David Crosby, US rock star, dies at 81

The Byrds and Crosby, Stills and Nash musician helped to shape the sound of 1960s rock

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US rock star David Crosby has died aged 81.

The folk rock artist was a founding member of both The Byrds and Crosby, Stills and Nash.

His representative said he died on Thursday, but no cause of death was revealed.

Innovative Californian folk-pop-rock combo The Byrds in London for their British tour. From left, David Crosby, Chris Hillman, Jim McGuinn, Michael Clarke and Gene Clark. Getty Images

However, his wife Jan Dance told Variety that Crosby died following a long illness.

“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,” his wife told the entertainment publication.

“Peace, love, and harmony to all who knew David and those he touched. We will miss him dearly."

Crosby was one of rock's essential musicians who helped shape the sound of 1960s rock and beyond.

Tributes poured in for the musician.

“I don't know what to say other than I'm heart-broken to hear about David Crosby,” tweeted Brian Wilson, co-founder of the Beach Boys.

Former bandmate Stephen Sills, with whom Crosby butted heads with over the years, told AFP: “I was happy to be at peace with him.”

“He was without question a giant of a musician, and his harmonic sensibilities were nothing short of genius,” Stills said of Crosby. “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.”

Crosby first found fame as a member of The Byrds, who hit the big time with their cover of Bob Dylan's Mr Tambourine Man.

He was fired in 1967 after several run-ins with his bandmates, but went on to co-found Crosby, Stills and Nash, alongside Graham Nash and Neil Young. At the same time, Crosby had a close relationship withJoni Mitchell, with the pair acting as each other's muse.

The band had their difficulties, but Nash released a statement expressing his “deep and profound sadness” over Crosby's passing.

“I know people tend to focus on how volatile our relationship has been at times, 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,” Nash said in a statement. “David was fearless in life and in music.”

“He leaves behind a tremendous void as far as sheer personality and talent in this world.”

As well as garnering a reputation over the years for being blunt, the mustached singer was renowned for his guitar-playing skills and his vocal harmonies.

He is also one of a handful of people who have been inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice.

His career spanned six decades and he is known for some of rock's most beautiful hits, including the hauntingly pure Guinnevere and Long Time Gone penned in 1969, the night after the assassination of Robert Kennedy and reflecting the uncertain times in the US.

The rock star was very active on social media platform Twitter, often posting several times a day.

Under the handle @therealddavidcrosby, he shared political and personal stances, took part in debates and wasn't afraid of dishing out criticism and humour.

Earlier this week, he shared a video of climate activist Greta Thunberg being arresting in Germany, writing “she is brave, nothing else".

On the same day, he told the world his favourite Beatles song was Eleanor Rigby and ironically responded to one user's tweet debating who would be allowed into heaven.

“I heard the place is overrated ... cloudy,” Crosby replied.

Additional reporting from AFP

Updated: January 20, 2023, 9:40 AM