Cold Facts About David Crosby, The Rock N' Roll Devil

August 17, 2023 | J. Clarke

Cold Facts About David Crosby, The Rock N' Roll Devil

David Crosby was a folk-rock legend, with hits like “Turn, Turn, Turn” and “Mr Tambourine Man” decimating the charts of the day. Someone with that much unique musical ability might expect to face some trials in their lifetime, but the tragic events of Crosby’s personal life, including all the people he turned into enemies on his path to stardom, truly take the cake!

1. He Was Born Privileged

David Crosby’s parents brought their baby boy into the world in Los Angeles, California in 1941. Both his father, a cinematographer, and his mother, from a well-known upper-class family, reveled in their lives of high society. Their family looked enviable from the outside—but on the inside, the cracks began to show.

david crosby

2. He Came From A Broken Home

Their "perfect" two-parent, two-child, home fell apart when Crosby’s parents divorced in 1960. He found solace in his older brother, a musician that introduced him to jazz and ultimately inspired his entire career. But even with his family’s status and his older brother to guide him, Crosby struggled to find real stability in his young life. Photo of David Crosby in turtleneckMichael Ochs Archives, Getty Images

3. He Hopped Around

For one reason or another, Crosby ended up attending multiple schools during his elementary and junior high years. He likely used the arts as a comfort, starring in multiple school musicals along the way. But his growing love for music couldn’t keep him grounded and he dropped out of high school. 

He still got his diploma through correspondence school, but it was only the first time he’d choose to rebel against the status quo.Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young at concert, August, 1974Tony Morelli, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

4. He Took A Risk

Crosby liked drama enough to begin a degree in acting at Santa Barbara College after high school. He cut the commitment short, though, dropping out of school again, this time with his heart set on pursuing music. The timing didn’t work for him, though, as he’d soon find himself burdened with an entirely unexpected responsibility.

David Crosby of Crosby And Nash performs on stage at Hammersmith Odeon, London, 28th September 1976.Gus Stewart, Getty Images

5. He Made A Mistake

The young dreamer wasn’t yet immersed in the lust-filled world of fame when he involved himself with Celia Crawford Ferguson. Likely short-lived, the details of their union remain mostly private. What they couldn’t keep under wraps, however, was Celia’s pregnancy in 1962—not that they didn’t necessarily try to. Photo of David Crosby sitting on a chair in black jacketMichael Ochs Archives, Getty Images

6. He Chose Himself

Taking care of a baby wasn’t in the cards for Ferguson nor Crosby at the time. Perhaps Crosby thought he couldn’t have his dreams and a family, because they gave their son up for adoption immediately after birth. With his opportunities opened up again, he pressed forward toward stardom. But what he actually got was much more a nightmare than a dream.Photo of David Crosby in shirt and a hat with lifted handsMichael Ochs Archives, Getty Images

7. He Flopped

Now a young man left completely to his own devices, Crosby became part of a singing duo in Chicago in the early 1960s. The duo ultimately failed, not special or entertaining enough to earn a recording contract. Clearly Crosby felt undeterred, because he’d keep joining groups until he finally found himself exactly where he thought he should be.Chicago architecture westside 1960sDevin Hunter, CC BY 2.0 ,Wikimedia Commons

8. He Wouldn’t Stop

The young musician kept going, recording solo songs and singing with other groups. His first glimpse of the fame he really wanted came when his recording of “Mr Tambourine Man” with the band The Byrds topped music charts in 1965. Unfortunately for Crosby, it was the beginning of both his musical success and his inability to keep people close.American rock band the Byrds in early 1965. Personnel from left to right: Chris Hillman (bass), Gene Clark (vocals, tambourine, guitar), Roger McGuinn (12-string guitar, vocals), Michael Clarke (drums) and David Crosby (rhythm guitar, vocals), all of them in black suitsKRLA Beat/Beat Publications, Inc., Wikimedia Commons

9. His Writer Ditched Him

Trouble brewed among the band members. Many of the details of their disagreements remain a mystery, but things got so bad that their main writer, Gene Clarke, ditched the group in 1966. It became a chance for Crosby to dust off his own songwriting skills, which turned out to do the group well. But the serious discord between the members proved to be too much to overcome.Folk rock group The Byrds (clockwise from top left) Michael Clarke, Jim (Roger) McGuinn, David Crosby, Chris Hillman and Gene Clark pose for a portrait circa 1965 in jackets and similar hair styleMichael Ochs Archives, Getty Images

10. He Made Enemies

The Byrds landed an opportunity to perform at the huge Monterey International Pop Festival in 1967. The festival provided the perfect chance for the band to increase its following—but things went south instead. The band's musical talent and performance should have been the main attraction, but Crosby had his own ideas.Roger McGuinn performing with The ByrdsFotoburo De Boer, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

11. He Went Off

Between songs, Crosby ranted and raved about his own political opinions of the day. Most famously, he made several statements on his thoughts about the untimely demise of the late President John F Kennedy. He believed the conspiracies, and wasn’t shy about making it known to the audience. And that wasn’t even the worst of it.Portrait of John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States in suitKheel Center, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

12. He Betrayed His Band

It’s easy to imagine how upset Crosby’s band members might have gotten. He basically stole the show, and not nearly in the way the band wanted to. But Crosby took it a step farther, joining another performer’s set on the next night of the festival. His behavior reeked of selfishness on stage. He was even more of a pain off stage.David Crosby of the Byrds performing with different band  At Monterey PopPaul Ryan, Getty Images

13. He Wanted Things His Way

The band managed to stay together post the music festival disaster, but their relationship with Crosby continued to worsen. With his newly developed songwriting talents, he likely felt he should have more say when it came to the types of songs the band sang. The topics he wanted to sing about, though, were seriously far from the mainstream. The Byrds performingPhotographer: Don Hale or Roy Robinson Publisher: KEWB 30, Wikimedia Commons

14. His Ideas Were Taboo

One original song he wanted on the band's next album was “Triad". Crosby probably ascribed to the hippie culture, free-love ideas of the day, since the entire song put his favorable views of threesomes to music. Hippie culture prevailed in culture at the time, but it was still a bit too far for his bandmates. Crosby’s method for developing musical "inspiration" wasn’t too admirable either.American folk rock group The Byrds perform live on stageKRLA Beat, CC BY-SA 4.0 , Wikimedia Commons

15. He Played With Reality

Crosby liked to enhance his songwriting abilities by taking mind-altering substances, including psychedelics. He thought they helped with his writing process, and he wrote multiple songs while flying high. It’s no wonder that his wild behavior and tendency to assert his own ideas ahead of his bandmates’ own eventually pushed them over the edge.David Crosby of The Byrds performs on stage at the Monterey Pop Festival on June 17 1967 in Monterey, California.Michael Ochs Archives, Getty Images

16. He Got Kicked Out

The Birds gave Crosby the boot right in the middle of work on their next album, The Notorious Byrd Brothers. Interestingly enough, some of his songs still made it to the album, but without his vocals on them. Friendships and teamwork were clearly far from his forte. He wasn’t much better at romantic relationships, either.David Crosby of The Byrds performs on stage with The Buffalo Springfield at the Monterey Pop Festival on June 18 1967 in Monterey, CaliforniaMichael Ochs Archives, Getty Images

17. He Fell Hard

The musical wild child first laid eyes on Joni Mitchell in a Florida coffeehouse in the late 1960s. Mitchell was performing, and according to Crosby, he felt “gobsmacked". They quickly became a couple, even composing music together. Two musicians in love seems like the set up for a beautiful romance, but what the two ended up with was a far more sordid tale.Joni Mitchell performing on stage in white dressMatt Gibbons, CC BY 2.0 ,Wikimedia Commons

18. She Was Too Good For Him

Mitchell reportedly recalled the beginning of their relationship fondly, calling it a “summer affair". She felt special to be wanted by the young superstar, and they both enjoyed the same type of music. Unfortunately, Crosby soon realized his new girlfriend’s potential and genius were far more than his might ever be. Maybe that’s why he ruined the entire thing.

David Crosby holding Joni Mitchell while both are seated at an upright pianoSulfiati Magnuson, Getty Images

19. He Couldn’t Be Faithful

Crosby was unfaithful more than once, likely leaving Mitchell completely heartbroken. Regardless of his reputation, quickly growing notorious among his bandmates and fans, she probably thought their relationship meant more to him. Like many women would, she decided to break up with Crosby, but not without an extra bit of dramatic flair. Mitchell performing in 1983 in black clothes playingCapannelle, CC BY 2.0 , Wikimedia Commons

20. She Wrote Him A Break-Up Song

Mitchell held on to news of Crosby’s cheating until just the right moment. When the two went to a party at the house of another band member, she took the opportunity to perform her newest song, “That Song About Midway". Crosby knew the break-up song was about him, and so did all his friends. 

It wasn’t Crosby’s last relationship to burn out in a big way, but tragically, it wasn’t always his fault.David Crosby of The Byrds backstage in 1965 in jacket and hatMichael Ochs Archives, Getty Images

21. He Moved On Quickly

By 1969, Crosby found his way into another band, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (CSNY). He hit it big with them again, showing his brilliance as a singer, musician, and songwriter—so much so that their first album hit top spots on the billboards. It should have been a time to celebrate, but Crosby found himself in the midst of one of the greatest tragedies of his life.Photo of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young in 1970 performing on stageCMA-Creative Management Associates/Atlantic Records,  Wikimedia Commons

22. He Lost His Love

Even with all his issues, Crosby was no stranger to romance, as he moved on from Mitchell with ease. He started dating Christine Hinton, and things were going well until he unexpectedly lost her to a car accident in September 1969. That kind of shock would put anyone in a tailspin. Crosby was no different, but his coping methods made things even worse.David Crosby of Crosby, Stills and Nash and Young sits with his girlfriend Christine Hinton backstage at the Big Sur Folk FestivalRobert Altman, Getty Images

23. He Spiraled

Crosby used illicit substances regularly, but losing his girlfriend turned his recreational use into something far worse. The pain of the loss drove him to use harder substances more regularly, adding to his devastation and sadness. The entire situation was a recipe for further disaster, and further disaster was certainly imminent.David Crosby of Eddi Laumanns aka RX-Guru, CC BY 3.0 ,Wikimedia Commons

24. They Hated Him

Conditions within CSNY quickly started to devolve. The entire band's use of mind-altering substances, including Crosby’s use which worsened by the minute, made the environment hard to create in. He was a pain to work with, and his bandmate Graham Nash reportedly noted years later that Crosby treated him terribly. It’s no wonder they couldn’t make their success last.Graham Nash Atlanta 1980 performing on stage in white shirtAcroterion, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

25. They Broke Up

Eventually, the group took a hiatus. They’d reconvene multiple times over the next few years with some success, but always seemed to end their unions with bad tastes in their mouths. Crosby’s time with both bands was definitely a rollercoaster, but it was nothing compared to the shocking highs and lows of his personal life. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young at concert, August, 1974Tony Morelli, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

26. He Got Destroyed

Crosby’s issues started to completely consume him in the 1970s and 1980s. While he once considered his substance use to be a boost to his creative abilities, the consequences of the habit and his cravings started to catch up with him, so much so that he began struggling to write music. By 1977, he only had three originals on his band’s album, and things took a turn for the worse.David Crosby performing with Crosby, Stills & Nash at the Boston Garden on June 14, 1977 in striped t-shirtRon Pownall, Getty Images

27. They Caught Him

In 1982, authorities apprehended Crosby in a Texas nightclub. Not only was he freebasing substances (a way to feel the effects faster), but he also had a firearm on him. Perhaps due to either his celebrity or his lack of serious priors, they offered to bypass prison time if he did rehab instead. Crosby agreed to go to rehab, but his commitment was short-lived.David Crosby 1976 Crosby-Nash show at the Frost Amphitheater, Stanford California performing on stage outsideDavid Gans, CC BY-SA 2.0 ,Wikimedia Commons

28. He Couldn’t Change

After only two days, he gave up on rehab, allegedly because staff refused to let him play musical instruments during his stay. Reportedly, authorities took him in the very next day for possession again. Crosby ultimately served nine months behind bars, but he wasn’t the only one he hurt with his horrible antics.1992 David Crosby at news conference in Washington DC in green shirtmark reinstein, Shutterstock

29. He Crashed

There seemed no end to Crosby’s dangerous indulgences. He added heavy drinking to his vices, and caused a hit and run accident he while driving in 1985. Authorities once again found both substances and weapons on his person, adding to his charges. His dangerous desires soon took over his performances too.Rock musician Dave Crosby in prisonBettmann, Getty Images

30. It Started to Show

Crosby’s addictions tore his entire life to shreds, and his live performances were not at all spared the demise. In one memorable instance, he looked a complete mess at a performance with his band at Live Aid. He looked so bad, in fact, that magazines said he looked like “a Bowery bum.” While his career quickly descended into chaos, his personal relationships followed suit.David Crosby at Live Aid  on stageBettmann, Getty Images

31. His Home Was In Shambles

The conditions of Crosby’s state continued to worsen, even despite his marriage to Jan Dance in 1987. It might have been a happy occasion, but Crosby consistently befriended and consulted with other addicts, bringing his vices home with him. Things were so bad that some musicians reportedly called his family “the Manson” family—a fitting title, considering their worst moments.David Crosby of Crosby, Stills and Nash and his wife JanBart Sherkow, Shutterstock

32. He Was A Bad Husband

Dance had to deal with her husband's overwhelming addictions and his less than stand up cohorts while struggling with her own fertility. To make things worse, she often found herself caught in Crosby’s mess-ups, once even held up by one of his dealers. It’s a wonder she even wanted to have a child with him, though, considering how he treated his other children.David Crosby poses with his wife-to-be Jan Dance aboard a friend's schooner, the GallantRoger Ressmeyer, Getty Images

33. He Was A Terrible Father

If you’re keeping track, you’ll remember Crosby gave his first child up for adoption back in 1962. After that, he had two daughters with two different women, and considering how private their lives remain, it’s quite possible Crosby didn’t involve himself much with them or their mothers. It wasn’t until his life was truly in danger that he seemed to think of his fatherly role. David Crosby 1995 in blue suitJohn Mathew Smith & , CC BY-SA 2.0 , Wikimedia Commons

34. It Caught Up With Him

Years of using substances and reckless living caught up with the musician when doctors diagnosed him with hepatitis-C in the 1990s. Desperately sick and in need of a liver transplant, he probably had much more time than he ever had to think about the way he lived his life. Whether or not the bleak medical outlook got to him, he made a surprising decision. 2018 David Crosby performing on stage in blue shirt and a hatBen Houdijk, Shutterstock

35. He Reached Out

Crosby took a chance and searched for the son he gave up for adoption decades prior. He told news reporters he felt he had to, saying “I had been beating myself up for years about not being there for this kid". The two got in contact, but weren’t able to meet just yet. The musician needed a new liver if he had a chance of survival.David Crosby in documentary movieVinyl Films, David Crosby: Remember My Name (2019)

36. He Didn’t Deserve It

Transplant lists are notoriously hard to climb. With his reckless past, Crosby should have been low on the list, but he received his new liver in 1994, with a financial assist from famous musician Phil Collins. Understandably, controversy broke out over his luck. But, perhaps to his credit at this point, he was no stranger to controversy, and would continue to dance with it throughout the course of his life. Phil Collins performing on stage in Barcelona 2004pexcornel from Catalonia, CC BY 2.0 , Wikimedia Commons

37. He Got Him Back

With his new liver and new lease on life, Crosby finally met his first son, James Raymond. As luck would have it, James was a musician as well, and a pretty talented one too. The two went on to perform together, and even worked on an album. Things were looking up for Crosby, but he wasn’t quite done with his "bad boy" lifestyle.David Crosby and his son James Raymond of the band CPR on stageEVAN HURD PHOTOGRAPHY, Getty Images

38. He Didn’t Stop

You’d think his collection of chaotic experiences might drive Crosby toward a more moderate lifestyle, but judging by his actions in the early 2000’s, he seemed unaffected. In 2004, he left several suspicious items in a hotel room, including an illicit substance. Authorities charged him a $5,000 fine. It was his last real brush with the law, but not the end of his connection with mind-altering substances.Musician DAVID CROSBY at the Los Angeles premiere of Featureflash Photo Agency, Getty images

39. He Turned It Around

It’s no surprise that Crosby ultimately never gave up his bad habits. With laws on weed changing around him, he took the opportunity to monetize his love of the plant by working with a business partner to develop a Cannabis brand. He’d found a way to turn a negative into a positive, but most of his issues weren’t that easy to turn around.David Crosby in documentary movie , David Crosby: Remember My NameVinyl Films, David Crosby: Remember My Name (2019)

40. He Lost His Teacher

Even though his family was well off, Crosby didn’t have the easiest childhood in the world. He reportedly grew up close to his older brother, Ethan, who even gave him his very first guitar and taught him how to play it. The brothers probably stayed close throughout their lives, making Ethan’s unexpected end a total shock to Crosby’s system.David Crosby in documentary movie , David Crosby: Remember My NameVinyl Films, David Crosby: Remember My Name (2019)

41. His Family Left Him

Ethan ended his own life in the late 1990s. To make things worse, Crosby didn’t even know exactly when he lost his brother, since Ethan’s final note to his family asked them not to try to find his body. They eventually found his body in 1998. Crosby lived through tragedy after tragedy, but somehow, none of these difficulties seemed to make him any easier to deal with. Crosby performing on stageKarin Hildebrand Lau, Shutterstock

42. He Contradicted Himself

Crosby rarely shied away from sharing his opinions, even before social media made it easy to spew your thoughts worldwide. He often used performances to share his own political thoughts, like declaring he was against the US involvement in Vietnam, even though he fiercely defended his right to own and carry a weapon. It wasn’t the only political splash he’d make.David Crosby in  David Crosby: Remember My Name (2019) performing on stageVinyl Films, David Crosby: Remember My Name (2019)

43. He Wasn’t Shy About His Politics

Age crept up on Crosby when Donald Trump ran for US presidency in 2016, but that didn’t keep him from making his opinions on the candidate known. He called Trump “a dangerous guy who’s got a big ego”—something he himself seemed to know quite a bit about. All opinions aside, though, Crosby never stopped pursuing his passion for song, regardless of how challenging it got.David Crosby in a 2006 performance touring with Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young in blue t-shirtMatthew Harris, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

44. He Tried To Keep Going

Crosby continued to perform and experience success after his liver transplant, both with other musicians and as a solo artist. He even took a few tours with CSNY, and seemingly hoped to continue reuniting as late as 2015. It wasn’t meant to be, however, as there still seemed to be some serious bad blood between Crosby and his bandmates. David Crosby, Jan Crosby at the MusiCares 2015 Person Of The Year Gala at a Los Angeles Convention Center on February 6, 2015 in Los Angeles, CAKathy Hutchins, Shutterstock

45. They Couldn’t Stand Him

Judging by the words of his former bandmates, Crosby seemed just a total pain to work with. As a matter of fact, Nash eventually refused to work with the full band again because he couldn’t stand Crosby. Many who knew him well echoed Nash’s sentiments, with his ex Joni Mitchell even referring to him as a “human-hater". Impressively, Crosby himself eventually agreed that he was the problem in all his bands' breakups.David Crosby performing on stage in documentaryVinyl Films, David Crosby: Remember My Name (2019)

46. He Was The Problem

Crosby tried to get the Byrds to reunite in the 2010s, tweeting his former bandmate to ask about a reunion. He never got a reply from him, and the old members of CSNY staunchly refused to speak to Crosby at all. He’d eventually admitted that he wasn’t easy to work with, saying in his 2019 documentary that he estranged his friends with his bad behavior and didn’t “know quite how to undo it".

 Many disliked him, but he still had loyal friends, some who loved him enough to make surprising use of him.David Crosby in David Crosby: Remember My Name  speaking in blue shirtVinyl Films, David Crosby: Remember My Name (2019)

47. He Gave An Unexpected Gift

In 2000, news broke that Crosby had two more biological children. If you’re keeping track, that brings him up to a total of six children! This time was a bit different though. Instead of adding new relationships to his record, Crosby served as a sperm donor for the two children of Julie Cypher and Melissa Etheridge. 

It was a beautiful gift for the then couple, but a faintly familiar misfortune lurked right around the corner. Singer MELISSA ETHERIDGE & girlfriend JULIE CYPHER at the Los Angeles premiere of Featureflash Photo Agency, Shutterstock

48. He Couldn’t Get Away

One of the children born of his sperm donation, Beckett, struggled with an addiction to opioids. There’s no way of knowing for certain if this was genetically tied to Crosby, who had finally overcome his own substance issues, but it's a connection that’s hard to ignore. An overdose ended Beckett’s life at only 21 years. Perhaps this inspired Crosby’s next unusual move.David Crosby at the 2010 MusiCares Person Of The Year Tribute To Neil Young, Los Angeles Convention Center, Los Angeles, CA in black jackets_bukley, Shutterstock

49. He Planned The End

Already in his late seventies, Crosby likely started thinking about how many years he had left, as he planned his own funeral three years before he passed. He wanted his funeral to be at his own horse ranch, and reportedly wanted his old band members to attend, even though they weren’t on speaking terms. Unfortunately, his demise didn't go quite as planned.David Crosby at the Beacon Theatre 2012-10-22SolarScott, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

50. He Went Mysteriously

Even though he planned his own funeral years before, Crosby’s actual passing was still a total surprise. Reportedly, he simply went to sleep on a normal day in January 2023 and just didn’t wake up. He did die while the unfortunate COVID pandemic still affected the US, but the actual cause of his demise remains unverified. Crosby performing as part of Crosby, Stills & Nash in 2012 on stageChristopher Michel, CC BY 2.0 ,Wikimedia Commons

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