David Crosby is not a good person, although he's trying to be. That's the message Crosby essentially delivers in the documentary David Crosby: Remember My Name. Sometimes docs cast their subjects in a critical light; this one allows the subject to cast himself that way. I'm not even a fan of Crosby, Stills & Nash (or Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young) and I found the film utterly captivating, thanks to Crosby's candor.
It probably helped that director A.J. Eaton enlisted filmmaker/rock aficionado Cameron Crowe to assist with the interviews. Crosby feels safe opening up about his life and career. At the beginning, he reveals the heart condition that will almost certainly end his life within the next few years. Seeing his mortality approaching has clearly put him in a reflective mood.
After the obligatory childhood recap, Remember My Name gets into Crosby's time with The Byrds, focusing on how they changed music and how a taste of fame changed him. Upon leaving that band, he got together with Stephen Stills and Graham Nash (and, later, Neil Young). As CSN/CSNY, they crafted elaborate harmonies that set the music world on fire. Crosby got heavily into drugs during this period, which led to unreliability and frustrated bandmates.
Portions of the movie are, of course, dedicated to Crosby talking about the music, how it was created, what it was like being so successful, etc. That's fascinating. Even more fascinating is when he talks about the mistakes he made. In one scene, you can see the pain in his eyes as remembers the women he mistreated and/or got hooked on drugs. The one he truly loved, Christine Hinton, was killed in a car accident. He apologizes to her on camera, saying, “I could have loved you better.”
Crosby is also open about the fact that he's alienated literally every significant person with whom he's made music. Second chances were given; he blew them. Roger McGuinn of The Byrds, Stills, Nash, Young – they all “hate” him. None of them will speak to him anymore, much less perform alongside him. This is the most gripping aspect of Remember My Name. Here you have a genuine music legend who other legends want nothing to do with. Crosby expresses remorse for the ways he turned his colleagues against him, as well as a wish that he could mend fences.
It has been said that enormous talent and personality issues frequently go hand-in-hand. David Crosby is the epitome of that. He's hard on himself, and his health problems seem to have been the catalyst to reassess his past. Watching Remember My Name, it's impossible not to feel empathy for him. Sure, he messed up. And if he's trying to make amends during the short time he has left, well, better late than never.
The film is superb as both a rock doc and a psychological portrait of a man with many, many regrets.
out of four
David Crosby: Remember My Name is rated R for language, drug material, and brief nudity. The running time is 1 hour and 35 minutes.