I had seen the documentary David Crosby: Remember My Name at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany the day after a friend of mine did. He loved it.
My friend noted, correctly, that the musician had been brutally honest about his many, many character flaws. The film is certainly not an exercise in hero worship, as Crosby takes the blame for the several relationship breakups, both romantic and musical.
Crosby tells us he started becoming full of himself when he joined the Byrds and they began achieving success. He started spouting political messages onstage, including his beliefs about JFK assassination conspiracy theories, that Roger McGuinn, leader of the group, didn’t think were appropriate.
He shows us the house where he, Stephen Stills, late of Buffalo Springfield, and Graham Nash, soon to leave the Hollies became Crosby, Stills, and Nash. We even see their brief “second gig,” at Woodstock. Then Crosby alludes to the fact that while he really wanted Neil Young in the group, there proved to be only room for three egos. Or something like that.
He speaks fondly of his friendship with the late Mama Cass Elliot. He notes that Joni Mitchell, who he idolizes musically, was a better fit with Nash than with him.
Crosby describes the freeform process by which his solo album If I Could Only Remember My Name was made. Each of the CSNY members put out an LP after the massive success of Déjà Vu. David’s included Nash, Young, Joni Mitchell, plus members of the Grateful Dead (most notably Jerry Garcia), Jefferson Airplane, and Santana.
In 1982, he was convicted of several drugs and weapons offenses and spent nine months in a Texas state prison. Now, after surviving numerous health scares, he’s surprised to be alive. He’s caught between the need to go out on the road in order to make music and money, and wanting to be a homebody with his wife Jan.
With all that, I felt there was something lacking in Remember My Name, as directed by A.J. Eaton. We know why Neil Young won’t talk with him, based on a Crosby insult about a Young friend. But what about Stills? And especially Nash, with whom Crosby could almost harmonize? They hadn’t talked in two years.
Mark Kennedy of the Associated Press put it this way: “Crosby is left to awkwardly narrate outside. It’s clumsy filmmaking – either go in or cut it out. That’s the problem with the overall film, too – it stands outside respectfully and just doesn’t go for it.”
It felt, even with all the confessions, a bit at arm’s length. Oddly unsatisfying, yet, in part, because I have so much of his music, I’m glad I saw it.