Even among his staunchest fans, there are those who feel that David Crosby might not be the nicest guy around. But even among those who only dabble in listening to the music he’s created, there’s no doubt that his songwriting and his voice are forces to reckon with. “David Crosby: Remember My Name” is a documentary that covers all of that and a lot more.’
The film by first time director A.J. Eaton spends most of its time following Crosby - the former member of The Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash (and Young) who has also had a lengthy career as a solo artist - as he makes his way around old stomping grounds in Los Angeles and as he heads out on a six-week tour in 2017.
Laid back, relaxed, and unafraid of baring his soul - as well as the dicier sides of his life story - to an off-camera interviewer (rock journalist and filmmaker Cameron Crowe), Crosby tells stories about being fascinated by the intensity of the music when he saw John Coltrane perform, about learning to sing harmony by adding on his own third voice while listening to Everly Brothers records, about the fact that at age 76, and with diabetes and a few heart attacks in his past, he’s afraid of dying.
And that’s just in the first few minutes of the film, before things get really intimate.
Crosby does a lot of talking from the back seat of a car as it drives through various Los Angeles locations, making stops at his old stomping grounds.
“This is the house where they fired me,” he says, referring to his time in The Byrds. When with that band he wrote the terrific song “Eight Miles High,” but by then he was already, in his words, “a counterculture rebellious person,” and there’s footage of him onstage with them ranting about multiple shooters involved with JFK, followed by a current interview with Byrds leader Roger McGuinn, recalling that Crosby was “insufferable and hard to hang out with.”
As the car arrives in Laurel Canyon, where Crosby used to live, he points out, “This is the place that ‘Our House’ was written about, where Crosby, Stills & Nash was born.”
Some of his stories are accompanied by snippets of Crosby’s music (among other classics, he composed “Long Time Gone,” “Guinevere,” and “Almost Cut My Hair”), some are complemented by simple but stylized animations that show those stories.
Crosby seems like a happy guy, though there are plenty of regrets mixed in with the positive memories. He says that he’s always loved playing music, but admits that in the early days it was to get the attention of girls. On top of that there are photos of him throughout the years with lots of different women, and he unabashedly says he’s been a fan of the free love movement. There’s plenty of talk about other musicians - he bonded with Mama Cass Elliot “over good weed,” he was in love with Joni Mitchell, he never liked Jim Morrison, he still believes that Bob Dylan went electric after hearing The Byrds play.
And he’s unafraid to admit to Crowe that during the days of his cocaine and heroin addictions he hurt a lot of people, he was selfish, and “I got more wacko as time went on.”
One of the strengths of the film is that it touches briefly onto so many different subjects and parts of Crosby’s life without ever feeling scattered. That’s quite a feat since this features everything from Crosby’s wife Jan confessing that, with his health problems, when he goes on the road she realizes she might never see him again; a politically charged appearance on “The Dick Cavett Show” the day after CSN played at Woodstock; some very intense political talk as Crosby visits Kent State University and recalls the events of 1970; footage of him onstage looking both tired and happy during a 2017 national tour; and a very tough section about his drug days that landed him in jail.
The director’s two wisest decisions, and what makes this sometimes challenging film so palatable, are that he always keeps music at its center, and that he ends it with Crosby returning home to Jan after another tour with hopes of becoming a better man still a priority.
Ed Symkus writes about movies for More Content Now. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“David Crosby: Remember My Name”
Directed by A.J. Eaton
With David Crosby, Jan Crosby, Cameron Crowe, Roger McGuinn