DAVID CROSBY – Has Died. He Was 81 Years Old

Posted: January 20, 2023 in MUSIC

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. He was 81 years old.

Crosby co-founded The Byrds alongside Roger McGuinnGene ClarkChris Hillman and Michael Clarke in 1964, after performing on the acoustic coffeehouse circuit and in other bands, including Les Baxter’s Balladeers.

David Crosby was the most vital Byrd – by all accounts, trouble to himself and those around him; but the most vivid and creative of that musical tribe. Like many great partnerships, he and Jim McGuinn chafed against each other but generated an exquisite noise between them: Crosby had a voice like honey that draped over McGuinn’s more ant-like tones. I wish I’d seen them in action – those guitars that seemed to floss your brain between the ears, coated with the warmth of Crosby’s dominant harmonies: their records alone made me want to levitate.

He was critical to their creative evolution from Beatles-inspired folkies to electric 12-string revolutionaries taking trad arr to a new dimension, bringing John Coltrane into psychedelic pop and beyond. His work with them culminated in 1967’s “Younger Than Yesterday“. He also appeared on their fifth record, “The Notorious Byrd Brothers“, before he was fired from the band in 1967.

Born in Los Angeles, California, Crosby began his music career in the 1960s as a member of the band The Byrds, where he played guitar and sang harmonies. He was an important member of the band and played on several of their hit songs, including “Turn! Turn! Turn!,” “Eight Miles High,” and “Why.” He also wrote several songs for the band, including “Everybody’s Been Burned” and “Triad.”

A year after leaving The Byrds, Crosby formed Crosby, Stills & Nash with Nash and Buffalo Springfield’s Stephen Stills. The supergroup won Best New Artist at the 1969 Grammys following the release of their self-titled debut album and played their second ever gig at Woodstock.

Released on “Younger Than Yesterday”, “Lady Friend” crossed the band into the pop charts, The song tells the story of the fear of fleeting love and being on one’s own, crashing against the drums in the live version to the group’s chants of Here it comes / It looks just like the last wave I drowned in / Here it comes / And I’m so far from shore.

The Byrds performed the song during their appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967.

In 1968, Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash formed the supergroup Crosby, Stills, & Nash. The band released their debut album that year, which included the hit songs “Marrakesh Express” and “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.” The band was known for their powerful harmonies and socially conscious lyrics, and they quickly became one of the most popular bands of the era.

In 1969, Neil Young joined the band, and they became Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. The band released several successful albums, including “Deja Vu”, “4 Way Street”, and “So Far”. They also embarked on several tours, including a legendary tour with the Grateful Dead in 1974.

The title track of Crosby, Stills & Nash’s second album together, and their first as a quartet with Neil Young, Crosby wrote and sang the slow-burning “Déjà Vu,“ which explores reincarnation and karma.

Off Crosby, Stills & Nash’s third album, and their first live release, “4 Way Street”, “The Lee Shore” revisited a recurring theme in Crosby’s life, and where he liked to spend more of his time: sailing. In the same vein as “Wooden Ships,” in “The Lee Shore” Crosby references the open waters singing From the sailors of the Sandra Marie / There’s another island eight days’ run away from here / And it’s empty and free.

His first solo album “If I Could Only Remember Name” is, in many view’s, one of the greatest albums ever recorded. The end result of seemingly limitless studio time at Wally Heider, with all the great and good of the Laurel Canyon scene gathered to support Croz in the aftermath of the tragic death of the then love of his life Christine Gail Hinton. What emerged was an essentially cathartic and ultimately life affirming set of incredible music that has been a constant companion for me, and countless others, through good times and bad.

“What Are Their Names” questions the government and its real agenda in lyrics I wonder who they are / The men who really run this land / And I wonder why they run it / With such a thoughtless hand / What are their names and on what streets do they live?

“Laughing”, from his debut album “If I Could Only Remember My Name”, released in 1971.

Work on the album started after Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young released the album “Déjà Vu” in 1970. Many celebrated musicians play on this album, including members of CSN&Y, Grateful Dead, Joni Mitchell, Jefferson Airplane and Santana.

Crosby said about the music scene in San Francisco: “There was a friendship between the musicians rather than everyone competing and being cutthroat with everyone. It was a community of people who were more than willing to help each other, the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane in particular.”

And about the song: “Written to and for George Harrison about the Maharishi, and the idea was telling him that nobody’s really got ‘the answer’, and that people who try to tell you that they have the answer are most often trying to manipulate you.”

Graham Nash and Joni Mitchell contribute beautiful background vocals on this song. Pedal steel guitar by Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh on bass and Bill Kreutzmann on drums.

David was also the most interesting element of CSN, musically, even if drugs could get the better of him and bonsai his contributions. He let jazz, folk and rock’n’roll flow into each other, like a child playing with cups of water by a sink. There was a liquid quality to his songs and music.

As a person he was wonderful yet could on occasion be ghastly, apparently – like John Lennon himself. Overbearing at times, he nonetheless was very supportive of other artists, from Joni Mitchell up to Snarky Puppy.

Because David did such a great job in pulling himself out of the narcotic vortex in the late 1980s he seemed like he’d be around forever. It’s disturbing that he’s gone, almost as much as it’s sad: people like Crosby were built to endure, the way their love of music does. So even 81 seems too soon for him to be called away.

But nurturing new talent was nothing new for Crosby. After all it was David who introduced Joni Mitchell to the world, producing her stunning debut album “Song To A Seagull”. For a brief period they were lovers too.

In the 1990s, Crosby re-formed Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and released several albums, including “American Dream” and “Looking Forward”. He has also released several solo albums, including “Another Stoney Evening” in 2011.

The excellent biopic “David Crosby Remember My Name” told the whole story of his difficult years and how he rose out of them so triumphantly, culminating in six albums since 2014 that are easily as important as anything he previously recorded. An incredibly prolific period so late in the game.

Though the James Raymond-penned ballad “I Won’t Stay For Long”—a more somber tale of being reborn was a fitting close for David Crosby’s eighth and final album, “For Free”, earlier in the track list, he goes back to sea on the more uptempo “Ships In The Night.” The album cover art, a portrait of Crosby, was painted by his friend Joan Baez.

Crosby issued his most recent solo album, “For Free”, in July 2021. Before that, he showcased his Lighthouse Band (featuring Michael League, Becca Stevens and Michelle Willis) on 2018’s “Here If You Listen”The troupe released the “Live at the Capitol Theatre” CD/DVD set, Crosby also worked with more than a dozen collaborators — including his son, multi-instrumentalist and producer James Raymond.

Penned by Snarky Puppy bassist Michael League and Crosby, “Things We Do for Love” is a tender ballad opening Crosby’s fifth album “Lighthouse”. The song plays through all the steps one takes for love—But love is long / A little each day / You build it that way. League also co-wrote four more tracks with Crosby for the album.

That’s a lot of music to release six decades into one’s career, but Crosby still had plenty left in the tank.

“I have another Lighthouse Band studio record finished, mixed and mastered,” recorded in December 2022. “It’s ready to release already. And I’m two songs into another “Sky Trails” band record with my son, James. I’m three songs into another Lighthouse record after this one, but I have an entire one that you haven’t heard.”

Crosby recorded stellar studio albums, and a very recent live album, with the amazing Lighthouse Band, consisting of the beyond talented Becca Stevens, Michelle Willis and Michael League. And let’s not also forget the earlier, excellent CPR recordings with his son James Raymond and 2021’s remarkable “For Free” album, produced by James, who also collaborated on the “Croz” and “Sky Trails” albums.

In addition to his solo records, Crosby’s contributions are set to appear on a forthcoming compilation curated by his estranged former bandmate Graham Nash. The archival collection, which does not yet have a title or release date, will feature Nash and Crosby singing vocal harmonies with several of their musical contemporaries, including Jackson Browne, James Taylor and Carole King. (Nash has said the record has been in progress for about five years and was quick to note that it wouldn’t have signalled a reunion with Crosby.

Crosby, Stills & Nash (and Young) released eight studio albums; their last was 1999’s “Looking Forward“.

Outside of CSN&YCrosby often collaborate with Nash, releasing four studio albums together.

Graham Nash has said It is with a deep and profound sadness that I learned that my friend David Crosby has passed. 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.

Meanwhile, Stills wrote, “He was without question a giant of a musician, and his harmonic sensibilities were nothing short of genius. The glue that held us together [in CSN and CSNY] as our vocals soared, like Icarus, towards the sun. I am deeply saddened at his passing and shall miss him beyond measure.”

Neil Young has honoured David Crosby, who has died aged 81. Writing on his Archives website Young said, “David is gone, but his music lives on. 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. ‘Almost Cut My Hair’ ‘Dejavu’, and so many other great songs he wrote were wonderful to jam on and Stills and I had a blast as he kept us going on and on. His singing with Graham was so memorable, their duo spot a highlight of so many of our shows.

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