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David Crosby Biography

Home > Music > C > Crosby, David > Biography

Birth Name: David Van Cortlandt Crosby
Born: 1941/08/14
Birth Place: Los Angeles, California, USA
Years Active: 1963 - Present
Genres: Folk Rock, Rock

David Crosby (born David Van Cortlandt Crosby, August 14, 1941) is an American guitarist, singer, and songwriter. In addition to his solo career, he was a founding member of three bands, The Byrds, Crosby, Stills & Nash (CSN, who are sometimes joined by Neil Young as Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young [CSNY]) and CPR. Crosby was born in Los Angeles, California and attended Santa Barbara City College. Originally, he was a drama student, but dropped out to pursue a career in music.

He moved toward the same Greenwich Village scene (as a member of the Les Baxter's Balladeers) in which Bob Dylan participated, and even shared a mentor of Bob Dylan's in local scene favorite Fred Neil. With the help of producer Jim Dickson, Crosby record his first solo session in 1963.

Crosby joined Jim McGuinn (who later changed his name to Roger) and Gene Clark, who were then named the Jet Set. They were augmented by drummer Michael Clarke, at which point Crosby attempted, unsuccessfully, to play bass. Late in 1964, Chris Hillman joined as bassist, and Crosby relieved Gene Clark of rhythm guitar duties. Through connections that Jim Dickson (The Byrds' manager) had with Bob Dylan's publisher, the band obtained a demo acetate disc of Dylan's “Mr. Tambourine Man” and recorded a cover version of the song, featuring McGuinn's 12-string guitar as well as McGuinn, Crosby and Clark's vocal harmonizing. The song turned into a massive hit, soaring to #1 on the charts in the U.S. and the U.K. in 1965. While McGuinn originated The Byrds' trademark 12-string guitar sound, Crosby was responsible for the soaring harmonies and often unusual phrasing on their songs.

In 1966, Gene Clark, who then was the band's primary songwriter, left the group due to stress. This placed all the group's songwriting responsibilities in the hands of McGuinn, Crosby, and Hillman. Crosby took the opportunity to hone his craft, and soon blossomed into a prolific and talented songwriter. His early The Byrds efforts included the classic 1966 hit “Eight Miles High” and its flip side “Why,” co-written with McGuinn.

Friction between Crosby and the other Byrds came to a head in mid-1967. Tensions were high after the famous Monterey Pop Festival in June, when Crosby's on-stage political diatribes between songs elicited rancor from McGuinn and Hillman. The next night he further annoyed his bandmates when, at the invitation of Stephen Stills, he substituted for an absent Neil Young during Buffalo Springfield’s set. The internal conflict boiled over during recording of “The Notorious Byrd Brothers” album in August and September. Differences over song selections led to arguments, with Crosby being particularly adamant that the band should record only original material. McGuinn and Hillman dismissed Crosby in mid-September, after he refused to participate in the recording session of the Goffin and King song “Goin' Back.”

In 1973, Crosby reunited with the original The Byrds for the album “Byrds,” with Crosby acting as the record's producer. The album charted well but was generally not perceived to be a critical success, and marked the final artistic collaboration of the original band.

Around the time of Crosby's departure from The Byrds, he met a recently unemployed Stephen Stills at a party at the home of Cass Elliot (of The Mamas and the Papas) in California in March 1968, and the two started meeting informally together and jamming. They were soon joined by Graham Nash, who left his commercially successful group The Hollies to play with Crosby and Stills. Their appearance at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair in August 1969 constituted their second live performance ever.

Their first album, “Crosby, Stills & Nash” of 1969, was an immediate hit, spawning two Top 40 hit singles and receiving key airplay on the new FM radio format, in its early days populated by unfettered disc jockeys who then had the option of playing entire albums at once.

The songs he wrote while with CSN include “Guinnevere,” “Almost Cut My Hair,” “Long Time Gone” and “Delta.” He also co-wrote “Wooden Ships” with Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane and Stephen Stills.

In 1969, Neil Young joined the group, and with him they recorded the album “Déjà Vu,” which went to #1 on the charts. That same year, Crosby's longtime girlfriend Christine Hinton was killed in a car accident only days after Hinton, Crosby, and fellow girlfriend Debbie Donovan moved from Los Angeles to the Bay Area. Crosby was devastated, and he began abusing drugs much more severely than he had before. Nevertheless, he still managed to contribute “Almost Cut My Hair” and the title track “Déjà Vu.” After the release of the double live album “Four Way Street,” the group went on a temporary hiatus to focus on their respective solo careers.

In December 1969, David appeared with CSNY at the Altamont Free Concert, increasing his visibility after also having performed at Monterey Pop and Woodstock. At the beginning of the new decade, he briefly joined with Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh and Mickey Hart from Grateful Dead, billed as “David and the Dorks,” and making a live recording at the Matrix on December 15, 1970.

In 1971, Crosby released his first solo album “If I Could Only Remember My Name,” featuring contributions by Nash, Young, Joni Mitchell, and members of Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, and Santana. As a duo Crosby and Graham Nash have released four studio albums and two live albums including “Another Stoney Evening,” which featured the duo in a 1971 acoustic performance with no supporting band.

During the mid-1970s, Crosby and Nash enjoyed lucrative careers as session musicians, with both performers (as a duo and respectively) contributing harmonies and background vocals to albums by Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, Dave Mason, Rick Roberts, James Taylor, Art Garfunkel, J.D. Souther, Carole King, Elton John and Gary Wright. Renewing his ties to the San Francisco milieu that had abetted so well on his solo album, Crosby sang backup vocals on several Paul Kantner and Grace Slick albums between 1971 and 1974 and the Hot Tuna album “Burgers” in 1972. He also participated in composer Ned Lagin’s proto-ambient project “Seastones” along with members of the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Starship.

CSNY reunited in 1973 at the Winterland in San Francisco. This served as a prelude to their highly successful stadium tour in the summer of 1974. Prior to the tour, the foursome attempted to record a new album entitled “Human Highway.” The recording session, which took place at Neil Young's ranch, was very unpleasant, and marked by constant bickering. The bickering eventually became too much, and the album was cancelled.

The 1974 tour was also full of constant bickering, though they managed to finish it without interruption. A greatest hits compilation entitled “So Far” was released during 1974 to capitalize on the foursome's reunion tour. In 1976, as separate duos, Crosby & Nash and Stills & Young were both working on respective albums and contemplated retooling their work to produce a CSNY album. This attempt ended bitterly as Stills and Young deleted Crosby and Nash's vocals from their album “Long May You Run.”

In 1989 Crosby issued his second solo album, “Oh Yes I Can,” 18 years after releasing his first solo LP. “Oh Yes I Can” included contributions by James Taylor, Bonnie Raitt, Graham Nash, Jasckson Browne, Craig Doerge and many others. Crosby worked with Phil Collins occasionally from the late 1980s to the early 1990s. He sang backup to Collins on “That's Just the Way It Is” and “Another Day in Paradise” and, on his own 1993 song, “Hero,” from Crosby’s third solo album “Thousand Roads,” he had Collins singing backup. In 1999, he appeared on “Return of the Grievous Angel: A Tribute to Gram Parsons,” singing a duet of the title track with Lucinda Williams.

CSNY did not perform together again as a foursome until Live Aid in Philadelphia in 1985, and then performed only sporadically in the 1980s and 1990s (mainly at the annual Bridge School Benefit organized by Young's wife Pegi). Without Young, however, Crosby, Stills & Nash has performed much more consistently since its reformation in 1977. The trio toured in support of their 1977 and 1982 albums “CSN” and “Daylight Again” and then, starting in the late-1980s, has toured regularly year after year. While the group has continued to perform live to the present day, since 1982 it has released only four albums of new material: 1988’s “American Dream” with Young, 1990’s “Live It Up,” 1994’s “After The Storm” and 1999’s “Looking Forward” also with Young. In addition, Crosby & Nash released the self-titled album “Crosby & Nash” in 2004.

In 1996, Crosby formed CPR or Crosby, Pevar & Raymond with session guitarist Jeff Pevar, and pianist James Raymond, Crosby's son. The group released two studio albums and two live albums before disbanding in 2004. After the disbandment in 2004, Raymond continues to perform with Crosby as part of the touring bands for Crosby & Nash and Crosby, Stills & Nash. In 2006 Crosby worked with David Gilmour on his third solo album “On an Island” along with Nash. The album was released in March 2006 and reached #1 on the UK charts.

Crosby’s first solo studio album in 20 years, “Croz,” was issued in January 2014. Released on the label he founded with Nash, Blue Castle Records, and produced by Daniel Garcia, the album included contributions from guest artists including Mark Knopfler and Wynton Marsalis.