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David Crosby, iconic folk rock singer-songwriter, dead at age 81

David Crosby, iconic folk rock singer-songwriter, dead at age 81
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David Crosby, the influential singer-songwriter who cofounded The Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash, has died, his representative confirmed to Variety. He was 81.

Crosby’s iconic career spanned seven decades. He wrote or cowrote several fan favorites with each of his bands, including “Eight Miles High” for The Byrds, “Wooden Ships” for Crosby, Stills & Nash (CSN) and “Almost Cut My Hair” for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (CSNY), the iteration of CSN which included Neil Young. 

He released eight solo albums, two of which — 1971’s “If I Could Only Remember My Name” and 2014’s “Croz” — entered the Billboard 100 charts.

California Saga 2 Benefit Concert
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member David Crosby, founding member of The Byrds and Crosby, Stills and Nash, performs onstage during the California Saga 2 Benefit at Ace Hotel on July 03, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.

/ Getty Images

Crosby first earned success with the Byrds in 1965 when the band scored a number one hit with its cover of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man.” But in 1967, amid rising tension between Crosby and his fellow bandmates, including anger over his appearance onstage with Buffalo Springfield at the Monterey Pop Festival, he was dismissed from the Byrds. 

He soon joined up with Buffalo Springfield’s Stephen Stills and the Hollies’ Graham Nash to form CSN. The group’s self-titled debut was well received, earning favorable reviews and reaching number six on the Billboard charts. Two of the album’s singles, “Marrakesh Express” and “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” also entered the Top 40 charts.

CSN’s second-ever live performance was famously at the Woodstock music festival in 1969. Crosby announced to the crowd, which has been estimated to have been as large as 500,000 people, “This is our second gig.” Stills followed that up by informing the audience, “We’re scared s—less.”

Neil Young, who Crosby had filled in for at the Monterey Pop Festival, joined the band in 1969 — prompting them to change the group’s name to CSNY. The group released the album “Deja Vu” in 1970, which reached number one on the Billboard pop chart and spawned three more Top 40 hits.

1970, which reached number one on the Billboard pop chart and spawned three more Top 40 hits.

Crosby Stills And Nash At Big Sur
Crosby, Stills and Nash and Young (L-R David Crosby, Graham Nash and Stephen Stills) perform onstage at the Big Sur Folk Festival held at the Esalen Institue on September, 15 1969 in Big Sur, California.

Getty Images

In May 2021, Crosby, Stills and Nash spoke to “CBS Sunday Morning” ahead of a 50th anniversary expanded release of “Déjà Vu.” 

Crosby said the band began to record the album following the death of his girlfriend, Christine Hinton, in a car crash. 

“I was in terrible shape,” Crosby said. “I was damn near destroyed. I’m just really lucky we were making that record, because it gave me a raison d’être.”

“It’s what kept me alive,” he added. 

“It is with a deep and profound sadness that I learned that my friend David Crosby has passed.” Nash wrote Thursday on Facebook. “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. 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.”

Despite several attempts, neither CSN nor CSNY would record another studio album together until 1977’s “CSN,” which would reach number two on the Billboard Pop chart. Crosby would continue recording with Nash, however, and the duo released three albums in the 1970s, “Graham Nash David Crosby,” “Wind on the Water” and “Whistling Down the Wire,” all three of which were certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America. The final Crosby & Nash album, the self-titled “Crosby & Nash,” was released in 2004.

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young would continue to reunite in various configurations for the next several decades, putting out studio albums and touring, including a full-fledged reunion of all four members for a short tour in 1974 that Crosby would end up referring to as the “Doom Tour.”

In addition to children he had with several romantic partners throughout his life, Crosby is also the biological father of fellow singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge’s child, she revealed in 2000

Etheridge on Thursday wrote on Facebook that was “grieving the loss of my friend and Bailey’s biological father, David. He gave me the gift of family. I will forever be grateful to him, Django, and Jan. His music and legacy will inspire many generations to come. A true treasure.”

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