David Crosby, legendary singer-songwriter of The Byrds and Crosby Stills & Nash, dead at 81

One of the defining musicians of the 1960s has died: David Crosby, the singer, songwriter and guitarist known for his work with The Byrds and the supergroup Crosby, Stills Nash & Young, has died at 81.

Variety confirmed the news with a statement from his wife, Jan Dance.

“It is with great sadness after a long illness, that our beloved David (Croz) Crosby has passed away,” the statement read. “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.”

CAMBRIDGE, MA – SEPTEMBER 25: David Crosby speaks at Harvard University’s Sanders Theatre in a conversation with Harvard students titled ‘Gotta Get Down To It: Conversations With Musician David Crosby’ on September 25, 2018 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (Photo by Paul Marotta/Getty Images)

The Byrds

Crosby, born August 14, 1941 in Los Angeles, began his musical career in the influential band The Byrds. The band achieved a huge number one hit with a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man,” featuring distinct vocal harmonies.

Crosby was a member of the band from 1964 to 1967, contributing vocals and guitar to other classic tracks like “Turn! Turn! Turn” and “Eight Miles High.”

Despite their success, there was tension between Crosby and his bandmates regarding both the band’s musical direction and Crosby’s onstage political diatribes. Tensions culminated in the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, where Crosby performed with the band Buffalo Springfield, and Crosby was fired by his bandmates.

Crosby, Stills and Nash

However, Crosby soon found success with another highly influential band: Crosby, Stills and Nash, a collaboration with Stephen Stills and Graham Nash. Their self-titled 1969 debut album was a smash hit, selling 4x platinum and receiving critical acclaim.

UNSPECIFIED – JANUARY 01: Photo of Crosby Stills & Nash (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

The album features hit songs like “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” and “Marrakesh Express” and catapulted the band to fame.

Their performance at the Woodstock Festival that year helped cement them as one of their generation’s defining acts.

That same year, Neil Young joined the band, and they were renamed Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (CSNY). Their next album, 1970’s Déjà Vu, was another smash hit, featuring songs like “Teach Your Children” and “Our House.”

Crosby also began releasing albums as a solo artist. His first solo album, If I Could Only Remember My Name, received critical acclaim in 1971.

Drug addiction

Despite his critical and commercial success as a musician, Crosby also struggled with highly-publicized drug addiction throughout his career. He faced several arrests for drug possession and hospitalizations.

David Crosby, founding member of The Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash was arrested by Dallas police in April 1982 and charged with drug and gun possession. (Photo courtesy Bureau of Prisons/Getty Images)

Crosby’s drug problems also affected his personal and professional life, and was a source of tension with his bandmates. However, in the 1980s Crosby entered drug rehab and was able to overcome his addiction, later becoming an advocate for drug treatment and recovery.

While creative differences led to breakups, Crosby, Stills and Nash continued to perform together through the 2000s, though rarely with Young’s involvement.

LOS ANGELES, CA – FEBRUARY 06: (L-R) Musicians Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and David Crosby of Crosby, Stills & Nash perform onstage at the 25th anniversary MusiCares 2015 Person Of The Year Gala honoring Bob Dylan at the Los Angeles Convention Center on February 6, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. The annual benefit raises critical funds for MusiCares’ Emergency Financial Assistance and Addiction Recovery programs. For more information visit musicares.org. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for NARAS)

Crosby was one of the quintessential musicians of the 1960s and ’70s, helping to create the era’s distinct sound. He holds the rare distinction of being inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, as a member of The Byrds and of Crosby, Stills and Nash.

Rest in peace, David Crosby. Truly a generation-defining talent — his music will live on forever.

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