David Crosby: US rock legend dies aged 81

Veteran US folk-rock star David Crosby has died aged 81, his representative has confirmed.

He helped set up two major bands in the 1960s: The Byrds, and Crosby, Stills and Nash. He was renowned for his guitar-playing and vocal harmonies.

His career saw him achieve the rare feat of being inducted to the revered Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice.

Former bandmates saluted Crosby’s creative talents, while acknowledging the conflicts they had endured.

David Crosby performs in Milan in 2018IMAGE SOURCE,GETTY IMAGES
Image caption,

David Crosby on stage in 2018

Crosby’s wife told showbiz site Variety that he died “after a long illness” while surrounded by family.

“His legacy will continue to live on through his legendary music,” her statement added.

Crosby was born in California on 14 August 1941, the son of Oscar-winning Hollywood cinematographer Floyd Crosby.

He joined The Byrds in 1964 – a folk-rock group who scored their first hit with a cover of Bob Dylan’s Tambourine Man, and whose other singles like Turn! Turn! Turn! and Eight Miles High helped change the face of American pop and rock.

Pop group The Byrds (l to r): Chris Hillman; Dave Crosby; Mike Clark; Jim McGuinn; and Gene Clark, 1965IMAGE SOURCE,GETTY IMAGES
Image caption,

The Byrds, with Crosby second left, helped set the template for US pop and rock music in the mid-1960s

His tempestuous tenure – a period during which he also briefly dated singer Joni Mitchell – culminated in his being fired from the group three years later.

Crosby then formed a supergroup with Buffalo Springfield’s Stephen Stills and The Hollies’ Graham Nash, who were later joined by another Buffalo Springfield star, Neil Young.

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young made one of their first appearances at the Woodstock in 1969, and later had a hit with Mitchell’s song about the legendary festival.

This band, too, was beset by in-fighting and broke up after a few years – although they have periodically reformed for concerts since.

Hits written by Crosby during his time in the band included the hippy anthems Almost Cut My Hair and Deja Vuand he responded to the 1968 assassination of Robert Kennedy with the song Long Time Gone.

He became known for his countercultural politics and trademark moustache as well as his musicianship. A six-decade career culminated in his final album, For Free, released in 2021.

Graham Nash, David Crosby and Neil Young sing into a microphone during a concert in 1969IMAGE SOURCE,GETTY IMAGES
Image caption,

Crosby (centre) performs with bandmates Graham Nash and Neil Young in 1969

The record saw him team up with one of his children, James Raymond, who had been put up for adoption soon after birth and only became acquainted with his father three decades later.

Off-stage, Crosby had multiple run-ins with US law enforcement, including an arrest in 1982 on drug and weapons charges.

His substance abuse had reportedly intensified after the death of a girlfriend in a car crash when he was a young man.

There followed periods of ill health, and a liver transplant in 1994. Crosby’s reputation for a hedonistic lifestyle saw him named two decades later as “rock’s unlikeliest survivor” by Rolling Stone magazine.

‘A giant of a musician’

Crosby later expressed regret over his addictions and altercations with co-stars, telling the Los Angeles Times in 2019 he was “ashamed” of some of his past behaviours.

Following the musician’s death, former bandmate Nash expressed his “profound sadness” despite the two men’s often “volatile” relationship, adding that Crosby left behind a “tremendous void”.

“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,” Nash wrote.

“David was fearless in life and in music.”

Stills agreed, writing that his late collaborator was “without question a giant of a musician”, even though they had “butted heads a lot of the time”.

“His harmonic sensibilities were nothing short of genius,” he added.

Another tribute came from Beach Boys singer Brian Wilson, who wrote on Twitter that he was “heartbroken” at the news – as his fellow star had been an “unbelievable talent” and a “wonderful person”.

Sperm donor for Melissa Etheridge

Crosby helped fellow singer Melissa Etheridge and her partner have two children by acting as their sperm donor through artificial insemination. Etheridge wrote on Thursday: “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.”

Julie Cypher, Melissa Etheridge and David Crosby at 'Friends of the Dream Foundation,' a tribute to Jan and David Crosby, presented by Nexus Products Company at the Santa Monica Civic Centre in Los Angeles, Ca., 09/28/00IMAGE SOURCE,GETTY IMAGES
Image caption,

Crosby with Melissa Etheridge (centre) and her partner at the time, Julie Cypher, in 2000

Crosby, Etheridge and their respective partners revealed his involvement through an appearance together with the two young children on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine in 2000.

Asked why she chose Crosby, Etheridge told the magazine: “He’s musical, which means a lot to me, and I admire his work.”

In 2016, she said she had considered Brad Pitt, a good friend, as the donor, but decided against it because of the actor’s desire to have a family of his own.

“I looked and I saw how badly he wanted children and I thought, I don’t want to share this with someone who really, badly wants children because my children don’t need another parent – they have two,” she told Australia’s Studio 10.

Etheridge’s family saw Crosby “every once in a while”, she said, but Crosby and his wife Jan “totally understood that we are the parents”.

One of the children they conceived, Beckett Cypher, died in 2020 at the age of 21. Etheridge tweeted at the time that she “joined the hundreds of thousands of families who have lost loved ones to opioid addiction”.

Crosby said in 2021 that Beckett’s death was “hugely painful”. He told The Telegraph: “It’s never gonna get easy. You lose somebody you love and it hurts, that’s how it is.”

Drew Barrymore’s rehab

Etheridge told The Guardian later that year that Crosby blamed himself for Beckett’s addiction, thinking it might be genetic.

“But he can’t. Everybody has choices. You can’t just say: ‘Oh, that’s David Crosby’s son, so…’ That doesn’t work at all.”

Crosby and his wife also helped actress Drew Barrymore by letting her stay with them for three months as part of her programme of recovery from alcohol and drug abuse when she was 14 in 1989.

“I’m an old Hollywood kid, and I knew her story,” Crosby said at the time. “I felt she had been dealt a short deck, you know, a fifth-generation alcoholic, and I didn’t want to see her go down the tubes.”

Following Crosby’s death, other famous fans paid tribute on social media.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.

Tweets were sent from Crosby’s own account the day before his death was announced – with one stating that Eleanor Rigby was his favourite Beatles to song to play on a rainy day.

The exact cause of his death was not immediately specified.

Related Articles

Back to top button