David Crosby, of Byrds & Crosby, Stills & Nash, has died at the age of 81

David Crosby, singer-songwriter who helped define the voice of the Woodstock generation as a key member of the 1960s and 1970s Byrds & Crosby bands Stills & Nash but whose drug use made him a warning symbol of the era’s culture of excess, has died at 81.

A former publicist confirmed the death, citing family members. No other details were immediately available, but Mr. Crosby did have a history of hepatitis, diabetes, heart disease and other problems.

Mr. Crosby possessed one of the most ethereal singing voices of the Sixties, a sweet tone that meshed well with others.

As a member of the Byrds—a group once considered the American counterpart to the Beatles in the mid-1960s—and later with Stephen Stills and Graham Nash (sometimes augmented by Neil Young), Mr. Crosby sold millions of albums and performed songs that symbolized the era of peace and love. and political participation: “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “Turn! Twist! Twist!” and “Eight Miles High” with The Byrds; and with Stills, Nash and Young, “Carry On” and “Marrakesh Express” “teach your children” And “our house.”

Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, as a member of each group, Mr. Crosby was at the center of Los Angeles’ Laurel Canyon music scene and was considered one of the founders of folk rock.

He won critical acclaim when he appeared with Stills, Nash and Young at the Woodstock Festival in August 1969, and four months later, at the Dark Side of a Dream, Altamont Festival in California, where an audience member was shot dead by a member of the Hells Angels’ “Security” crew. .

At a time when Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Doors, and the Rolling Stones were taking rock in an amplified, acid-soaked direction, Mr. Crosby and his pals turned to a gentler, folk-inspired sound, with acoustic guitars and intricate harmonies. Every word can be understood clearly.

Music journalist Paul Evans wrote in “The Rolling Stone Album Guide” that Crosby, Stills and Nash “captured the spirit of the last moment of the American High Sixties”. “The CSN generation found in the band both spokesmen and actors: the singers’ slightly weary fantasies, their rural fantasies and songs about love and loss reflected the inner transformation of an aging youth culture.”

For a few years, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young were real stars. The group’s 1969 debut album, “Crosby, Stills & Nash” was hailed almost as a masterpiece, and won the band a Grammy Award as Best New Artist.

The group’s next three albums, “Déjà Vu,” “4 Way Street,” and “CSN,” all reached No. 1 or No. 2 on the Billboard pop chart and sold in the millions. Mr. Crosby has written many well-known songs for CSNY, including “Guinevere” Vietnam era anthemI’m about to cut my hair. One of the band’s biggest hits, “Woodstock”, was by one of their protégés, Joni Mitchell.

Few groups were so well suited to their time as CSNY, which embodied both the cozy dreaminess and the pent-up social anger of the period.

“Here’s the thing — we, singer-songwriters, came down from medieval troubadour,” Mr. Crosby told the San Luis Obispo Tribune in 2017. . Part of the job should be taking you on little emotional trips that make you feel things. And part of the job has to be us being city callers.”

Each member was recorded separately but, with the possible exception of Young, none could match the work they did together. In many ways, Mr. Crosby was the spiritual core of CSNY. His name always came first, and he seemed to embody the sad optimism of California in the age of the hippies. his songwooden ships (written with Stills and Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane) From CSN’s debut album in 1969 reflects the zeitgeist:

Wooden ships on the water, free and very easy

Easy, you know the way it’s supposed to be

Silver people on the coast, let’s be

Talkin” is a free and very easy game

Behind the group’s delicate musical harmonies, they often had fierce internal conflicts. Mr. Crosby’s worsening drug problems make him increasingly volatile and unreliable. Stills once poured a bucket of water on his head after a lackluster performance, and eventually the other members of the group refused to go on stage with him.

“They believed in me, and I failed them,” Mr. Crosby told the Toronto Star in 1989. “I became a malignant junkie, a criminal, a megalomaniac. I didn’t care about anything—not my friends, not my music, not myself.”

Once worth millions, Mr. Crosby sold his guitars and memorabilia to buy drugs. He dozed cocaine, injected heroin, and often kept a gun at his side. He was arrested several times and went to drug treatment facilities, only to get out or relapse.

In 1982, he was arrested in a Dallas nightclub for illegal possession of cocaine and a .45 caliber handgun. While appealing his five-year sentence, he took a serious interest in sailing and leading the life of a fugitive.

Instead, he walked barefoot to the FBI office in West Palm Beach, Florida, in 1985 and turned himself in. He was back behind bars, including a five-month stint in a Texas state prison, before being released in 1986.

He told People magazine in 1987: “I was kicking cola and heroin in the worst possible circumstances. They wouldn’t give me aspirin. I did it as cold turkey as you can make it, and it was hell.”

For 15 years, he hasn’t had a lot of beer. He later began smoking marijuana again, which angered some sobriety advocates.

“Most of the people who go to extreme lengths with drugs are dead,” Mr. Crosby told People. “Fool with them and you’ll get out. Then there’s about four ways you can go about it: you can go crazy; you can go to jail; you can die; or you can get kicked. That’s it. Anything else anyone says is bull.”

David Van Cortlandt Crosby was born on August 14, 1941 in Los Angeles. He had an often strained relationship with his father, Academy Award-winning cinematographer Floyd Crosby, best known for his work on the 1952 Western masterpiece High Noon.

Mr. Crosby was expelled from several private schools before graduating from a public high school. After an early interest in music, particularly jazz and the Everly Brothers, he began playing folk music in his teens with his older brother.

After performing in several groups in New York and California, he met Roger McGinn, leader of the Byrds. By adding amplifiers to their guitars, they created the Byrds’ jangley sound that took them to the top of the charts.

By 1967, disagreements between Mr. Crosby and other members of the Byrds led to his departure. He retreated to Miami, where he heard Mitchell singing in a coffee shop. Mr. Crosby produced her first album, “Song to a Seagull,” and they had a brief romance.

Back in Los Angeles, Stills (a member of Buffalo Springfield) and Nash (formerly of the Hollies) met at Mitchell’s or the home of Cass Elliott, lead singer of the Mamas & the Papas. Accounts vary of where they met, but Mr. Crosby, Stills, and Nash spontaneously began singing together and made plans to form a group.

“The reason we used our own names when we started the band was because we also wanted to pursue solo careers as well,” Mr. Crosby told the Los Angeles Times in 1994. They were in Buffalo Springfield, the Byrds, and the Hollis.”

Crosby’s drug dependence increased in 1969, when his girlfriend, Christine Hinton, was killed in a car wreck. “David went to identify the body, and he hasn’t been the same since,” Nash later said.

During his time in prison in Texas, Mr. Crosby played guitar in a prison rock band and began writing new songs for the first time in years. After his release, he published a remorse and revealed his autobiography, “been a long time(1988), released a solo album and reunited with Stills, Nash and Young on several acclaimed tours and recordings.

“David was playing some of the best music of his life,” Nash told The Washington Post in 1987. “And it surprises me because, I admit, I looked for brain damage right away. But it doesn’t look like he lost a single cell.”

in his 1988 song “compass” From the CSNY album “American Dream,” Mr. Crosby described his second chance in music and life:

I flew on the frantic flight of the bat’s wing

And I only knew darkness because of that

I grabbed the handle of death’s door

Like a fish out of water

You wait, you wait for the cat’s mercy

Mr. Crosby received a liver transplant in 1994 and, at various times, has dealt with heart disease, hepatitis, diabetes, a motorcycle crash, and the loss of a home due to an earthquake. In the late 1990s, he formed a band called CPR – not as a comment on his physical condition but to the band’s core members: Mr. Crosby, Jeff Bevar and James Raymond.

Raymond, who was adopted in the early 60s, learned in his 30s that Mr. Crosby was his biological father.

In addition to Raymond, Mr. Crosby’s survivors include his wife from 1987, Jean Dance; their son, Django Crosby; and two daughters from previous relationships, Erica Keeler and Donovan Crosby.

In 2000, it was revealed that Mr. Crosby was the biological father, through artificial insemination, of two children by singer Melissa Etheridge and her partner at the time, Julie Cypher. (Mr. Crosby’s biological son, Beckett Cypher, died of a drug overdose in 2020.)

In a surprising belated career shift, Mr. Crosby has evolved from a rebellious and addicted young man to a mellow sage who has seen it all. Among other things, he became a popular columnist for Rolling Stone magazine, providing advice on relationships, addiction, and music, such as Santa Claus counter culture. In 1989, he and his wife took on a teen, Drew Barrymore, to help the actress overcome her problems with drugs and alcohol.

He published his second memoir, Since Then: How I Survived It All and Lived to Tell It in 2006 and has been the subject of 2019 Documentary By A.J. Eaton, “David Crosby: Remember My Name,” in which he summed up nearly 20 years of his life: “Addiction takes you as if fire takes over a burning building.”

Despite occasional musical reunions, Mr. Crosby had difficult relationships with his former bandmates and eventually stopped speaking to Nash & Young. However, he did write and record new albums into his late 70s, and collaborated with a wide range of musicians, from rock guitarist Mark Knopfler to trumpeter Wynton Marsalis to the folk-jazz band The Rock. Snarky puppy.

Realizing that “the only thing I can do now is use the talent that has been given to me,” he sought to make up for his lost years. It doesn’t matter that it no longer tops the charts.

“I’m not interested in what you’ve already done. It’s already been done,” he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2015. “The trick is that when the music comes by your house, you have to turn on the lights and open the doors.”

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