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|Birth name||Floyd Delafield Crosby, Jr.|
March 7, 1937|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Died||1997 Trinity National Forest, California, U.S.|
|Genres||Jazz, folk, folk rock|
|Occupations||Singer, songwriter, environmentalist|
Ethan Crosby (born Floyd Delafield Crosby Jr. March 7, 1937, died 1997) is the son of Floyd Crosby and Aliph Van Cortlandt Whitehead. He grew up in the Los Angeles area. He described himself in his childhood years as a "loner" who preferred reading to socializing and first took up playing music when his parents bought him a guitar as a gift when in the fifth or sixth grade. Beginning in the mid-1940s Ethan and brother David attended summer camp at Camp Trinity in the Trinity National Forest in northern California. The camp's emphasis on the outdoors and a lack of reliance on technology made a strong impression on Crosby. For eight years he would return to the camp every summer eventually becoming a senior counselor. After graduating from Carpinteria High School Crosby briefly attended junior college in Santa Barbara then one quarter at Cal Poly with the intention of studying agriculture but dropping out after becoming disillusioned with the curriculum.
Crosby spent much of the early to mid-1960s as a working musician performing on the jazz and folk circuits playing guitar and stand up bass. Sometimes performing with his brother David, migrating around the country wherever work was to be found, playing in California, Miami, Las Vegas, and Colorado.
Disillusion and retreat
As younger brother David's fame grew, Ethan continued to struggle as a working class musician pursuing his own artistic vision, at one point using his own money to have a wind organ built on Mount Tamalpais near San Francisco. His lifestyle became more unconventional as he began living in Volkswagen buses and becoming increasingly idealistic in his attitudes. Ethan eventually became frustrated with the music business and its emphasis on material gain rather than musicians using their privileged positions to effect positive change.
After his disappointment with the music industry, Ethan retreated to Big Sur on the central California coast, beginning his life as a self described "hermit" and back to the lander, living a rugged lifestyle on the ridges above the Pacific Ocean. However, frequent encounters and confrontations with tourists and dirt bike enthusiasts eventually convinced him it was time to move on.
Ethan next moved north, settling into the northern California wilderness near Mount Shasta. He subsisted on odd jobs and money sent by his family, while living in improvised structures made from wooden poles, plywood, and visqueen plastic. He eventually found work as a guard and caretaker for illicit marijuana growing operations hidden in the mountains.
Crosby held a deep seated personal belief that modern society is heading for imminent disaster if it continues on its apparent course. During his time at Mt Shasta he wrote and distributed a document chronicling his personal beliefs and a prediction of future events. In it he detailed a coming environmental disaster and breakdown of society caused by greed and the squandering of resources. Then he explains how in the aftermath loosely banded groups of survivors will join together in the wilderness as "seed people" to bring healing and renewal to the world.
In the fall of 1997, after Crosby had been missing for several months, an apparent suicide note was found in the tiny hand-built cabin that served as his home. In the note he expressed his desire that his body be left alone and undisturbed so that it could return to the earth. The following spring his decomposed body was found in the woods partially eaten by bears. Subsequent investigation determined the cause of death to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Notes and references
- Crosby, David and Gottlieb, Carl (1988). Long Time Gone: The Autobiography of David Crosby. Doubleday.
- Crosby, David and Gottlieb, Carl (2006). Since Then: How I survived everything and lived to tell about it. G.P Putnams Sons.