Seminal singer-songwriter David Crosby dies aged 81

The flood of tributes demonstrates the stunning legacy left behind by the former member of The Byrds and CSNY

David Crosby, the groundbreaking singer-songwriter and former member of Crosby, Stills & Nash and The Byrds, has died aged 81. A statement released on Thursday confirmed that Croz (as he was affectionately known to many) died at home, surrounded by his wife and son, after a long illness.

Coming of age in an era defined by experimentation and distrust of authority, Crosby took both to extremes. He played an integral part in the invention of psychedelia, jangle rock and country while with The Byrds before leaving the group and collaborating with The Hollies’ Graham Nash and Stephen Stills of Buffalo Springfield. The trio later added Neil Young to their number to become Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (or CSNY), releasing the seminal Déjà Vu in 1970.

The Byrds - Eight Miles High - 9/23/1970 - Fillmore East (Official)

Tributes have poured in from around the music world, particularly on Twitter, where Crosby had enjoyed playing the role of endearingly cantankerous elder statesman for the last few years of his life – offering solicited and unsolicited grumpiness on everything from Phoebe Bridgers and fan art to rolling skills.

His former bandmate Graham Nash acknowledged their “volatile” relationship but said that what mattered most to both of them 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.”

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young Live at Winterland 10/4/1973 Complete Concert

“David was fearless in life and in music,” Nash wrote. “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.”

The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson said he was “heartbroken” by Crosby’s passing, calling him “an unbelievable talent… and a wonderful person”. Roseanne Cash tweeted “I’m grateful David Crosby lived, and so very sad he’s gone”, while actress Christina Applegate said, “tonight at 7pm PST my friends and neighbourhood will howl and then blast CSN to honour this beautiful soul and legend”.

Steven Van Zandt of the E-Street Band summed up Crosby’s legacy succinctly, tweeting: “As a member of The Byrds, 1 of the historically essential Artists that created the Artform of Rock. The Byrds, Bob Dylan, Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Who, Beach Boys & Yardbirds, showed future generations like us what was possible. We owe him, and them, everything.”

David Crosby’s final studio album For Free was released in 2021.