David Crosby Dead At 81
David Crosby, one of the major music forces of the 20th century, died on January 19th of undisclosed causes at the age of 81. Crosby, who had battled back against crippling drug dependency and then poor health for decades, was one of the few musicians of his generation still pushing creative boundaries with new and young collaborators and finishing strong with a brilliant recent run of stage performances and studio recordings. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice — first as a co-founding member of the Byrds in 1991 and then as part of Crosby, Stills & Nash in 1997.
The Crosby family issued the following statement:
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. 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.
Longtime partner Stephen Stills posted on Facebook: “I read a quote in this morning’s paper attributed to composer Gustav Mahler that stopped me for a moment: ‘Death has, on placid cat’s paws, entered the room.’ I shoulda known something was up. David and I butted heads a lot over time, but they were mostly glancing blows, yet still left us numb skulls. I was happy to be at peace with him. 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.”
Graham Nash posted: “It is with a deep and profound sadness that I learned that my friend David Crosby has passed. 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.”
Brian Wilson also took to Facebook, writing: “I don’t know what to say other than I’m heartbroken to hear about David Crosby. David was an unbelievable talent — such a great singer and songwriter. And a wonderful person who was always so complimentary. And I always felt the same about him. David was one of the giants of our time — I just am at a loss for words. Love & Mercy to David’s family and friends. Love, Brian”
Last November, Crosby released his latest live set — David Crosby & The Lighthouse Band Live at The Capitol Theatre. He received raves for his 2021 solo set, For Free, which features key collaborators in recent years — son James Raymond, Snarky Puppy‘s Michael League, Michelle Willis, and Becca Stevens.
The album, which peaked at Number Two on the UK Independent Albums chart, is named after “Croz’s” cover of the Joni Mitchell classic. For Free features a new cover portrait by Joan Baez, and contributions from Steely Dan‘s Donald Fagen, and the Doobie Brothers‘ Michael McDonald.
Although forced off the road during the pandemic Crosby had been planning a tentative return to the stage. In 2022, Crosby sold his entire music catalogue to music mogul Irving Azoff‘s Iconic Music Group. He warmed the hearts of fans with his recent no-holds-barred online advice column, Ask Croz, via RollingStone.com.
David Crosby, whose father was Academy Award-winning cinematographer Floyd Crosby, grew up in affluent towns in and around Los Angeles, and later Santa Barbara, California. Crosby first attained fame as part of the Byrds, which he co-founded with Roger McGuinn, Gene Clark, Chris Hillman, and Michael Clarke in 1964. The next year, the Byrds went on to score two Number Ones with a cover of Bob Dylan‘s “Mr. Tambourine Man” and an electric beat arrangement of Pete Seeger‘s “Turn, Turn, Turn.”
By 1967, Crosby, who was always an excellent harmonist, had developed a unique modular guitar tuning style, and began submitting seminal ’60s work to the band’s sessions, including “What’s Happening?!?!,” “Everybody Has Been Burned,” “Draft Morning,” and the 1967 psychedelic classic “Lady Friend.” Most notably, Crosby co-wrote the band’s groundbreaking 1966 single “Eight Miles High.” Due to the growing mature nature of his songs and differing musical attitudes with McGuinn and Hillman, Crosby was fired from the Byrds.
In his 1988 autobiography, Long Time Gone, Crosby recalled being dumped by the band, remembering that, “(They said), ‘You’re real difficult to work with. We don’t dig your songs and we think we’ll do better without you.'”
In 1968, Crosby joined forces with the Buffalo Springfield‘s Stephen Stills and the Hollies‘ Graham Nash to form the supergroup Crosby, Stills & Nash. It was on their self-titled 1969 debut that Crosby was finally able to shine on Woodstock-era anthems such as “Long Time Gone,” “Wooden Ships,” and “Guinevere.”
The group’s 1970 follow up album, Déjà Vu, added Neil Young to the lineup and included such Crosby classics as the album’s title track and “Almost Cut My Hair.” During the group’s frequent sabbaticals, Crosby and Nash continued to work together, most often working as a duo.
Recently released is Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young‘s “super deluxe” 50th anniversary edition of 1970’s Déjà Vu, featuring four CD’s, and one LP. Among the 38 newly released tracks featuring demos, outtakes, and alternate versions — is an unedited 10-minute version of Crosby’s tour-de-force, “Almost Cut My Hair.”
2019 saw the theatrical release of the recent warts-and-all documentary, David Crosby: Remember My Name. The movie was helmed by first time feature-doc director A.J. Eaton and produced by Cameron Crowe, and featured an unflinching look at Crosby’s tumultuous life and career.
During a recent chat with Rolling Stone, David Crosby spoke about the 2020 drug overdose death of his 21-year-old biological son, Beckett Cypher — whom he fathered for Melissa Etheridge and Julie Cypher: “The biggie is my kid died. I didn’t get to raise that kid and I didn’t mean to raise that kid, but he was here many times. I loved him and he loved me and he was family to me. (Pause) It’s hard. You’re not supposed to have your kids die before you die. That’s a real punch in the face. It’s like a train hits you and then you have to get back up. So I’m having a hard time. It’s a real hard one and I haven’t yet cried and I’m gonna and it’s hard.”
Croz went on to say: “In the middle of all that, I get trigger-finger tendonitis in my hands. I went in to get it fixed and it didn’t work. Now I’m in a tremendous amount of pain in my right hand. It’s entirely possible that I may never play guitar again.”
Also in 2018, David Crosby announced he was seeking a licensing relationship with a national or global Cannabis company, which would provide the exclusive license of his iconic name and likeness for worldwide use. Crosby, who plans to use his brand name “Mighty Croz” as a tip of the hat to his legendary nickname “Croz,” will “actively advise the selected Cannabis company in developing and marketing the brand.”
Crosby’s recent creative resurgence saw him working both on his own and with son James Raymond — along with other much younger musicians. In February 2014, Croz — which marked Crosby’s first new studio collection in over 20 years — peaked at an impressive Number 36 on the Billboard 200 albums charts. Croz also hit Number Two on the magazine’s Top Folk Albums chart, Number Six on the Top Independent Albums chart, and Number Seven on the Top Internet Sales chart.
Back in 2010, the list of the “Best Albums” published by The Vatican’s official newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, ranked Crosby’s 1971 solo set, If I Could Only Remember My Name, second to the Beatles‘ 1966 masterpiece, Revolver. Crosby was baffled by the honor, telling Q magazine, “No one has yet worked out what the hell that was all about. And why should The Vatican have an opinion on music in the first place? And to choose me?! It baffles me as much as it baffles you, man. I got an email from David Gilmour saying, ‘Dammit! — Pink Floyd only came in third.'”
In March 2016, Graham Nash revealed that his relationship with David Crosby is virtually non-existent at this point and that Crosby, Stills, & Nash were effectively over. Classic Rock magazine translated a then-recent Nash interview with Dutch magazine Lust For Life, which spelled out the end of CSN: “It’s the first time I’ve said this out loud but this is the way it is. You asked me if there is more CSN? Well, my answer is no and that is very sad because we were pretty good but I’m currently not fond of David Crosby. He treated me horrible the last two years. Really, really awful. I’ve been there for him for 45 years to save his f***ing ass but he treats me like dirt. You can’t do that to me. You can do it for a day or so, until I think you’re coming around but if you keep going and I keep getting nasty e-mails, then I’m done. F*** you. David has ripped the heart out of Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young.”
Nash spoke to Radio.com regarding Crosby slamming Neil Young for leaving his wife of nearly 40 years for actress Daryl Hannah. Nash was asked if he would be the one to ever help mend that fence: “I’m not sure I can undo this one. This one is a deep one. You can’t insult Neil Young personally like that and hope to get away with it. And I told David that he was wrong to have said that and that he should jump on it and try and figure it out with Neil. But he waited about a year, and that’s way too long, and he did it publicly on The Howard Stern Show, apologized to Neil. But it was way too late.”
Nash went on to explain: “Hey listen, I’m the guy that wrote ‘Wasted On The Way’ because of all the songs that I wish we had written and had sung and had been together enough to make more music than we did. But I guess it’s what it is. I mean if CSN or CSNY never play another note of music, then that’s how it is.”
Although their relationship was admittedly strained by the time of Crosby’s death, when we last caught up with Crosby he said that his bond with Graham Nash went way beyond just music: “There’s a kinship there. I have tremendous respect and love for him, and he must love me, otherwise he would’ve tossed me aside long ago. And you can hear it in how we work with each other, what we do with our voices. It’s sort of like a pair of aerobatic, y’know stunt flyers, flying formation and doing stunts together.”
Art Garfunkel, who enlisted Crosby and Nash’s help for his 1975 album Breakaway says that Crosby’s vocal talent is unparalleled: “David Crosby can be very breathy and velvety, and, like, Brazilian. Perfect pitch, no vibrato. David Crosby, in his heyday, was one of the great baritones.”
Longtime friend Joe Walsh explained to us the hidden majesty of David Crosby’s vocal talents: “Y’know, if you listen to David Crosby in Crosby, Stills, & Nash, you never really hear him. You hear Stephen and you hear Graham — but the whole foundation of Crosby, Stills, & Nash is David Crosby — that ghost voice in the middle.”
By the early ’80s, Crosby had hit rock bottom due to cocaine and heroin addictions. In 1985 he served nine months in Texas State Prison for weapons and drug charge violations, and finally became sober.
In late-1994, on the eve of undergoing a liver transplant operation; he learned that his then-30-year-old biological son, keyboardist James Raymond, who was given up for adoption at birth, had tried to make contact with him. The father and son met the next year, and eventually formed a trio with guitarist Jeff Pevar, called CPR.
In 2004, Crosby was arrested in New York City for weapons, and marijuana possession. Later that year, he plead guilty and paid a $5,000 fine. Although Crosby had been thought to be completely clean after sobering up in the mid-’80s, he admitted at the time he sometimes used marijuana to curb the constant pain that resulted from his liver transplant.
Crosby, a father of six who has cheated death on numerous occasions, said that he’s grown to enjoy every day he’s still alive: “It’s a funny thing happens. When you come close to dying, and you don’t, each day becomes this precious jewel, this commodity that it’s so valuable to you. And you wind up really being excited with it, and really wantin’ to do something with every minute of every day. You have what the French call a ‘raison d’etre,’ a reason for being.”
A while back, when things were good between the lifelong friends, we asked Graham Nash if above his connections with Stephen Stills and Neil Young, he feels more spiritually and musically attuned to Crosby: “I would have to say so. I think my relationship with Crosby is very special. I’m very close to Stephen, and I’m very close to Neil — but I’m super close to David. For some reason, I’ve always recognized his madness. I’ve always recognized that he’s one of the most unique musicians on the planet. There’s nobody like David; He thinks in chords and time structure that is beyond me. I’m this simple guy from Salford who writes simple songs, y’know? But the combination of both of our musical abilities is what fascinates me — and he’s a fascinating person. I’m learning from David every single day — how to live my life and how to not live my life.”
While at the Sundance Film Festival promoting Remember My Name, Crosby spoke with TheWrap.com and was asked about what he would say to his estranged friend and partner, Graham Nash: “‘Probably tell him that I love him, ’cause that’s the highest of the emotions that I feel about it. That’s the best that I got. We sing wonderfully together and we made incredibly good music together. All four of us in that band have been horrible to each other (laughs) many times. One of us has left another of us in the middle of a tour, just hangin’ — ‘See ya, bye! Deal with it’ We’ve done a lot of weird beep to each other. So, if I had a chance to talk to him, I’d sit down and say, ‘Hey, y’know, I haven’t changed, I’m still the same beep – beep you started with in the first place.”
David Crosby told us that being a singer-songwriter has allowed him a unique connection to the human race. He told us about the best part of doing what he does: “People come up to me and say, ‘Jeez, I don’t wanna disturb you, but we conceived our first child to that song, and it means so much to me’. . . ‘The reason I bought a sailboat is because ‘Wooden Ships’ transported me’. . . ‘I don’t wanna bug you, but, y’know, if I didn’t have that first Crosby, Stills, & Nash record to listen to when I was in the ‘Nam — I wouldn’t have made it back. It kept my spirits up. Times when nothing else did.’ Well (laughs), you gotta live on that stuff, man. That really makes you feel like you have a purpose. There are times when it comes back to you the most astoundingly rewarding ways. And that’s probably it, when you know you’ve touched somebody’s life. Or expressed something that really meant something to them.”