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David Crosby Dies at 81

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David Crosby has died at the age of 81 after a long illness, his wife, Jan Dance, announced. The singer-songwriter was one of the co-founders of the iconic folk rock band the Byrds. He went on to achieve massive success as one-third of Crosby, Stills & Nash and as part of the on-again, off-again quartet Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. His influential solo debut, If I Could Only Remember My Name, arrived in 1971.

Born in California in 1941, David Crosby developed an interest in music when his older brother gave him a guitar as a teenager. In the mid-1960s, after spending time in Chicago and New York, Crosby co-founded the Byrds in Los Angeles with Gene Clark and Roger McGuinn. The Byrds made a splash with their versions of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” and Pete Seeger’s “Turn! Turn! Turn!,” before shifting their folk-rock sound to something more psychedelic on albums like Fifth Dimension, Younger Than Yesterday, and The Notorious Byrd Brothers. Crosby was fired from the band midway through recording the latter album.

After leaving the Byrds, Crosby began singing with Graham Nash and Stephen Stills. Crosby, Stills & Nash released their self-titled debut in 1969, and, the following year, they won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist. Neil Young joined the group for 1970’s Déjà Vu, released under the extended moniker Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. The artists continued shifting back and forth from CSN to CSNY over the following two decades. In 1999, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young released their final album as a quartet, Looking Forward.

For much of his career, Crosby released his own music sporadically. He released his debut, If I Could Only Remember My Name, in 1971, but went another 18 years before his next album, Oh Yes I Can. His third record, Thousand Roads, followed in 1993, but Crosby went another 19 years before sharing Croz in 2014. He went on, however, to release several more albums, including last year’s For Free.

In the mid-1980s, Crosby spent time in prison in Texas on drug and weapons charges. He reflected on the incarceration in a 2016 interview with Rolling Stone. “Prison is a very effective tool for getting your attention,” he said. “When I went in, I was a junkie and a freebaser—as far down the drug totem pole as you can go. And I was psychotic. But what happens is, it’s no longer a matter of choice: You’re there and you can’t get any drugs. Eventually, you wake up from that nightmare you put yourself in and remember who you are. I don’t regret going to prison a bit, man. Later I wrote a letter to the judge saying, ‘I understand how much the system fails, but I wanted you to know that this time, it worked. Thank you.’”

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