David Crosby: Remember My Name

For my Baby Boomer generation the name of David Crosby is remembered for The Byrds, Crosby, Stills and Nash (and later, Young). But, even after three heart attacks and battling diabetes, the septuagenarian musician is still going, though not as strong as he once used to, in “David Crosby: Remember My Name.”

Laura's Review: B+

After one of the most astonishing musical rebirths in rock history, David Crosby is coming clean about all the ways he's hurt people. The man who rivals Keith Richards for 'still being alive' after 2-3 heart attacks, 8 stents, diabetes, a liver transplant and years of cocaine and heroin addiction wishes for more time, but only if he can continue producing music. His voice is as vibrant as ever, yet not a single one of his fellow musicians from The Byrds, CSN or CSN&Y will talk to him. Crosby relates his personal history in the rock 'n roll landscape in "David Crosby: Remember My Name." Newbie director A.J. Eaton ended up having a serendipitous moment by running into filmmaker and former rock and roll journalist Cameron Crowe at the Bad Robot offices. Initially getting Crowe to agree to do an interview, Eaton was thrilled when Crowe not only agreed to more, but eventually came on board as producer, helping to shape the film. (Ironically, we also learn that David Crosby's dad Floyd was the Oscar winning cinematographer of "Tabu" and Golden Globe winner for "High Noon"). You may regard David Crosby, as his former bandmates do, as an asshole, but you have to give him points for honesty and an undiminished stage presence at the age of 76. An admitted egotist, Crosby is also generous with praise for others, the film opening with him fully engaged as he shares a story of hearing John Coltrane in what he describes as the single most amazing piece of musicianship he'd ever heard. (Later he'll proclaim former lover Joni Mitchell the best of them all, also praising Mama Cass and Janis Joplin.) We meet Crosby's wife Jan who's been by his side since before he turned himself in to the F.B.I. for cocaine and firearms possession in 1985. She wishes he'd choose family over music and worries she'll never see him again every time he goes on tour, but also understands him, hoping he leaves this earth from the stage. Then, hating to leave his California home, Crosby hits the road, talking all the way to a nostalgic tour of Laurel Canyon (Eaton's changing interview venues keep things fresh and he limits most of his other talking heads to archival footage, allowing Crosby to tell his own story). He goes through the early days of Dylan, the Beatles and Woodstock before dissing Morrison at the Laurel Canyon Country store and taking us through the birth of Crosby, Stills and Nash right outside the house where it 'happened in 40 seconds' as 'Our House' plays on the soundtrack. He talks about borrowing $25K from Peter Tork to go sailing after being tossed out of The Byrds (we never learn if he paid it back), and of all the women he slept with, a few prominent names leading to a tribute to Christine Hinton, whose death in a car accident at twenty-one still haunts him. He says he was a bad lover, selfish, and tells of how Joni broke it off with him by writing a song. Crosby claims to have been happy that she hooked up with Graham Nash, who he thought was better for her. There are many claims made. Dylan went electric because of The Byrds' arrangement of 'Mr. Tambourine Man.' Dennis Hopper based his "Easy Rider" character on him. Crosby, Stills and Nash were the first American super group and his and Nash's harmonies were unmatched. He was the one who wanted Neil Young in. But after the shooting at Kent State, which prompted 'Ohio' from Young and was quickly recorded and released, Crosby went into a tailspin of addiction. He also produced his 1971 solo debut 'If I Could Only Remember My Name.' Eaton sprinkles in bits from Crosby's recent solo tour, a stark contrast with later CSN reunions, a 2015 rendition of 'Silent Night' at the White House tree lighting painfully disastrous. We see Nash, who stood by Crosby through his drug years, discuss what a shame it is that they no longer talk, but Eaton never really gets into just what drove the band apart other than Crosby's insulting of Young's then girlfriend Darryl Hannah. The only friend from the past who seems happy to see him is Henry Diltz, the photographer of the famous American flag gun photo. In the end, the man known for his flat black hat, long brown hair and moustache is now white-haired, the hat a red wool cap. He's wiser and wistful and well aware of the uncontrollable urge that makes him lash out, but there's something about "David Crosby: Remember My Name" that is hopeful. Grade:

Robin's Review: B+

First time feature documentary filmmaker A.J. Eaton picked a good subject for an old hippy like me. David Crosby helped create music for some of my favorite rock bands from the 1960s and 70s. The above-mentioned bands’ music, among many others (Hendrix anyone?), plays prominent on my own dementia playlist. You can divide “Remember My Name” into two parts that the filmmaker uses to create a tapestry that is an entertaining whole. One part is about the early days of Crosby’s career, the music, the women and the drugs that helped form (or deform) the musician. The excitement and rebelliousness of the time and the music it spawned is laid out in a historical chronicle of that turbulent period in our history that produced the greatest music of our (or, at least, my) life. The other half of “Remember My Name” focuses on now-76 year Crosby and this part is an act of contrition by the man for, by his own words, being a “real asshole” – to fellow band members, the women he loved and lost and anyone close to him. He tells his story as he prepares for yet another concert tour. He talks about the music that influenced him and tells anecdotes about his experiences – his first encounter with John Coltrane while on acid is a riot. Unlike many old rock stars still performing, Crosby’s voice, despite his years of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll, is still clear as a bell and harkens back to the three part harmony of CSN songs. And, you get to hear Crosby reprise the songs he wrote and performed. I will not go into the film’s playlist. You will have to see “Remember My Name” for yourself and, if you are of my generation, you will appreciate the effort.