Top 10 Songs Written by David Crosby

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Everyone was first introduced to David Crosby as one of the original five members of The Byrds, where he remained from 1964 through 1967 before embarking on a lifelong musical journey with Graham Nash and Stephen Stills as Crosby, Stills & Nash (CSN).

Crosby, who died on Jan. 19, 2023, at the age of 81, left behind a catalog for the ages. Whether with The Byrds, with Stills, Nash—and Neil Young, who joined the trio in 1970—or on his own with a catalog of eight solo albums, Crosby’s often angelic vocals, and evocative lyrics told a storybook of tales.

[RELATED: David Crosby, of The Byrds and Crosby Stills & Nash, Dead at 81]

Inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame twice, first as a member of The Byrds in 1991 and again with Crosby, Stills & Nash in 1997, Crosby was already a bonafide legend.

To honor the legendary singer and songwriter, here’s a chronological look at just 10 memorable songs, from The Byrds through the present with his Lighthouse Band, that were written and co-written by Crosby throughout his career and over a span of 55 years.

1. “Why” (1966)
Written by David Crosby and Jim McGuinn

First released as the b-side of their 1966 single “Eight Miles High,” The Byrds incorporated more melodic Indian musical tones to “Why,” which came from Crosby’s interest in the music of Ravi Shankar. Written by Crosby and Byrds frontman Jim McGuinn, the band later re-recorded “Why” and released it on their fourth album Younger Than Yesterday.

2. “Everybody’s Been Burned” (1967)
Written by David Crosby

Also released as a b-side to The Byrds’ hit “So You Want to Be a Rock and Roll Star,” and later on the band’s 1967 album Younger Than Yesterday, the Crosby-penned “Everybody Has Been Burned” is a darker jazz and guitar-fused look at life and love—Everybody knows the pain / Anyone in this place / Can tell you to your face / Why you shouldn’t try to love someone.

3. “Lady Friend” (1967)
Written by David Crosby

Also released on Younger Than Yesterday, “Lady Friend” crossed the band into the pop charts, albeit at No. 82. The song tells the story of the fear of fleeting love and being on one’s own, crashing against the drums in the live version to the group’s chants of Here it comes / It looks just like the last wave I drowned in / Here it comes / And I’m so far from shore.

The Byrds performed the song during their appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967.

4. “Wooden Ships,” Crosby, Stills & Nash (1969)
Written by David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Paul Kantner

Written by Stephen Stills, David Crosby, and Crosby’s onetime roommate Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane/Starship, “Wooden Ships,” off CSN’s 1969 debut, was written during a period when the threat of a nuclear war was on many people’s minds in the 1960s, between the heightened tensions between the United States and the USSR and the crisis in Indochina. In their lush instrumentation and harmonies, CSN crafted a beautiful song out of the darker premise, and it remained one of Crosby’s all-time favorite tracks by the band.

“We were sitting around in the main cabin of the boat, and we started playing that set of changes and we wrote that song together,” said Crosby about writing the song. “It’s one of my most favorite Crosby, Stills & Nash songs. I really love what it says, I really love how unusual it is and I really love the harmonies. It’s definitely a science-fiction song, no question.”

Read the full American Songwriter Behind the Song story of “Wooden Ships” HERE.

5. “Déjà Vu,” Crosby, Stills & Nash (1970)
Written by David Crosby

The title track of Crosby, Stills & Nash’s second album together, and their first as a quartet with Neil Young, Crosby wrote and sang the slow-burning “Déjà Vu, which explores reincarnation and karma.

“I’m one of those people who thinks we go round again,” said Crosby on the meaning of the song in 2008. “The Buddhists have got it right. It’s a wheel and we get on and get off. I think life energy gets recycled. That’s why I wrote ‘Déjà Vu.'”

Déjà Vu reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with three Top 40 singles, including the Graham Nash-penned singles”Teach Your Children,” “Our House” and their rendition of Joni Mitchell‘s “Woodstock.”

6. “The Lee Shore,” Crosby, Stills & Nash (1971)
Written by David Crosby

Off Crosby, Stills & Nash’s third album, and their first live release, 4 Way Street, “The Lee Shore” revisited a recurring theme in Crosby’s life, and where he liked to spend more of his time: sailing. In the same vein as “Wooden Ships,” in “The Lee Shore” Crosby references the open waters singing From the sailors of the Sandra Marie / There’s another island eight days’ run away from here / And it’s empty and free.

7. “What Are Their Names” (1971)
Written by David Crosby, Jerry Garcia, Neil Young, Phil Lesh, Michael Shrieve

Off David Crosby’s solo debut, If I Could Only Remember My Name, which included a collection of guests, including Joni Mitchell, Graham Nash, Neil Young, Jefferson Airplane, and more, “What Are Their Names” questions the government and its real agenda in lyrics I wonder who they are / The men who really run this land / And I wonder why they run it / With such a thoughtless hand / What are their names and on what streets do they live?

8. “Music Is Love” (1971)
Written by David Crosby, Graham Nash, and Neil Young

Another pick off Crosby’s If I Could Only Remember My Name, and the opening track, “Music Is Love” says it all:

Everybody’s saying music is love
Everybody’s saying it’s you know it is, mmm
Everyone yes everyone
Everyone’s saying music music is love
Everybody’s saying that music is love (music is love)
Everybody’s saying it’s love (everybody’s saying it’s, yeah)
Everybody’s saying that music is love 

9. “Things We Do For Love” (2016)
Written by David Crosby and Michael League

Penned by Snarky Puppy bassist Michael League and Crosby, “Things We Do for Love” is a tender ballad opening Crosby’s fifth album Lighthouse. The song plays through all the steps one takes for love—But love is long / A little each day / You build it that way. League, who also co-produced Lighthouse, also wrote and co-wrote four more tracks for the album.

10. “Ships In The Night” (2021)
Written by David Crosby

Though the ballad “I Won’t Stay For Long,” a more somber tale of being reborn written by Crosby’s son James Raymond, was a fitting close to David Crosby’s eighth and final album, For Free, earlier in the track list, he goes back to sea on the more uptempo “Ships In The Night.” The album cover art, a watercolor portrait of Crosby, was painted by his friend Joan Baez.

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Leave a Reply

Tank and the Bangas Announce Spring Headline Tour Dates

Dolly Parton Celebrates Birthday with a Song Sent by God: “Don’t Make Me Come Down There”