Obituary – David Crosby – Legendary US musician
Legendary US musician David Crosby has died aged 81 after a “long illness”.
The singer, guitarist and songwriter was part of the original lineup of the Byrds and appeared on their first five albums, including the 1965 hit cover of Bob Dylan’s Mr Tambourine Man.
He also co-founded the folk rock supergroup Crosby, Stills & Nash along with fellow musicians Stephen Stills and Graham Nash. They later added Canadian singer-songwriter Neil Young to the lineup.
- Died: January 18th, 2023
- Details of death: died after a ‘long illness’.
David Van Cortlandt Crosby was born in Los Angeles, California, the second son of Academy Award-winning cinematographer Floyd Crosby, who formerly worked on Wall Street, and Aliph Van Cortlandt Whitehead, a salesperson at Macy’s department store. His father was a relative of the Van Rensselaer family, and his mother—granddaughter of Bishop of Pittsburgh Cortlandt Whitehead—descended from the prominent Van Cortlandt family; they “regularly inhabited the New York society pages before their wedding”.
Crosby was the younger brother of musician, Ethan Crosby. Growing up in California, he attended several schools, including the University Elementary School in Los Angeles, the Crane Country Day School in Montecito, and Laguna Blanca School in Santa Barbara for the rest of his elementary school and junior high years. At Crane, he starred in H.M.S. Pinafore and other musicals but he flunked out. Crosby did not graduate from the Cate School in Carpinteria. His parents divorced in 1960, and his father married Betty Cormack Andrews.
Crosby briefly studied drama at Santa Barbara City College before dropping out to pursue a career in music. He performed with singer Terry Callier in Chicago and Greenwich Village, but the duo failed to obtain a recording contract. He also performed with Les Baxter’s Balladeers around 1962. With the help of producer Jim Dickson, Crosby recorded his first solo session in 1963.
Crosby arrived back in Chicago from New York City to hang out with Terry Callier. On tour and in Chicago at that time was Miriam Makeba and her band, who knew multi-instrumentalist, Jim McGuinn. Callier introduced McGuinn to Crosby. Crosby joined Jim McGuinn (who later changed his name to Roger McGuinn), and Gene Clark, who were then named the Jet Set. They were augmented by drummer Michael Clarke, at which point Crosby attempted, unsuccessfully, to play bass. Late in 1964, Chris Hillman joined as bassist, and Crosby relieved Gene Clark of rhythm guitar duties. Through connections that Jim Dickson (the Byrds’ manager) had with Bob Dylan’s music publisher, the band obtained a demo acetate disc of Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” and recorded a version of the song, featuring McGuinn’s twelve-string guitar as well as McGuinn, Crosby, and Clark’s vocal harmonizing. The song turned into a massive hit, reaching No. 1 in the charts in the United States and the United Kingdom during 1965. While McGuinn originated the Byrds’ trademark 12-string guitar sound, Crosby was responsible for the soaring harmonies and often unusual phrasing of their songs, but whilst he did not sing lead vocals on either of the first two albums, he sang lead on the bridge in their second single “All I Really Want to Do”.
In 1966, Clark, who then was the band’s primary songwriter, left the group because of stress and this placed all the group’s songwriting responsibilities in the hands of McGuinn, Crosby, and Hillman. Crosby took the opportunity to hone his craft and soon became a relatively prolific songwriter, collaborating with McGuinn on the up-tempo “I See You” (covered by Yes on their 1969 debut) and penning the ruminative “What’s Happening”. His early Byrds efforts also included the 1966 hit “Eight Miles High” (to which he contributed one line, while Clark and McGuinn wrote the rest), and its flip side “Why”, co-written with McGuinn.
Because Crosby felt responsible for and was widely credited with popularizing the song “Hey Joe”, he persuaded the other members of the Byrds to record it on Fifth Dimension. By Younger Than Yesterday, the Byrds’ 1967 album, Crosby began to find his trademark style on songs such as “Renaissance Fair” (co-written with McGuinn), “Mind Gardens”, and “It Happens Each Day”; however, the latter song was omitted from the final album and ultimately restored as a bonus track on the 1996 remastered edition. The album also contained a rerecording of “Why” and “Everybody’s Been Burned”, a jazzy torch song from Crosby’s pre-Byrds repertoire that was initially demoed in 1963.
Friction between Crosby and the other Byrds came to a head in mid-1967. Tensions were high after the Monterey Pop Festival in June when Crosby’s onstage political diatribes and support of various John F. Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories between songs elicited rancor from McGuinn and Hillman. He further annoyed his bandmates when, at the invitation of Stephen Stills, he substituted for an absent Neil Young during Buffalo Springfield’s set the following night. The internal conflict boiled over during the initial recording sessions for The Notorious Byrd Brothers (1968) that summer, where differences over song selections led to intra-band arguments. In particular, Crosby was adamant that the band should record only original material despite the recent commercial failure of “Lady Friend”, a Crosby-penned single that stalled at No. 82 on the American charts following its release in July. McGuinn and Hillman dismissed Crosby in October after he refused to countenance the recording of a cover of Goffin and King’s “Goin’ Back”. While Crosby contributed to three compositions and five recordings on the final album, his controversial menage-a-trois ode “Triad” was omitted; Jefferson Airplane released a Grace Slick-sung cover on Crown of Creation (1968); three years later, Crosby released a solo acoustic version on Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s double live album 4 Way Street (1971); the Byrds’ version appeared decades later on the 1988 Never Before release and later on the CD re-release of The Notorious Byrd Brothers.
In 1973, Crosby reunited with the original Byrds for the album Byrds, with Crosby acting as the album’s producer. The album charted well (at No. 20, their best album showing since their second album) but was generally not perceived to be a critical success. It marked the final artistic collaboration of the original band.
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Around the time of Crosby’s departure from the Byrds, he met a recently unemployed Stephen Stills at a party at the home of Cass Elliot (of the Mamas & the Papas) in California in March 1968, and the two started meeting informally and jamming together. They were soon joined by Graham Nash, who would leave his commercially successful group the Hollies to play with Crosby and Stills. Their appearance at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair in August 1969 constituted only their second live performance.
Their first album, Crosby, Stills & Nash (1969), was an immediate hit, spawning two Top 40 hit singles and receiving key airplay on the new FM radio format, in its early days populated by unfettered disc jockeys who then had the option of playing entire albums at once.
In 1969 Neil Young joined the group, and with him, they recorded the album Déjà Vu, which peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and the ARIA Charts. On September 30, 1969, Crosby’s longtime girlfriend Christine Hinton was killed in a car accident only days after Hinton, Crosby, and Debbie Donovan moved from Los Angeles to the San Francisco Bay Area. Crosby was devastated, and he began abusing drugs more severely than he had before. Nevertheless, he still managed to contribute “Almost Cut My Hair” and the album’s title track. After the release of the double live album 4 Way Street, the group went on a temporary hiatus to focus on their respective solo careers.
In December 1969, Crosby appeared with CSNY at the Altamont Free Concert, increasing his visibility after also having performed at the Monterey International Pop Festival and Woodstock. At the beginning of 1970, he briefly joined with Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, and Mickey Hart from Grateful Dead, billed as “David and the Dorks”, and making a live recording at the Matrix on December 15, 1970.
CSNY reunited in the summer of 1973 for unsuccessful recording sessions in Maui and Los Angeles. Despite lingering acrimony, they reconvened at a Stills concert at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco in October. This served as a prelude to their highly successful stadium tour in the summer of 1974. Following the tour, the foursome attempted once again to record a new album, provisionally entitled Human Highway. The recording sessions, which took place at the Record Plant in Sausalito, were very unpleasant, marked by constant bickering. The bickering eventually became too much, and the album was cancelled.
In rehearsals for the 1974 tour, CSNY recorded a then-unreleased Crosby song, “Little Blind Fish”. A different version of the song would appear on the second CPR album more than two decades later. The 1974 tour was also affected by bickering, though they managed to finish it without interruption. A greatest hits compilation entitled So Far was released in 1974 to capitalize on the foursome’s reunion tour.
In 1976, as separate duos, Crosby & Nash and Stills & Young were both working on respective albums and contemplated retooling their work to produce a CSNY album. This attempt ended bitterly as Stills and Young deleted Crosby and Nash’s vocals from their album Long May You Run.
CSNY did not perform together again as a foursome until Live Aid in Philadelphia in 1985, and then performed only sporadically in the 1980s and 1990s (mainly at the annual Bridge School Benefit organized by Young’s wife Pegi). Without Young, however, Crosby, Stills & Nash performed much more consistently after its reformation in 1977. The trio toured in support of their 1977 and 1982 albums CSN and Daylight Again and then, starting in the late 1980s, toured regularly year after year. The group continued to perform live, and since 1982 released four albums of new material: American Dream (1988, with Young), Live It Up (1990), After the Storm (1994), and Looking Forward (1999, with Young). In addition, Crosby & Nash released the self-titled album Crosby & Nash in 2004.
Crosby, Stills, and Nash appeared together on a 2008 episode of The Colbert Report, and “Neil Young” joined them during the musical performance at the end of the episode. However, eventually, it became clear that it was only Stephen Colbert impersonating Young as the group sang “Teach Your Children”.
Following a November 2015 interview in which he stated he still hoped the band had a future, Nash announced on March 6, 2016, that Crosby, Stills & Nash would never perform again because of his poor relations with Crosby.
1971–2022: Solo career and Crosby & Nash
In 1971, Crosby released his first solo album, If I Could Only Remember My Name, featuring contributions by Nash, Young, Joni Mitchell, and members of Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, and Santana. Panned on release by Rolling Stone magazine, it has been reappraised amid the emergence of the freak folk and New Weird America movements and remains in print. In a 2010 list of the Best Albums published by the Vatican City newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, If I Could Only Remember My Name came in second to the Beatles’ Revolver.
As a duo, Crosby & Nash (C&N) released four studio albums and two live albums, including Another Stoney Evening, which features the duo in a 1971 acoustic performance with no supporting band. Crosby songs recorded by C&N in the 1970s include “Whole Cloth”, “Where Will I Be?”, “Page 43”, “Games”, “The Wall Song”, “Carry Me”, “Bittersweet”, “Naked in the Rain” (co-written with Nash), “Low Down Payment”, “Homeward Through the Haze”, “Time After Time”, “Dancer”, “Taken at All” (also co-written with Nash) and “Foolish Man”. During the mid-1970s, Crosby and Nash enjoyed lucrative careers as session musicians, with both performers (as a duo and individually) contributing harmonies and background vocals to albums by Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne (whom Crosby had initially championed as an emerging songwriter), Dave Mason, Rick Roberts, James Taylor (most notably “Lighthouse” and “Mexico”), Art Garfunkel, J. D. Souther, Carole King, Elton John, and Gary Wright.
Renewing his ties to the San Francisco milieu that had abetted so well on his solo album, Crosby sang backup vocals on several Paul Kantner and Grace Slick albums from 1971 through 1974 and the Hot Tuna album Burgers in 1972. He also participated in composer Ned Lagin’s proto-ambient project Seastones along with members of the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Starship.
Crosby worked with Phil Collins occasionally from the late 1980s to the early 1990s. He sang backup to Collins in “That’s Just the Way It Is” and “Another Day in Paradise”, and, on his own 1993 song, “Hero”, from his album Thousand Roads, Collins sang backup. In 1992, Crosby sang backup on the album Rites of Passage with the Indigo Girls on tracks two and twelve. In 1999, he appeared on Return of the Grievous Angel: A Tribute to Gram Parsons, singing a duet of the title track with Lucinda Williams.
In 2006, Crosby and Nash worked with David Gilmour as backing vocalists on the latter’s third solo album, On an Island. The album was released in March 2006 and reached No. 1 on the UK charts. They also performed live with Gilmour in his concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London in May 2006 and toured together in the United States, as can be seen on Gilmour’s 2007 DVD Remember That Night. They also sang backup on the title track of John Mayer’s 2012 album Born and Raised.
On July 14, 2016, Crosby announced a new solo album named Lighthouse, which was released on October 21, 2016, and shared a new track from it titled “Things We Do for Love”. The album was produced by Michael League of the big band Snarky Puppy, whom he met on Twitter, and also featured contributions by future collaborators Becca Stevens and Michelle Willis. On August 26, 2016, Crosby announced a US tour, an 18-date trek to launch on November 18, 2016, in Atlanta, Georgia, and to conclude on December 16, 2016, in Ithaca, New York. He also spoke out against Donald Trump during his campaign.
In September 2017, Crosby announced a solo album (his third one of original material in four years and his sixth in total) entitled Sky Trails, again with Raymond, to be released on September 29, 2017, on BMG.
On October 26, 2018, Crosby released Here If You Listen on BMG, his first collaborative album with League, Stevens, and Willis, all members of the Lighthouse band. The band also toured from November to December of that same year.
Crosby was the subject of the documentary film David Crosby: Remember My Name which premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Crosby mentioned that Cameron Crowe, who asked the interview questions for the film, knew “where the bones are buried.” Following the premiere of the film, Crosby toured as David Crosby & Friends from May to September 2019.
In July 2021 Crosby released what would become his final studio album, For Free. This was followed by the release of the 50th-anniversary expanded version of If I Could Only Remember My Name on October 15. It contains remastered songs as well as demos from the original recording sessions. During promotion for the rerelease, Crosby said that his second collaborative album with League, Stevens, and Willis was in the works. The result, Crosby’s final release, was a live album recorded during the band’s tour, Live at the Capitol Theater, released October 4, 2022.
Personal Life and Death
Crosby had a son with Celia Crawford Ferguson, James Raymond, in 1962, who was placed for adoption and reunited with Crosby as an adult. Beginning in 1997, Raymond performed with Crosby on stage and in the studio, as a member of CPR and as part of the touring bands Crosby & Nash and Crosby, plus Stills & Nash. Crosby had three other children: a daughter, Erika, with Jackie Guthrie, a daughter, Donovan Crosby, with former girlfriend Debbie Donovan, and a son, Django Crosby, who was conceived with wife Jan Dance after extensive fertility treatments while Crosby’s liver was failing.
Crosby, then 45, married Jan Dance, then 35, in May 1987 at the Hollywood Church of Religious Science in Los Angeles. His bandmate Stephen Stills gave away the bride.
Crosby’s brother Ethan, who taught him to play guitar and started his musical career with him, killed himself in late 1997 or early 1998; the date is unknown because Ethan left a note not to search for his body but to let him return to the earth. His body was found months later in May 1998.
On January 18, 2023, Crosby died at the age of 81 after a long illness.
Date of birth: 14th August 1941
Date of Death: 18th January 2023 (aged 81)
Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Crosby