David Crosby, Legendary Songwriter and Member of CSNY, Dead at 81

"His legacy will continue to live on through his legendary music," his wife wrote in a statement

David Crosby
David Crosby, photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

    David Crosby, legendary songwriter and member of The Byrds and Crosby Stills Nash and Young, has died at the age of 81, Variety reports.

    “It is with great sadness after a long illness, that our beloved David (Croz) Crosby has passed away,” his wife wrote in a statement. “He was lovingly surrounded by his wife and soulmate Jan and son Django. Although he is no longer here with us, his humanity and kind soul will continue to guide and inspire us. His legacy will continue to live on through his legendary music. Peace, love, and harmony to all who knew David and those he touched. We will miss him dearly. At this time, we respectfully and kindly ask for privacy as we grieve and try to deal with our profound loss. Thank you for the love and prayers.”

    Early Life and The Byrds

    Crosby was born August 14th, 1941, the second son of Academy Award-winning cinematographer Floyd Crosby. After dropping out of college, he made a name for himself as a solo artist in California’s burgeoning folk scene, and first changed rock history by joining bandmates Roger McGuinn, Gene Clark, Chris Hillman, and Michael Clarke in The Byrds in 1964.


    The group achieved a No. 1 hit with their cover of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man,” a track that introduced the layered vocal harmonies for which they would be known. Crosby contributed to five albums during a prolific three-year run, while his uncompromising personality bruised feelings. Following a controversial appearance at Monterey Pop Festival with Buffalo Springfield in 1967, during which he spread conspiracy theories about the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Jr, he and the rest of The Byrds agreed to part ways.

    Rise of the Supergroups

    In 1968 he formed Crosby Stills and Nash with Buffalo Springfield’s Stephen Stills and The Hollies’ Graham Nash, a lineup often credited with popularizing the supergroup in rock and roll. The trio won a Grammy for Best New Artist on the strength of their 1969 eponymous debut, and that same year Neil Young began to join them for live appearances, including Woodstock. As a quartet they were billed as CSNY and beginning with 1970’s Déjà vu, they left a lasting impression on music and the broader counterculture movement.

    Once again Crosby began to wear on his bandmates, though the group’s hard-partying ways in the glamorous Laurel Canyon scene may have contributed to their short tempers. CSN and CSNY took several breaks over the intervening years, occasionally regrouping to tour, make music, and clash again.