Through their ups-and-downs, good times, bad times and long bouts of silence, the thing that connected Neil Young and David Crosby was music. In a loving tribute to his old friend and bandmate in CSN&Y, Neil Young noted that while Crosby, who died at 81 on Thursday, “is gone… his music lives on.”
In a personal note posted on his Neil Young Archives site on Friday morning (Jan. 20), the fourth member of what is widely considered to be rock’s first true supergroup weighed in on the loss of his friend and musical partner, calling Crosby, “the soul of CSNY.”
Young wrote that Crosby’s voice and energy were “at the heart of our band. His great songs stood for what we believed in and it was always fun and exciting when we got to play together.” Citing such indelible folk-rock standouts as Crosby’s anguished hippie anthem “Almost Cut My Hair” and the twisty, harmony-drenched title track “Deja Vu,” from the quartet’s 1970 debut album, Young said those songs and many others that Crosby wrote were, “wonderful to jam on and [Stephen] Stills and I had a blast as he kept us going on and on. His singing with Graham [Nash] was so memorable, their duo spot a highlight of so many of our shows.”
Two-time Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Crosby died on Thursday of unknown causes. Crosby was a seminal, pioneering figure in the folk-rock scene for more than six decades as a member of The Byrds; Crosby, Stills & Nash and then Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. He also had a prolific solo career, especially in recent years, releasing new music at an almost frenetic pace as he battled a series of health issues.
Though the two were estranged at times, Young recalled the good years with the singer known as “Croz” to his friends, saying, “We had so many great times, especially in the early years,” adding, “Crosby was a very supportive friend in my early life, as we bit off big pieces of our experience together. David was the catalyst of many things.” Young sent his love to Crosby’s wife, Jan, and son, Django, as well.
“Lots of love to you,” he signed off. “Thanks David for your spirit and songs, Love you man. I remember the best times!”
Nash and Stills earlier weighed in on Crosby’s death, with Nash writing, “It is with a deep and profound sadness that I learned that my friend David Crosby has passed. 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. David was fearless in life and in music. He leaves behind a tremendous void as far as sheer personality and talent in this world. He spoke his mind, his heart, and his passion through his beautiful music and leaves an incredible legacy. These are the things that matter most. My heart is truly with his wife, Jan, his son, Django, and all of the people he has touched in this world.”
In a statement, Stills said, “I read a quote in this morning’s paper attributed to composer Gustav Mahler that stopped me for a moment: ‘Death has, on placid cat’s paws, entered the room.’ I shoulda known something was up. David and I butted heads a lot over time, but they were mostly glancing blows, yet still left us numb skulls. 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. 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.”
In a testament to the wide-ranging influence Crosby had to generations of singers and songwriters, his death was mourned by everyone from Melissa Etheridge — who asked Croz to be the biological father of her children in the 1990s — to the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson, Jason Isbell, Hanson, Chuck D, Sebastian Bach, Rosanne Cash, the Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan and many, many more.