Influential guitarist David Crosby died on Thursday, January 19, at the age of 81, his wife has confirmed.
“It is with great sadness after a long illness, that our beloved David (Croz) Crosby has passed away,” his wife, Jan Dance, told Variety 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.”
David was best known for his groundbreaking work as a founding member of The Byrds as well as Crosby, Stills and Nash, two bands that ushered in a new wave of music in the 1960s and 1970s. His impressive career spanned about five decades and he was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame not once, but twice.
Born David Van Cortlandt Crosby on August 14, 1941, David and bandmates Roger McGuinn, Gene Clark, Chris Hillman and Michael Clarke launched The Byrds in 1964, finding massive success with their cover of Bob Dylan’s “Tambourine Man.” Though the group was celebrated in the blues and rock music circles, David quickly became the odd man out due to his laid back concert style and humble life in comparison to his bandmates. By 1967, The Byrds kicked him out of the group, causing the band’s second album The Notorious Byrd Brothers to bomb.
Recalling in 1980 the moment his bandmates “came zooming up in their Porsches” and told David he was “impossible to work with,” the founding member knew his time with The Byrds was over. “I didn’t try to reason with them. I just said, ‘it’s a shameful waste … goodbye,’” David lamented at the time, Ultimate Classic Rock reported.
The Byrds cofounder quickly bounced back, however, and joined ranks with Stephen Stills and Graham Nash in 1968 to create Crosby, Stills and Nash. The trio’s debut album went multi-platinum, but their harmony was disrupted when Neil Young was brought into the fold. Clashing creatively, David and Graham moved on as a duo and continued making music together for the next several decades. David’s last solo album, For Free, was released in 2021.
David’s personal life was mired with complications pertaining to his health and his family. His first child, James Raymond, was born in 1962 to Celia Crawford Ferguson and was placed for adoption. James and his father later reunited. David went on to have three children with three different women throughout his time in Crosby, Stills and Nash. Daughter Erika was born to him and Jackie Guthrie, daughter Donovan followed whose mother was David’s ex, Debbie Donovan, and son Django was welcomed by David and his wife, Jan. It was later revealed in 2000 that David was musician Melissa Etheridge and partner Julie Cypher’s sperm donor, fathering their two children.
After a brief yet painful fling with songstress Joni Mitchell in 1967, David and Jan tied the knot in 1987, with bandmate Stephen walking Jan down the aisle. By 1994, the guitarist’s health began to decline and he famously underwent a liver transplant to combat the impacts of his past substance use. In 2014, David had to cancel the last performances of his solo tour due to cardiac stress.