Singer-songwriter-guitarist David Crosby, a founding member of two popular and enormously influential ’60s rock units, the Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash (later Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young), has died, his representative says. He was 81 years old. A cause of death has not been revealed.
The death came as a surprise to those who followed his very active Twitter account, which he’d kept tweeting on as recently as Wednesday. One of Crosby’s final tweets the day before he died was to make a typically jocular comment about heaven: “I heard the place is overrated… cloudy.”
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With bandmates Roger McGuinn, Gene Clark, Chris Hillman and Michael Clarke, Crosby set down the template for ’60s L.A. folk-rock in the Byrds during his stormy 1964-67 tenure in the group.
Bonding with Stephen Stills of Buffalo Springfield and Graham Nash of the Hollies amid the glitter of L.A.’s late-’60s Laurel Canyon scene, Crosby launched CS&N, whose multi-platinum 1968 debut inaugurated rock’s supergroup era.
The addition of another volatile member, Stills’ erstwhile Buffalo Springfield colleague Neil Young, added to the act’s commercial luster. However, a constant clash of egos within Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, fueled by the rock excesses of the era, toppled the act during the ’70s, though its members would regroup sporadically over the years as a recording and touring unit. Crosby’s most stable association was with Nash: The duo recorded and toured regularly into the new millennium.
While never the principal songwriter in either the Byrds or CSN&Y, Crosby was an integral part of the densely layered harmony front line that launched both those acts’ multiple chart hits.
The hedonistic personification of the ’60s sex-drugs-and-rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, he grappled with addiction for many years. His sensational 1982 arrest in Texas on drug and weapons charges led to a five-month prison stay in 1986. Wracked by years of cocaine and alcohol abuse, he underwent liver transplant surgery in 1994.
Though he never returned to the popular eminence of his early years, Crosby recorded and toured profitably into the 2000s.
He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, as a member of the Byrds (1991) and Crosby, Stills & Nash (1997).
Crosby is survived by his wife Jan Dance, their son Django, son James Raymond, and two daughters, Erika and Donovan, from previous relationships.