Folk Rock Pioneer David Crosby Dead at 81

David Crosby attends the 62nd Annual GRAMMY Awards at STAPLES Center on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, California
(Image credit: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

Legendary singer-songwriter and guitarist David Crosby has died at the age of 81.

A pioneer of the 1960s folk rock movement, Crosby co-founded the Byrds along with Roger McGuinn and Gene Clark in 1964. The following year, the Byrds released their era-defining debut album, Mr. Tambourine Man (opens in new tab), scoring the band a top ten hit on the Billboard charts.

Further success followed, however, by late ’67 Crosby had parted ways with the Byrds due to musical differences.

[Albums] are what we have based our life on... They are what we are going to leave behind

David Crosby

The following year, he formed the supergroup Crosby, Stills & Nash along with Buffalo Springfield’s Stephen Stills and the Hollies’ Graham Nash.

Released in 1969, the trio’s debut album, Crosby, Stills & Nash (opens in new tab), peaked at the number 6 position on the Billboard charts.

Adding ex-Buffalo Springfield member Neil Young, the group performed at the Woodstock festival before releasing the Billboard number one Déjà Vu (opens in new tab) album in 1970 as Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

In 1971, Crosby launched his debut solo album, If I Could Only Remember My Name (opens in new tab). His last, For Free (opens in new tab), arrived in 2021.

Speaking of his recorded work in a 2021 interview, Crosby told Guitar Player: “Albums are still our art form. They are what we have based our life on, and we still love making music. They are what we are going to leave behind.”

David Crosby 'For Free' album artwork

David Crosby's final album, For Free (opens in new tab), was released in 2021. (Image credit: Joan Baez)

Shortly before he passed away, Crosby joked on Twitter that heaven was “overrated… cloudy.”

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Soon after, tributes began to pour in from across the music world.

“I know people tend to focus on how volatile our relationship has been at times,” wrote Nash, “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 was without question a giant of a musician," said Stills, "and his harmonic sensibilities were nothing short of genius. The glue that held us together as our vocals soared, like Icarus, towards the sun.

"I am deeply saddened at his passing and shall miss him beyond measure.”

A post shared by Stephen Stills (@stephenstillsofficial) (opens in new tab)

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"David was an unbelievable talent - such a great singer and songwriter" tweeted the Beach Boys co-founder Brian Wilson. "And a wonderful person."

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Nils Lofgren paid tribute with a touching rendition of Tim Hardin's "Black Sheep Boy."

"Dear Croz, Rest in Peace and Song, old friend," he wrote.

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Rod Brakes

Rod Brakes is a music journalist with an expertise in guitars. Having spent many years at the coalface as a guitar dealer and tech, Rod's more recent work as a writer covering artists, industry pros and gear includes contributions for leading publications and websites such as GuitaristTotal Guitar, Guitar World (opens in new tab)Guitar Player (opens in new tab) and MusicRadar (opens in new tab) in addition to specialist music books, blogs and social media. He is also a lifelong musician.