell you what it is. I’m not worried about it. I Busy as hell.”
Despite his declining health, Crosby still remained involved with music and social issues.
A regular presence on Twitter, Crosby frequently interacted with fans, tweeting about topics including the arrest of climate activist Greta Thunberg on Wednesday and his favorite Beatles song (“Eleanor Rigby”).
On Thursday, singer Pink told USA TODAY that she had just spoken to Crosby – a neighbor in California – last week about songs he wanted to play for her.
“He was a really deep person spiritually. My heart went out for life,” she said. “We’ve lost so many great people recently. It’s really heartbreaking.”
Contributing: Kristin McGrath, USA TODAY