Flashback: The Original Byrds Lineup Reunites at the Hall of Fame – Rolling Stone
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Flashback: Original Byrds Lineup Reunites at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

This 1991 performance of “Mr. Tambourine Man” is the last time the classic lineup of the Byrds performed together

Byrds fans were dealt a disappointing bit of news yesterday when a representative for Roger McGuinn totally rebuffed David Crosby’s public offer to reunite the group. “Neither Roger or Chris [Hillman] entertain the idea of a Byrd’s reunion,” they wrote to Rolling Stone. “Roger was just tired of David crying about being hated. DC is not hated, but that doesn’t mean anyone wants to work with him.”

The dialogue began when Roger McGuinn took to Twitter to complain that David Crosby unfairly lumped him in with Neil Young, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash as former bandmates that “hate his guts” and “won’t talk” to him in his new documentary David Crosby: Remember My Name. “You’re saying I won’t talk to you and hate you,” McGuinn wrote. “That’s just not true!” Crosby responded with an offer to reform the Byrds, something he’s been pushing at for years. “Want to do a couple of Byrds dates?” he wrote. “I’ll just sing harmony. No talking?”

McGuinn isn’t willing to do that, but he is willing to do solo shows focused heavily on Byrds songs. He was also willing to reunite with Chris Hillman last year for a tour celebrating the 50th anniversary of Sweetheart of the Rodeo. They justified excluding Crosby from that since he wasn’t on that album, even though a decent chunk of the show was devoted to songs from his era like “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “So You Want to Be a Rock and Roll Star.” It’s easy to understand why he was a little miffed when he first learned about it.

The Byrds have reunited a number of times over the years, beginning back in 1973 when the original lineup reformed for a self-titled album. They drifted apart after that into projects like 1979’s McGuinn, Clark and Hillman, and in the 1980s they went to war when rhythm guitarist Gene Clark and drummer Michael Clarke took their own versions of the Byrds on the road. This led to legal action and McGuinn, Crosby, and Hillman briefly touring together to reestablish the trademark.

This whole mess was still being worked out when the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on January 16th, 1991. Surprisingly, they were able to put all their problems aside for the evening and perform “Turn Turn Turn,” “Mr. Tambourine Man,” and “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better.” As you can see from this video, Crosby was in a wheelchair and they weren’t exactly in top form, but it was historic nonetheless.

Gene Clark died just four months later and Michael Clarke followed two years later. Sadly, that wasn’t enough to bring the surviving members together for one last tour. And even though all these years later, the three of them still have very strong singing voices and remain active on the road, it doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen.

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