David Crosby Helped Define ’60s Rock With The Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash

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David Crosby (Photo via his Facebook page)

David Crosby, the legendary musician who first came to prominence as a founding member of The Byrds and went on to form, with Stephen Stills and Graham Nash, one of the hippest bands of the late ’60s, Crosby, Stills & Nash (and soon thereafter, CSN&Y, when the trio was joined by Neil Young), died on Jan. 18, 2023. Croz, as he was known, was 81, and had undergone a series of well documented health issues.

In a May 5, 2022, interview for Best Classic Bands, Crosby announced that after nearly 60 years of relentless touring, from clubs to stadiums, he was retiring from the road.

After being asked, “Are you going to tour anymore?” Crosby put it bluntly: “No.”

“I’m not, because I’m 80. It’s because I’m old,” he said. “Being on a bus tour is a daunting task. It’s very hard. It takes it out of you. I’m too old to do it anymore. I don’t have the stamina; I don’t have the strength.”

Watch Crosby, Stills & Nash perform “Wooden Ships,” a song Crosby wrote with Stills and Jefferson Airplane’s Paul Kantner, at the band’s 1997 Rock Hall induction

Seven months later, Croz seemed to have a change of heart. In a tweet posted on Dec. 15, he wrote, “So I played with some friends the day before yesterday and spent today sing (sic) with two really good friends and ……hmmmmmm….dare I say it? …I think I’m starting yet another band and going back out to play live…”

His Twitter page was his favorite social media platform and he often tweeted a dozen times a day or more. He was an ardent supporter of numerous human rights causes and regularly engaged with his followers on a variety of pro-social topics. His humor and brashness were legendary, and he was no stranger to controversy.

Although Crosby was estranged from former bandmates Graham Nash, Stephen Stills and Neil Young prior to his death, Nash quickly issued an appreciation following Crosby’s death. It read, in part, “I know people tend to focus on how volatile our relationship has been at times, but what has always mattered to David and me more than anything was the pure joy of the music we created together, the sound we discovered with one another, and the deep friendship we shared over all these many long years. David was fearless in life and in music. He leaves behind a tremendous void as far as sheer personality and talent in this world. He spoke his mind, his heart, and his passion through his beautiful music and leaves an incredible legacy. These are the things that matter most. My heart is truly with his wife, Jan, his son, Django, and all of the people he has touched in this world.”

Stills wrote, “David and I butted heads a lot over time, but they were mostly glancing blows, yet still left us numb skulls.

“I was happy to be at peace with him. He was without question a giant of a musician, and his harmonic sensibilities were nothing short of genius. The glue that held us together as our vocals soared, like Icarus, towards the sun. I am deeply saddened at his passing and shall miss him beyond measure.”

Young wrote, in part, “The soul of CSNY, David’s voice and energy were at the heart of our band. His great songs stood for what we believed in and it was always fun and exciting when we got to play together.

Related: Tributes for Croz from Stills, Nash and Young

One year of Crosby’s passing, Nash wrote, “Hard to believe it’s been a year since David passed. It feels like a long time and no time at all. Today I’ll be thinking of all of the good times we shared together. The not-so-good too because it was all part of being human with each other and loving one another. I miss you, David. We all do.”

Stills wrote, “In memory of David, my brother beyond, I will never think of him as gone. While he may have shuffled off this mortal coil he is just as present and with me, part of my everyday life.”

On Dec. 9, Crosby released a live album, recorded with the Lighthouse Band in 2018. He turned 81 on Aug. 14, 2022.

His earlier bout with COVID also took a toll on him.

“It has been awful,” he said back in that May 2022 interview. “COVID is a very weird disease. It makes you feel absolutely freaking awful,” he said. “It has been thoroughly unpleasant…it’s no fun at all. You want to avoid it if you possibly can.”

The discussion was part of an extensive interview that Best Classic Bands arranged between Crosby and a high school journalism class in Golden, Colo.

l. to r.: Graham Nash, Stephen Stills, David Crosby (from the photo session for their debut album)(Photo © Henry Diltz; used with permission)

In recent years, Crosby enjoyed an unprecedented career renaissance that began in 2014 with the release of his fourth solo album, simply titled Croz. At a time when many of his singing peers no longer had the range and clarity of their youth, Crosby’s was still as sweet as ever. Since then, he released four more solo studio projects, collaborating with a variety of musicians and singers: Lighthouse (2016), Sky Trails (2017), Here if You Listen (2018) and 2021’s For Free. Those were followed last fall by the previously mentioned  Live at the Capitol Theatre.

Born David Van Cortland Crosby on Aug. 14, 1941, in Los Angeles, Croz’s six-decade career included co-founding such culture-defining bands as The Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash (both of which have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame); collaborating with the likes of James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Elton John and Carole King, and gaining entry into the illustrious Songwriters Hall of Fame.

His 1971 debut solo album, If I Could Only Remember My Name, included a who-s-who of then-current Bay Area musicians, and he followed it with two more in 1989 and 1993. Then, beginning in 2014, after a lifetime of woes including prison time and legal and health issues, he began a comeback that never abated until his death, releasing a flurry of albums and touring frequently. He had not only announced an upcoming tour just before his death but said that another new album was forthcoming. The status of that project is unknown.

One of his frequent collaborators, beginning the late ’90s, was James Raymond, a son that Crosby had put up for adoption; when they reunited decades later, Crosby learned that Raymond become a talented musician and songwriter in his own right.

In 2019, a documentary, Remember My Name, produced by Cameron Crowe, was released to positive reviews. Croz’s recordings are available to order here.

Listen to the title track from For Free, Crosby’s most recent studio release. The track is a cover of a song written by his old friend, Joni Mitchell.

Related: Links for 100s of classic rock tours

Best Classic Bands Staff

4 Comments so far

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  1. Bob D
    #1 Bob D 19 January, 2023, 17:55

    Happy Trails Croz . I came to respect you very very much over the past 35 years . Safe journey .

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  2. Lorraine F
    #2 Lorraine F 20 January, 2023, 15:46

    I’ve loved that voice & sarcastic wit since The Byrds days. I will always remember your name. A piece of my heart is going with you.

    Reply this comment
  3. Coss
    #3 Coss 20 January, 2023, 23:52

    Ahh yes, a man after my true soul, take care and be safe to yourself and to those you run into along the way, for you know you will.

    Reply this comment
  4. Cisley
    #4 Cisley 5 February, 2023, 01:35

    In 1970 my boyfriend and I were walking into the Trident Restaurant in Sausalito, CA as David Crosby and an elderly woman were walking out. He looked so damn good.

    I enjoyed the Byrds music so much but it was CSN that really got me. Yes, CSNY was ok but I was not a fan of Y joining. I had that album too but could not figure why he had joined and still can’t. When CPR was released I felt like the sound of CSN was back again. Love that album. I have been on a journey with David Crosby’s music since the 60’s. What a wonderful journey it has been. I will miss that, I really will. He was an amazing artist.

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