Founding member of both the Byrds and of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and (sometimes) Young, David Crosby, has passed away at 81 years old. Crosby is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame musician who had a broad influence on the world of rock and roll. Rolling Stone’s Jon Dolan and Andy Greene write of Crosby’s life:
DAVID CROSBY, THE singer, songwriter, and guitarist who helped shape the sound of Sixties rock and beyond, died Wednesday night at the age of 81. A source close to Crosby confirmed the musician’s death to Rolling Stone, but did not disclose a cause.
Crosby was a founding member of the Byrds, playing guitar and contributing harmony vocals to their most enduring songs, including “Eight Miles High,” “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star,” and “Turn! Turn! Turn!” Shortly after being forced out of the group due to personality conflicts with frontman Roger McGuinn, he formed the supergroup Crosby, Stills, and Nash with Buffalo Springfield’s Stephen Stills and Graham Nash of the Hollies. The trio — which became a quartet in 1969 when Neil Young joined their ranks — played a major role in the development of folk rock, country rock, and the emergent “California sound” that dominated rock radio throughout the mid-Seventies. Croz wrote many of their most beloved tunes, including “Almost Cut My Hair,” “Long Time Gone,” and “Déjà Vu.”
“It is with a deep and profound sadness that I learned that my friend David Crosby has passed,” Crosby’s former bandmate Nash wrote in a statement. “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 was without question a giant of a musician, and his harmonic sensibilities were nothing short of genius,” Stills remembered in a message to Rolling Stone. “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.”
“I’m heartbroken to hear about David Crosby,” Brian Wilson wrote. “David was an unbelievable talent — such a great singer and songwriter. And a wonderful person. I just am at a loss for words.”
While Crosby’s success continued in the 1970s and into the Eighties, his personal life was marred by heavy drug use, which wreaked havoc on his career and led to a short jail sentence in 1985. Yet he recovered and continued making music and touring for another three decades. “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 was born in Los Angeles in 1941. His father, Floyd Crosby, was an Academy Award-winning cinematographer. David briefly attended Santa Barbara City College, but dropped out to pursue music. In 1964, he joined a band called the Jet Set, consisting of McGuinn and Gene Clark. They changed their name to the Beefeaters, and then the Byrds. Crosby’s gorgeous harmonizing, heard on hits like the Bob Dylan cover “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Turn! Turn! Turn!,” was an essential component in the Byrds’ folk-rock sound.
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