David Crosby, Who Started The Bands The Byrds And Crosby, Stills & Nash, Has Died At Age 81
His old bandmates praised him on social media for his skills.
Graham Nash wrote on Instagram, “It is with a deep and profound sadness that I learned my friend David Crosby has died.” “I know that people tend to talk about how unstable our relationship has been at times, but David and I have always cared more about the pure joy of the music we made together, the sounds we found with each other, and the deep friendship we’ve had for so many years. David was not afraid of anything in life or in music. He leaves a huge hole in this world in terms of personality and talent. Through his beautiful music, he said what was on his mind, in his heart, and in his soul. He leaves behind an amazing legacy. These are the most important things. My heart goes out to his wife, Jan, and his son, Django, as well as to everyone else he has helped.
Stephen Stills said in a statement, “I read a quote attributed to composer Gustav Mahler in this morning’s paper that stopped me for a moment: “Death has entered the room on calm cat’s paws.” I should have seen that something was wrong. David and I have bumped heads a lot over the years. Most of the time, they were just light taps, but they still left our heads numb. I was glad that we could get along. He was without a doubt a huge musician, and the way he thought about harmony was nothing short of genius. The glue that kept us together as our voices reached for the sun like Icarus. I am very saddened by his death, and I will miss him terribly.”
Crosby, who was born in Los Angeles and is the son of Oscar-winning director Floyd Crosby, joined the Byrds in 1964. In 1965, the band, which was known for its jangling guitars and layered harmonies, took two songs to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100: “Mr. Tambourine Man” by Bob Dylan and “Turn!Turn!Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season)” by Pete Seeger.
Crosby left the Byrds in 1967 because he had a fight with Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman, who were also in the band. After meeting Stills and Nash in 1968, Crosby, Stills, and Nash was formed. Their second show was at Woodstock in August of 1969.
Their self-titled first album gave them two top 40 Hot 100 hits: “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” at No. 21 and “Marrakesh Express” at No. 28. In 1969, the group won the Grammy for best new artist. (He is one of only two people in the history of the Grammys to have been nominated twice for best new artist. Before he won the award with CSN, he was nominated for it with The Byrds in 1965.
Neil Young joined the group in 1969. Their 1970 album, Deja Vu, which reached No. 1 on the Billboard 100, was a big step forward for them. Crosby wrote songs for the group like “Guinnevere,” “Almost Cut My Hair,” “Long Time Gone,” and “Wooden Ships,” but he was best known for his tight harmonies and rhythm guitar playing.
“As a writer and lead singer, and especially as a harmony singer, his understanding of song structure and harmony was instinctive, inspired, and magically creative,” producer Peter Asher wrote on Instagram. “The passage of time (and his own bad behaviour!) may have changed the way he looks, but it never changed his beautiful voice or sound, which will now live on forever. Without Dave, neither the Byrds nor CSNY would have become as popular and influential as they were.
Like his time with the Byrds, Crosby’s time with CSN and CSN&Y was marked by fights between band members. In 1970, Young left the group. CSN couldn’t stop fighting in the studio, so they didn’t put out another album until 1977. It was self-titled and included the hit “Just a Song Before I Go.” “Wasted on the Way” and “Southern Cross” were on Daylight Again, which came out in 1982. The band broke up for good in 2016, after several tours, but Nash told The Guardian in 2022 that they made something truly special: “David, Stephen, and I used to go to our friends’ houses in Laurel Canyon with a couple of guitars and kill them. We were out of this world. We had found a new way to sing by blending our voices and making them sound like one,” he said. “We’d murder them. They couldn’t believe we were doing what we were. Then we’d play “Guinnevere,” “Lady of the Island,” “Helplessly Hoping,” and “You Don’t Have to Cry,” and they’d all fall to the floor with their fucking brains melting. When I think of those times, I always picture that.”
Crosby agreed. In 2021, he told the Guardian that he liked the music he made with CSN and CSNY better than the music he made with the Byrds. “It’s a tie,” he said. “Both CSN and CSNY are smarter and more accomplished than the Byrds, and they went much further.”
Crosby was very busy outside of CSN. In 1971, he put out his first solo album, If I Could Only Remember My Name. As Crosby & Nash, he and Nash put out a number of studio and live albums. Between 1996 and 2004, he also put out a number of albums with CPR (Crosby, Pevar, and Raymond, who was David Crosby’s son). In 2014, he made his first solo album in more than 20 years. It was called Croz. He then put out five albums, and on several of them, he worked with Michael League of Snarky Puppy. David Crosby & The Lighthouse Band: Live at the Capitol Theatre, which was recorded in 2018 and released by BMG in December, was his first live solo CD/DVD set.
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