With five albums since 2014, the Californian with long white hair, who died at the age of 81 according to American media on Thursday, had begun a renaissance noticed by critics, hailing his clear voice preserved from tobacco, he who nevertheless touched so many drugs, rare survivor of a generation that disappeared long before him.

"I don't know why I'm alive, when Jimi (Hendrix) isn't, Janis (Joplin) isn't..." he was surprised at Rolling Stone magazine in 2014. " I was lucky."

This life 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 are not the problems I had, it was this magic that happened to me, which allowed me to create all this music”, he told the Guardian in 2021 from his home in California.

It was in this state that he was born, on August 14, 1941, to parents descended from large New York families, with a stay-at-home mother and a father in the cinema, crowned with an Oscar for best photography.

Before his 25th birthday, he was one of the founders of The Byrds, a group mixing rock from England with traditional American folk.

It is in particular David Crosby 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 Eagles and, later, REM.

cocaine and gun

We owe them in particular 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 time.

These substances, David Crosby knew them only too well.

"At the end of a concert, you're on top, that's where I took a lot. It allowed me to hold on after the show," he recalls to Rolling Stone.

David Crosby in November 2011 in New York © SPENCER PLATT / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP

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," "Croz" 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.

Gandalf hippie

His zenith, he had probably experienced it a few years earlier.

On August 17, 1969, at the mythical Woodstock festival, he already had his mustache and long hair pulled back, like a Buffalo Bill on stage, for the second concert of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

In 1968, dismissed from the Byrds, he had found Stephen Stills, from the Buffalo Spingfields, and Graham Nash, from the Hollies, in the chalet of Joni Mitchell, folk legend and one-time girlfriend of David Crosby.

Neil Young will join them from time to time.

David Grosby, in January 2020 in Los Angeles © Frazer Harrison / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP

With "Our House" or "Ohio", they invade the American FM band in this light, hippie folk, according to their albums, separations, and successive meetings of this concentrate of talents and egos.

"I think when the Beatles broke up (1970) we were the best band in the world," David Crosby said.

He, this "Gandalf of Woodstock" (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 eternal 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 AFP 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 I can make you cry. That's my job."

© 2023 AFP