Legendary rock singer David Crosby dead at 81. Months before his death, he quit live performances, saying ‘I don’t have the strength.’
David Crosby, one of the most influential singers and songwriters of the 1960s, has died at the age of 81, his wife confirmed to Variety on Thursday.
The veteran rocker cofounded two of the biggest bands of the 1960s: The Byrds and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
“His legacy will continue to live on through his legendary music,” his wife said in a statement to Variety. “Peace, love, and harmony to all who knew David and those he touched. We will miss him dearly. At this time, we respectfully and kindly ask for privacy as we grieve and try to deal with our profound loss. Thank you for the love and prayers.”
Crosby was born in Los Angeles in 1941, to the Oscar-winning cinematographer Floyd Crosby, who won an Oscar for his work on the 1931 film “Tabu,” and Aliph Van Cortlandt Whitehead, a Macy’s department store salesperson.
He joined the Byrds in 1964, which scored its first hit with Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man.” Crosby, Stills & Nash — which became Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young once Neil Young joined — was formed in 1968 and released a series of hits including “Marrakesh Express,” “Just a Song Before I Go,” and “Woodstock.”
While Crosby’s success continued into 1980s, heavy drug use hurt his career and led to a nine-month jail sentence in a Texas state prison in 1985.
“I have no idea how I’m alive and Jimi [Hendrix] isn’t and Janis [Joplin] isn’t and all my other friends,” he told Rolling Stone in 2014, years after he’d cleaned up. “I have no idea why me, but I got lucky.”
Crosby continued making music and touring for another three decades, cementing his reputation as one of the most noteworthy musicians of the 20th century. He announced he would retire from touring in May 2022.
“I’m too old to do it anymore,” he told Best Classic Bands. “I don’t have the stamina; I don’t have the strength.”
Crosby was inducted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame twice, once in 1991 with the Byrds and then again six years later with Crosby, Stills & Nash.
He is survived by his wife Jan Dance, their son Django, son James Raymond, and two daughters, Erika and Donovan, from previous relationships.
Graham Nash pays tribute to David Crosby, dead at 81
Graham Nash has paid tribute to his former bandmate David Crosby after the singer-songwriter, a co-founding member of The Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash, died at the age of 81.
Crosby’s wife confirmed the news in a statement given to Variety, writing: “It is with great sadness after a long illness, that our beloved David (Croz) Crosby has passed away.
“He was lovingly surrounded by his wife and soulmate Jan and son Django. Although he is no longer here with us, his humanity and kind soul will continue to guide and inspire us. His legacy will continue to live on through his legendary music.”
She continued: “Peace, love, and harmony to all who knew David and those he touched. We will miss him dearly. At this time, we respectfully and kindly ask for privacy as we grieve and try to deal with our profound loss. Thank you for the love and prayers.”
Sharing a black and white photo on Instagram of he and Crosby’s guitar cases next to one another, Nash wrote that it was with “a deep and profound sadness” that he learned about Crosby’s death.
“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 continued.
“David was fearless in life and in music. He leaves behind a tremendous void as far as sheer personality and talent in this world. He spoke his mind, his heart, and his passion through his beautiful music and leaves an incredible legacy. These are the things that matter most. My heart is truly with his wife, Jan, his son, Django, and all of the people he has touched in this world.”
Crosby co-founded the folk-rock band The Byrds alongside his bandmates Roger McGuinn, Gene Clark, Chris Hillman and Michael Clarke in 1964, after performing on the acoustic coffeehouse circuit and in other bands, including Les Baxter’s Balladeers. He remained in the line-up only briefly, being dismissed from the band in 1967.
However, he stayed with them long enough to be involved from their evolution of Beatles-inspired early days to psychedelia-indebted tunes, and released four albums with the band, culminating in 1967’s ‘Younger Than Yesterday’. He also appeared on their fifth record, ‘The Notorious Byrd Brothers’, due to recording being midway through when he was fired from the band.
He would later go on to produce The Byrds’ 1973 reunion album, ‘Byrds’, which also marked the band’s final ever record.
A year after leaving The Byrds, Crosby formed Crosby, Stills & Nash with Nash and Buffalo Springfield’s Stephen Stills. The trio won Best New Artist at the 1969 Grammys following the release of their self-titled debut album. They performed their second-ever show at the legendary Woodstock festival in 1969 and were often joined onstage by Neil Young, who would later have his surname suffixed onto the band name.
Together, Crosby, Stills & Nash (and Young) released eight studio albums, including 1970’s ‘Déjà Vu’ and their last – 1999’s ‘Looking Forward’.
When the full band wasn’t working together, Crosby would often still collaborate with Nash. The pair released ‘Graham Nash David Crosby’, their debut album together, in 1972, followed by three more over the intervening years.
READ MORE: David Crosby: “Making music is crucial – and it’s keeping me alive” Aside from their own records, Crosby and Nash quickly became the go-to harmony vocalists for other acts of the ‘70s, including their bandmates Stills and Young. Elsewhere, they appeared on Joni Mitchell’s ‘Free Man In Paris’, James Taylor’s ‘Mexico’ and Jackson Browne’s ‘The Pretender’.
Crosby also had an illustrious solo career, kickstarted by his Top 20 debut solo album ‘If I Could Only Remember My Name’ in 1971. In 2014, he returned to the upper echelons of the charts with a Top 40 hit in ‘Croz’, while his latest solo release came in 2021 with ‘For Free, which featured cover art by Joan Baez.
In 2019, the musician became the focus of his own documentary, David Crosby: Remember My Name. The film was produced by former Rolling Stone journalist and Almost Famous director Cameron Crowe, and was nominated for Best Music Film at the 2020 Grammys.
The star was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame twice – first, with The Byrds in 1991 and again with Crosby, Stills & Nash in 1997.
Outside of music, Crosby also dabbled in acting, appearing as a guest star on The John Larroquette Show and episodes of Roseanne and Ellen. In 1991, he made the leap to the big screen, appearing as a pirate in Hook and as a hippie in Backdraft. A year later, he played a bartender in the Neo-western movie Thunderheart. Crosby also made two appearances in The Simpsons over the years, voicing the animated version of himself.
Crosby was also known for his political beliefs, opposing the US’ involvement in the Vietnam War and speaking out against Donald Trump during the latter’s presidency. “He feels to me like an 8-year-old kid that has never been allowed in his dad’s office and he’s broken and he’s peeing on the papers, running around madly with his dick flopping out, peeing on the papers saying, ‘I’ll show you!’” he told Rolling Stone of Trump in 2020.