American rock has lost a legend, whose career spanned nearly sixty years. Guitarist and vocalist David Crosby has died at the age of 81, the Variety newspaper announced on Thursday, January 19, citing a statement from his wife, Jan Dance, which refers to a "long illness".
The musician's agent confirmed to Agence France-Presse (AFP) his death. According to the press release quoted by Variety, David Crosby died surrounded by his wife and his son Django, but it is not known precisely on what date. His Twitter account was still active on Wednesday.
“Although he is no longer 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." "I don't know what else to say: I'm heartbroken," Brian Wilson, co-founder of the Beach Boys, tweeted.
Rare survivor of a vanished generation
With his guitar and mustache, David Crosby was the young America of the 1960s-1970s, between folk rock riffs and artificial paradises: David Crosby, co-founder of the Byrds before joining the supergroup Crosby, Stills, Nash
With five albums since 2014, the Californian with long white hair had begun a rebirth noticed by critics, hailing his clear voice preserved from tobacco, he who nevertheless dabbled in so many drugs, a rare survivor of a generation that disappeared long before him.
"I don't know why I'm alive, whereas Jimi [Hendrix] isn't, Janis [Joplin] isn't…, he was surprised to Rolling Stone magazine in 2014. I got lucky. »
This course of back and forth between several groups, interspersed with arguments and cocaine, the singer takes great pride in it. "The important things in my life aren't the problems I had, it's this magic that happened to me, that allowed me to create all this music," he told the Guardian in 2021. .
“Normally, as you age, you die out. You write less, ”he observed with AFP, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. On the contrary, he rejoiced that he had "extended [his] life" through his "simply love of making music".
A lasting influence on other bands like R.E.M.
This exceptional life began in Los Angeles, California, on August 14, 1941, of parents descended from large New York families, with a mother at home and a father in the cinema, crowned with an Oscar for best cinematography .
Before his 25th birthday, David Crosby was one of the founders of The Byrds, a group mixing rock from England with traditional American folk. It is he who brings this last component, full of melody, with his guitar and his voice. The Byrds' lasting influence would especially be felt on other bands like the Eagles and, later, R.E.M.
We owe them the hit Eight Miles High, a pioneering piece of psychedelic rock whose references to illicit substances will keep it away from the puritanical American radio stations for a while. These substances, David Crosby knew them only too well. "At the end of a concert, you're on top, that's when I took a lot. It kept me going after the show," he recalled to Rolling Stone. In 1969, his partner was killed in a car accident. He produced his first solo album, If I Could Only Remember My Name. There, in distress and heroin, he saves himself singing. "The only place I could cope was the studio," he told the Los Angeles Times in 2021.
Since then, the singer, a great lover of sailing, has never ceased to surprise himself by surviving his roller coaster. In 1986, he spent five months in prison in Texas for having been arrested, a few years earlier in a Dallas nightclub, in possession of cocaine and a loaded automatic pistol. Since then, his body has reminded him of his excesses: diabetes, heart attacks, a liver transplant in 1994.
These serious health problems had not prevented him from helping rocker Melissa Etheridge to have two children by donating sperm to the couple she formed with Julie Cypher. "He gave me a family," Etheridge tweeted with a photo of her and David Crosby on guitar.
"We were the best band in the world"
His zenith, David Crosby had undoubtedly experienced it a few decades earlier. In 1967 and 1968, dismissed from the Byrds for disagreement, he had found Stephen Stills, of the Buffalo Spingfields, and Graham Nash, of the Hollies, in the chalet of Joni Mitchell, legend of folk and for a time his girlfriend. The group is joined from time to time by the Canadian Neil Young.
The following year, on August 17, 1969, at the mythical Woodstock festival, Crosby already had his mustache and long hair for the second concert of Crosby, Stills, Nash
"He was without hesitation a musical giant," Stephen Stills said via an agent, "and his harmonic sensibility was nothing short of genius."
With Our House or Ohio, Crosby, Stills, Nash
He, this "Gandalf of Woodstock", according to Variety, was with this trio at the concert against nuclear power in 1979 but also during the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011. A few years later, he defended the carrying of firearms but also the young environmental activist Greta Thunberg.
His time in prison in 1986 served as a forced drug treatment. He says he has not touched a single hard drug since. "Actually, I feel pretty damn good," he told the Guardian in his everlasting flannel shirt with suspenders. “What I do is not just play guitar and sing. I'm not the best at either," the old bard told Agence France-Presse in January 2021.
"Where I'm really good is breaking that fourth wall, taking you on a little journey," he continued. Make you laugh, so that you can then make you cry. That's my job. »