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David Crosby: Remember My Name (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 1, 2020

David Crosby: Remember My Name


Featuring David Crosby, Jan Dance, James Raymond, Roger McGuinn, Chris Hillman, Henry Diltz, Enrico Merlin, Stephen Barncard, Cameron Crowe, AJ Eaton and archival footage of Graham Nash, Neil Young, Stephen Stills, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, Paul Shaffer and Glenn Frey.

Directed by AJ Eaton.

Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics. 95 minutes. Rated R.

David Crosby is, and always has been, a very complicated guy. Equal parts charming and off-putting, smart and self-destructive, talented and overly aware of his talent, pithy and pointed, opinionated and thin-skinned, self-obsessed and self-loathing; he has fascinated people for decades and driven away many of the people he has worked closest with over his storied career.

A list of his past close associates who will not even talk to Crosby anymore includes Stephen Stills, Neil Young, Roger McGuinn and even Graham Nash, who would appear to be one of the friendliest, more open men in music. In fact, it took a lot to take the two men from chatting daily for over 45 years to having Nash yelling “Fuck you” into Crosby’s face – while onstage during a concert, no less.

When discussing his firing from the classic rock band The Byrds in another recent documentary on the Southern California music scene called Echo in the Canyon, Crosby acknowledged with a touch of regret, “I was an asshole.”

He is (and has been) an asshole, and yet he is a self-aware asshole. He acknowledges his many faults, but he hasn’t outgrown them. He has never learned not to poke the bear. He has strong opinions and refuses to hold them back. However, he has also always been a smart, well-spoken, rather charming asshole. (It’s not a coincidence that Crosby is a Twitter favorite for his irreverent opinions on music and current events.)

And he has never been afraid or unwilling to focus that cutting insight upon himself.

Which is a big part of the reason that David Crosby: Remember My Name is one of the most fascinating rock documentaries to come down the pike in quite some time. It’s much more elegiac and engaging than one may expect with such a potentially prickly subject.

Instead we meet an older man who has lived through some crazy times – and who has done some crazy things – and has come out on the other side. He has battled for decades against health and addiction problems. He’s sober now, more circumspect, and in the middle of a creative resurgence. Still, he remembers some of the many, many times that he gave in to his temptations.

“People ask me if I’ve got regrets,” Crosby said. “Yeah, I have huge regrets of the time I wasted being smashed…. I’m afraid. I’m afraid of dying. I’m real close. I don’t like it. I’d like to have more time. A lot more time.”

This kind of perceptive and personal insight comes from very thoughtful and well-researched interviews by director AJ Eaton and the film’s producer, rock critic-turned-filmmaker Cameron Crowe. They discuss all sorts of aspects of Crosby’s life; his childhood, time in The Byrds, Crosby Stills & Nash and Crosby Stills Nash & Young (Crosby insists here that the last two groups are very different as far as he is concerned), his trouble with addictions, politics and his anti-war stance, his love of sailing, the women in his life and his inability to commit to most, his relationships with his musical contemporaries (he seems to have particularly disliked Jim Morrison), performing at Woodstock, being sober, making music and touring as an aging man.

As Crosby points out, he is the only one of the members of Crosby Stills Nash & Young who never had a big solo hit. Also, it is rare that his songs were released as singles in the band. (His best known CSN songs were “Guinnevere,” “Almost Cut My Hair,” “Long Time Gone,” “Delta” and “Wooden Ships,” a co-write with Stills and Jefferson Airplane/Starship member Paul Kantner. None of those were hits.) And yet, at this point he is as active in recording and making as memorable music as any of them.

But mostly, you get the feeling that Crosby’s greatest regret is losing some of his best friends.

The chasm is so wide that the filmmakers could only use archival footage of Graham Nash and Neil Young discussing their lives with Crosby – and there are no quotes at all from Stephen Stills. (In fact, Stills is barely even mentioned here, though he is shown in a good amount of the pictures and archival footage.) As four men who have meant so much in each other’s lives, it’s sad that the filmmakers could not get any new interviews with Crosby’s former bandmates. Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman of the Byrds, who also have their share of bad blood with Crosby, were willing to talk about him on the record here.

In fairness, Crosby takes most of the blame for the rifts. He knows he has a temper. He knows he does and says bad things. He doesn’t blame them for being angry at him. “All of the main guys that I made music with won’t even talk to me,” he tells producer Crowe, who first interviewed Crosby in 1974. “All of them. One of them hating my guts could be an accident. McGuinn, Nash, Neil and Stephen all really dislike me strongly.”

He seems to want to try to patch things up but does not know how. Graham Nash, in an interview with Paul Shaffer for Sirius XM which is excerpted here, seems to feel the same way, but worries it may be too late. Crosby Stills Nash & Young were four voices in perfect harmony, but four men who were eventually out of synch.

David Crosby has done a lot of good and a lot of bad in his life. No one is perfect, and he has been particularly imperfect. However, that is what makes Remember My Name so fascinating. David Crosby doesn’t lie, doesn’t deflect, and obviously is trying to be a better man. That makes this warts-and-all bio rather inspirational.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2019 All rights reserved. Posted: August 2, 2019.

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