David Crosby's Voice Blended in Two Hall of Fame Groups

Singer-songwriter was a founding member of the Byrds and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 19, 2023 7:30 PM CST
David Crosby's Voice Blended in Two Hall of Fame Groups
From left, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, Neil Young, and David Crosby perform at Reunion Arena in Dallas in 2000.   (Samuel Morales/Star-Telegram via AP, File)

David Crosby, a singer-songwriter and founding member of two hugely influential and successful folk-rock groups—the Byrds and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young—has died. He was 81. His family announced his death Thursday, saying only that it came after a long illness. Crosby had remained active on Twitter up until Wednesday, Variety reports, when he joked about heaven, posting, "I heard the place is overrated… cloudy." And he'd released an album, Live at the Capitol Theater, last month. Crosby, who contributed to both groups' intricate and sublime harmonies, was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame twice, once with each band.

Crosby grew up in Los Angeles. His father, Floyd, was an Academy Award-winning cinematographer, per Rolling Stone. He took a brief spin at college, then pursued a music career, starting as a solo act in folk clubs. He joined a band in 1964, when the Beatles had made bands all the rage, that already included Roger McGuinn and Gene Clark. Two incarnations later, the Jet Set were the Byrds, to which Crosby added his signature harmony on such hits as "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "Turn! Turn! Turn!" As a songwriter, he was overshadowed by McGuinn and Clark, who fired him in 1967 as tensions in the band escalated. They gave him a list of reasons, including his songwriting, and said he was impossible to work with. "All of which is partly true, I'm sure, sometimes," Crosby later said, adding, "But it was a drag."

At Joni Mitchell's house a few months later, Crosby ran into Stephen Stills and Graham Nash. They sang a song together three times, learning how their voices could best blend in harmony. "When we sang that third time," Nash later said, "my life changed." The first Crosby, Stills & Nash album came out in May 1969 with three songs written or co-written by Crosby: "Guinnevere," "Wooden Ships," and "Long Time Gone." The record was a hit, and the group began a tour after adding Neil Young. Their second concert ever was at Woodstock, in front of an audience of almost 500,000. In his memoir, Crosby wrote: "For that one moment we did something that tells you what's possible with human beings. ... Woodstock was a time where were was a prevailing feeling of harmony.”

The next album, Déjà Vu, was an even bigger hit, with the singles "Woodstock," "Teach Your Children," and “Our House." Later, Crosby said, "I think when the Beatles bomb blew apart, we were the best band in the world." But again, tension broke up the band, in summer 1970. Crosby, Stills & Nash toured in later decades, sometimes joined by Young, but ended for good in 2015 after Crosby and Nash clashed. Crosby long struggled with addiction, per CNN, but eventually got sober and resumed solo work. "David was fearless in life and in music," Nash posted Thursday. In 2021, Crosby told the Guardian that kicking drugs made the difference. "You go from not wanting to live to being very proud of living because you’re no longer killing yourself and you're taking care of your family again," he said, "being a decent guy and making music." (Read more obituary stories.)

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