David Crosby, singer, songwriter, and founding member of two hugely influential folk-rock bands—Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young and The Byrds—has died. He was 81.
Crosby was born in 1941 in Los Angeles and grew up performing in musical theater productions. He even briefly studied drama in college but dropped out to pursue a career in music.
He got his first guitar at the age of 16 and quickly became interested in folk and jazz music. He moved to New York City in the early 1960s, where he met the musicians with whom he would form The Byrds.
The group married the traditional-style folk sounds that were so prevalent in the Greenwich Village folk scene with the heavily folk-and-blues-influenced rock and roll that was coming from British groups at the time. Their recording of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” in 1965 scored the group a record deal with Columbia Records.
Considering that Crosby’s first solo demo of his career was made in 1963, that The Byrds released “Mr. Tambourine Man” on Columbia Records just two years later is remarkable. But the mid-1960s saw music being made and recorded at a remarkable pace.
Through the years, Crosby penned a number of Byrds hits including “Eight Miles High,” “What’s Happening” and “Everybody’s Been Burned.” After the band’s fifth album, however, interpersonal tensions arose and Crosby was asked to leave the band.
He had already been playing on occasion with Buffalo Springfield’s Stephen Stills on the side, and the two looped in Graham Nash after a party at Joni Mitchell’s house in 1968.
Crosby, Stills, and Nash’s self-titled debut was well-received, and they followed it with a sophomore record that included Neil Young and cemented their status as one of the best new bands on the scene.
Built on the foundation of lush vocal harmonies, CSN&Y has been one of the most influential bands to generations of folk and roots artists, and Crosby was one of its most important writers. Songs he wrote for the group—“Déjà Vu,” “Almost Cut My Hair,” “Guinevere,” and others—have been touchstones for generations of players and fans.
Crosby, Stills, and Nash continued to reunite and tour on and off through the rest of Crosby’s life, sometimes with Neil Young and sometimes without. Crosby himself continued to pursue other musical projects. A reunion with a son he had given up for adoption—who, it turned out, was a talented pianist—resulted in a new group called CPR.
He wrote two memoirs and was the subject of a candid documentary about his life—David Crosby: Remember My Name.
Crosby also continued to collaborate throughout his life with new artists in the folk and roots realm. Sarah Jarosz, in fact, noted in an Instagram post that she was in a recording studio with him just three days ago. No doubt, fans will be eager to hear the music that was captured in that session.
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – “Almost Cut My Hair”