David Crosby, co-founder of the Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash, dies at 81

David Crosby, co-founder of the Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash, dies at 81

David Crosby, the legendary rocker and co-founder of the Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash, has died. He was 81. A cause of death has not been revealed.

Crosby’s death was first reported Thursday by Variety, which included a since-removed statement attributed to the musician’s wife, Jan. The outlet later said it had confirmed his death with an unnamed rep. NPR confirmed his death with the singer’s publicist Michael Jensen. Reps for Crosby did not immediately respond to EW.

The Grammy winner — and 10-time Grammy Award nominee — was a two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee for his work with influential rock groups, the Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash (later Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young).

LOS ANGELES – APRIL 1988: Rock and roll legend David Crosby poses for a portrait in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Aaron Rapoport/Corbis/Getty Images)

Davis Crosby

| Credit: Aaron Rapoport/Corbis/Getty

From the start, Crosby was primed for Hollywood fame. Born on Aug. 14, 1941 in Los Angeles, Calif., he was the second son of Oscar-winning cinematographer Floyd Crosby and salesperson Aliph Van Cortlandt Whitehead. His brother, Ethan, was a musician, but Crosby first studied drama at Santa Barbara City College before ultimately dropping out and making the move to music.

The first of many musical successes for the singer, songwriter, and guitarist came in the ’60s, when he, Roger McGuinn, Gene Clark, Chris Hillman and Michael Clarke formed the quintessential folk-rock group the Byrds. The Byrds’ first No. 1 hit came with their take on Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” in 1965.

The Byrds had a famously tumultuous and short run, however. Clark left in 1966, citing anxiety and isolation from the group, and Crosby was fired in 1967 after making politically charged remarks on stage at Monterey Pop Festival in Northern California. Crosby ultimately appeared on the first five albums and would return to produce the group’s final album, Byrds, in 1973.

After leaving the Byrds, he teamed up with Buffalo Springfield’s Stephen Stills and the Hollies’ Graham Nash in 1968 to create Crosby, Stills & Nash. Released in 1969, their debut album was an immediate hit, peaking at No. 6 on the Billboard 200. The album featured the Top 30 hits “Marrakesh Express” and “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” and won the group the award for Best New Artist at the 12th Grammy Awards.

Neil Young later joined the group, which would go by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young for a time, for their second outing at Woodstock. Together, they released Déjà vu, which sold seven million copies and included their hit singles “Woodstock,” “Teach Your Children,” and “Our House.” However, after the quartet’s live double-album, Four Way Street, was released, the group effectively split up, though they would reunite for a handful of performances thereafter.

However, Crosby and Nash would go on to record four studio albums together, three of which were certified gold, and Crosby, Stills and Nash continued to perform and work together well into the 2000s.

Crosby Stills Nash And Young

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young perform on stage at Wembley Stadium in London on Sept. 14, 1974 (L-R Stephen Stills, David Crosby, Graham Nash, Neil Young)

| Credit: Michael Putland/Getty Images

In his later years, Crosby also formed CPR (Crosby, Pevar & Raymond) with his son, James Raymond and guitarist Jeff Pevar. They would release four albums — two studio and two live — but would also later break up in 2004. On his own, Crosby released six solo albums (five of which charted) starting with 1971’s If I Could Only Remember My Name.

In addition to his music career, Crosby did in fact return to his first area of study: acting. He had a string of appearances in the ’90s, including on The John Larroquette Show, Roseanne, and on film in Hook and Thunderheart. He also lent his voice to two episodes of The Simpsons

Crosby’s personal life was infamously tumultuous in the ’80s and ’90s, when drugs and weapons charges led to a 5-month prison sentence in 1986. Crosby, who had liver transplant surgery in 1994, was open about his struggles with alcohol and drug abuse at the time, which he later overcame. A longtime-clean Crosby told Rolling Stone in 2014, “I have no idea how I’m alive and Jimi [Hendrix] isn’t and Janis [Joplin] isn’t and all my other friends. I have no idea why me, but I got lucky.”

Crosby leaves behind his wife, Jan, their son Django, as well as son, Raymond, and two daughters, Erika and Donovan, from past relationships.

In 2000, news broke that Crosby was the biological father, via artificial insemination, of singer Melissa Etheridge’s two children, Bailey and the late Beckett, with then-partner Julie Cypher. Upon news of his death, Etheridge shared on her Twitter, “I am grieving the loss of my friend and Bailey’s biological father, David. He gave me the gift of family. I will forever be grateful to him, Django, and Jan. His music and legacy will inspire many generations to come. A true treasure.”

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