Happy Birthday to David Crosby, who turns 71 today (August 14th). Crosby, whose father was Academy Award-winning cinematographer Floyd Crosby, grew up in affluent towns in and around Los Angeles, and later Santa Barbara, California. He first attained fame as part of the Byrds, which he co-founded with Roger McGuinn, Gene Clark, Chris Hillman, and Michael Clarke in 1964. The next year, the Byrds went on to score two Number Ones with a cover of Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man" and an electric beat arrangement of Pete Seeger's "Turn, Turn, Turn."
By 1967, Crosby, who was always an excellent harmonist, had developed a unique modular guitar tuning style, and began submitting seminal '60s work to the band's sessions, including "What's Happening?!?!," "Everybody Has Been Burned," "Draft Morning," and the 1967 psychedelic classic "Lady Friend." Most notably, Crosby co-wrote the band's groundbreaking 1966 single "Eight Mile High." Due to the growing mature nature of his songs and differing musical attitudes with McGuinn and Hillman, Crosby was fired from the Byrds.
In his 1988 autobiography, Long Time Gone, Crosby recalled being dumped by the band, remembering that, "(They said), 'You're real difficult to work with. We don't dig your songs and we think we'll do better without you.'"
In 1968, Crosby joined forces with the Buffalo Springfield's Stephen Stills and the Hollies' Graham Nash to form the supergroup Crosby, Stills & Nash. It was on their self-titled 1969 debut that Crosby was finally able to shine on Woodstock-era anthems such as "Long Time Gone," "Wooden Ships," and "Guinevere."
The group's 1970 follow up album, Deja Vu, added Neil Young to the lineup and included such Crosby classics as the album's title track and "Almost Cut My Hair." During the group's frequent sabbaticals, Crosby and Nash continued to work together, most often working as a duo.
Crosby says that his bond with Nash goes way beyond just music: "There's a kinship there. I have tremendous respect and love for him, and he must love me, otherwise he would've tossed me aside long ago. And you can hear it in how we work with each other, what we do with our voices. It's sort of like a pair of aerobatic, y'know stunt flyers, flying formation and doing stunts together."
Art Garfunkel, who enlisted Crosby and Nash's help for his 1975 album Breakaway says that Crosby's vocal talent is unparalleled: "David Crosby can be very breathy and velvety, and like Brazilian. Perfect pitch, no vibrato. David Crosby, in his heyday, was one of the great baritones."
By the early '80s, Crosby had hit rock bottom due to cocaine and heroin addictions. In 1985 he served nine months in Texas State Prison for weapons and drug charge violations, and finally became sober.
In late 1994, on the eve of undergoing a liver transplant operation, he learned that his 30-year-old biological son, keyboardist James Raymond, who was given up for adoption at birth, had tried to make contact with him. The father and son met the next year, and eventually formed a trio with guitarist Jeff Pevar, called CPR.
Crosby has been inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame twice, with the Byrds in 1991, and with Crosby, Stills & Nash in 1997.
In 2000, Crosby revealed that he was the sperm donor for rocker Melissa Etheridge and then-partner Julie Cypher's child.
In 2004, Crosby was arrested in New York City for weapons, and marijuana possession. Later that year, he plead guilty and paid a $5,000 fine. Although Crosby had been thought to be completely clean after sobering up in the mid-'80s, he admitted that he sometimes used marijuana to curb the constant pain that resulted from his liver transplant.
Crosby, a father of six who has cheated death on numerous occasions, said that he's grown to enjoy every day he's still alive: "It's a funny thing happens. When you come close to dying, and you don't, each day becomes this precious jewel, this commodity that it's so valuable to you. And you wind up really being excited with it, and really wantin' to do something with every minute of every day. You have what the French call a 'raison d'etre,' a reason for being."
Crosby, Stills, & Nash perform tonight (August 14th) in Grand Prairie, Texas at Verizon Theatre At Grand Prairie.
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