David Crosby Dead: Byrds & Crosby, Stills & Nash Co-Founder Dies At 81

David Crosby's wife of 35 years, Jan Dance, announced the news on Jan. 19. Learn about David and his legacy here.

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Legendary musician David Crosby, who helped found influential rock groups The Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash (later Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young), has died at the age of 81. “It is with great sadness after a long illness, that our beloved David (Croz) Crosby has passed away,” his wife of more than three decades, Jan Dance, said in a statement to Variety. “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,” she continued. “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 Crosby
David Crosby plays a show in Florida in 2019 (Photo: Shutterstock)

David founded The Byrds in Los Angeles, Calif., in 1964 after dropping out of Santa Barbara City College to focus on music with frontman Roger McGuinn, Gene Clark, Chris Hillman, and Michael Clarke. Their cover of “Mr. Tambourine Man” by Bob Dylan earned them their first No. 1 hit, per All Music, and helped them become a trailblazing group in 1960s rock music. David contributed to The Byrds’ first five albums before leaving in 1967 due to creative differences.

By 1968, David found himself vibing with Buffalo Springfield‘s musician Stephen Stills and Graham Nash of The Hollies, and they formed a band titled Crosby, Stills & Nash. They released their self-titled debut album in 1968, which went multi-platinum and cemented the group as one of rock’s leading groups. Neil Young joined the group in time of their 1970 album, Déjà Vu — another massive hit that earned them a spot on the top of the charts. Their next two records, 1971’s 4-Way Street and 1974’s So Far, also hit the No. 1 spot.

Both bands have released more than a dozen albums collectively, with the most recent being by Crosby, Stills & Nash. The album took the form of a live recording from their 2012 tour. Both bands were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, with The Byrds grabbing the honor in 1991 and Crosby, Stills & Nash following six years later.

David Crosby
David Crosby poses for a portrait to promote the film ‘David Crosby: Remember My Name’ at the Salesforce Music Lodge during the Sundance Film Festival, in Park City, Utah in 2019 (Photo: Shutterstock)

Personally, the rock ‘n roll lifestyle caught up with David and he struggled with substance abuse over the years. He made headlines in 1982 when he was arrested after a quarter-gram of cocaine was found in his nightclub dressing room, as reported by The New York Times. He spent five months in prison at the Texas Department of Corrections for both drug and weapons charges and was released in Aug. 1986. “I’m very happy, I’m extremely happy. I don’t have much to say, but I thank you all for coming,” he said upon his release, per AP News.

The “Eight Miles High” hitmaker was hospitalized in Nov. 1994 for liver failure and underwent a seven-hour liver transplant on Nov. 21, per the Los Angeles Times.

Despite his struggles (including a fine for possessing marijuana and firearms in 2004 and hitting a pedestrian while driving in his 2015 Tesla), David always returned to music and released a handful of solo albums, including 1989’s Oh Yes I Can, 1993’s Thousand Roads, and 2014’s Croz. He also dabbled in acting and has 19 credits to his name, including two appearances on The Simpsons and a spot on a 1997 episode of Ellen. He also penned two memoirs with the help of Carl Gottlieb, Long Time Gone, (1988) and Since Then: How I Survived Everything and Lived to Tell About It (2007).

David is survived by his wife Jan Dance and their son Django. He also had a son, James Raymond, and two daughters, Erika and Donovan, from previous relationships. He was also the biological father of two children for singer Melissa Etheridge and her then-partner Julie Cypher.