David Crosby dies at 81: Had history of medical issues

By MDLinx staff | Fact-checked by MDLinx staff
Published January 20, 2023

Key Takeaways

Singer-songwriter David Crosby died at age 81 on January 18, 2023, after a “long illness,” according to a report from his family.

While his exact cause of death has not been disclosed, Crosby had a series of medical and legal challenges throughout his life and reportedly was in poor health in his final years.

‘Running out of time’

Crosby had been speaking openly about his life expectancy in the years prior to his death.

“It feels like I’m at the end of my life and am running out of time,” he told the San Diego Union-Tribune in 2018. “That’s one of the reasons I’m working as hard as I am; I don’t have a lot of time.”

Thirty years earlier, he spoke to the same paper about his history of drug use, saying, “I wanted to quit. But I was so severely addicted that I probably tried to 10 times and failed. Now, if you try enough times and fail, you don’t believe you can. And I had pretty much given up. I thought I was going to die on drugs—end of story.”

In another older interview with People magazine in 1990, Crosby said, “When I started out doing drugs, it was marijuana and psychedelics, and it was fun. It was the ’60s, and we thought we were expanding our consciousnesses.”

But by the mid-1970s Crosby was addicted to cocaine and heroin, according to an obituary published by The New York Times. His substance misuse may have exacerbated his medical issues, as his long battle with hepatitis C necessitated a liver transplant in 1994.

“He also suffered from type 2 diabetes and, in 2014, had to cancel a tour to endure a cardiac catheterization and angiogram,” The New York Times wrote.

But despite his troubles, Crosby’s public life was not completely characterized by turbulence.

"He was so kind to speak to. We had a fun time talking about music, bonding, and sharing mutual gratitude."

Music journalist Warren Kurtz, Goldmine magazine, to MDLinx

Legendary music, troubled life

Born David Van Cortlandt Crosby on August 14, 1941, Crosby was best known for his work with The Byrds (which he co-founded in 1964) and his trio with Stephen Stills and Graham Nash, Crosby, Stills & Nash (CSN, formed in 1968), which expanded to a quartet (CSNY) with the addition of Neil Young a year later.

Crosby wrote and sang such classics as “Guinnevere” and “Long Time Gone” with CSN and “Almost Cut My Hair” and “Déjà Vu” with CSNY. He also worked extensively with Nash as a duo, and had a prolific career as a solo artist, releasing five acclaimed albums under his own name since 2014.

But Crosby’s personal troubles at times overshadowed his musical accomplishments, according to The New York Times. In 1982, he was sent to a Texas prison for 9 months on drugs and weapons charges. He was arrested for drunk driving, a hit-and-run accident, and possession of a concealed pistol in 1985 and imprisoned for a year. He claimed he kicked his drug habits during this incarceration and was clean by 1986.

However, in 2004, he was charged with illegal possession of marijuana, a hunting knife, a pistol, and ammunition. For this charge, he pleaded guilty and paid a fine.

Crosby again hit the headlines in 2000 when it was revealed that he was the biological father (by sperm donation) of the two children of singer Melissa Etheridge and her then-partner Julie Cypher.

He had four other children, including a son born in 1962 who was put up for adoption as an infant. Crosby was reunited with that child, musician James Raymond, in 1997, and they collaborated on his later musical output.

Severed relationships

Crosby was known for expressing his views without a filter, sometimes at the expense of his personal relationships. In 2014, he called Young’s then-girlfriend (now wife) Daryl Hannah “a purely poisonous predator,” which led Young to announce that CSNY would never tour again.

The band never reunited, and Crosby was also reportedly estranged from Nash in the years up to his death.

Thoughts on the afterlife

Crosby offered his views on the afterlife in his final tweet posted on the day he died.

Responding to a post declaring that people with tattoos, short people, or those who drink alcohol or eat pork will not go to heaven, Crosby wrote, “I heard the place is overrated … cloudy.”

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