David Crosby, Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash co-founder, dead at 81

Rock legend David Crosby has died after a “long” battle with an unknown illness. He was 81.

The singer’s wife, Jan Dance, announced the tragic news in a statement to Variety on Thursday.

“It is with great sadness after a long illness, that our beloved David (Croz) Crosby has passed away,” the statement read. “He was lovingly surrounded by his wife and soulmate Jan and son Django.”

It continued, “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.”

David Crosby and Graham Nash
David Crosby has died at the age of 81.

The family concluded the statement by asking for “privacy” during this difficult time and thanked the guitarist’s fans for all their “love and prayers.”

Crosby rose to fame in the mid ‘60s as a singer-guitarist for The Byrds alongside Gene Clark, Rogen McGuinn and Chris Hillman.

David Crosby in a tux.
Crosby died after a “long” battle with an unspecified illness.
Getty Images for The Recording A

Following his staggering success with the chart-topping group, he co-founded Crosby, Stills & Nash with Stephen Stills and Graham Nash.

Neil Young joined the iconic group in 1969 and the foursome continued to play together on and off for the next four decades.

David Crosby and Jan Dance
The musician and his wife Jan Dance had been married for over 35 years.
Patrick McMullan via Getty Image

Despite three consecutive No. 1 albums and a Grammy for Best New Artist in 1970, the group decided to split up for good in 2015 amid an on-going feud between Crosby and Nash.

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However, after hearing news of Crosby’s passing, Nash reflected on all the good years — and music — they shared.

David Crosby (R), Stephen Stills (L) and Graham Nash playing guitar.
Graham Nash paid tribute to his late friend and bandmate on Thursday.
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“It is with a deep and profound sadness that I learned that my friend David Crosby has passed,” Nash wrote on Instagram. “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.”

He continued, “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.”

David Crosby and his wife Jan Dance kissing.
Crosby released a documentary about all the trials and tribulations of his career in 2019.

Crosby was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1991 for his work with the Byrds and again in 1997 alongside Nash and Stills.

Back in 2019, the rock star released a brutally honest documentary about his life called “David Crosby: Remember My Name.”

The Byrds
The late rocker rose to fame in the mid ’60s after co-founding The Byrds.
Corbis via Getty Images

Although the film didn’t delve into his five-month prison stint in 1985 for possession of drugs and a firearm, it did detail the singer-songwriter’s impact on the music industry and the complicated relationships that followed.

“Most documentaries are shine jobs … We did not polish it up, it is not shiny and I’m an imperfect person … I’m not cute at all,” Crosby said at the premiere. “I’m a guy who’s been through a whole lot of stuff, has a very checkered history … I did not lie.”

Jan Dance rides behinds her fiancee, David Crosby, in the driveway of their home.
His wife announced the tragic news in a statement on Thursday.
Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

Born in Los Angeles in 1941 to Oscar-winning cinematographer Floyd Crosby, the late rocker knew he wanted to be a musician at a young age.

And while he tried to stay on the straight and narrow, Crosby ended up dropping out of Santa Barbara City College to pursue his dreams as a teenager.

“My brother turned me on to jazz, and [we] used to sing while we were washing the dishes,” he told American Songwriter last year. “I like singing and I like music, so to create it is just the most natural thing in the world for me. I never even considered being anything else.” 

David Crosby leaning on a blue guitar.
The “Cowboy Movie” singer knew he wanted to be a musician from a young age.
Getty Images

The late musician says Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell inspired him to start writing his own lyrics rather than just sing “songs that have been around for a hundred years.”

“I wrote some songs that were pretty good early on, and that encouraged me,” he told the outlet. “I don’t think I’m the best. I never did think that. But I’m probably in the top hundred of them in the world, and that’s plenty enough for me.” 

The “Cowboy Movie” singer was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2009.  

Left to right Stephen Stills, David Crosby, Tim Drummond (behind) and Graham Nash perform on stage at Wembley Stadium
Crosby was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice as well as the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Crosby is survived by his Dance, whom he wed in 1987, sons Django and James Raymond, as well as daughters Erika and Donovan from the singer’s previous relationships.

He also fathered Melissa Etheridge’s then-partner Julie Cypher’s two children, Beckett and Bailey Jean, via artificial insemination. Beckett died at age 21 in 2020.

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