David Crosby: Remember My Name

not an exercise in hero worship

David Crosby.Remember My NameI 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.

David Crosby is 70…

…and somehow, I think the person most surprised by that fact may be David Crosby.

When he got kicked out of the Byrds in the late 1960s, he joined up with Stephen Stills, formerly of Buffalo Springfield, and Graham Nash, who had left the Hollies, to form what was generally considered to be the first “supergroup.” If I could remember the name of the group, I’d tell you. At least one of their first two albums, the latter with Neil Young, also formerly of Springfield, was in every dorm room at college. I saw CSN at some point in the 1980s at Albany’s Palace Theater.

Crosby was known for his left-leaning politics, and his excessive use of drugs and alcohol, which resulted in numerous arrests, multiple rehabs, and a liver transplant.

My sister Leslie gave me this album about a decade ago called CPR: Live at the Wiltern. Usually, she gives me religious material, but this was a 2-CD set, with the first album jazzy/noodly. The second album featured songs I knew: Long Time Gone, Deja Vu, Eight Miles High, Ohio, and Almost Cut My Hair. Turns out CPR stands for Crosby, Jeff Pevar, and keyboardist/vocalist James Raymond, who is the son Crosby never knew he had until years later.

My favorite David Crosby performances, though, were on the first season of The John Larroquette Show (1993-1994), where Crosby played Chester, sponsor to Larroquette’s John Hemingway, “a recovering alcoholic who becomes the manager of a big city bus station”. Crosby appeared in about a half dozen episodes of this “comedy noir”, then they got rid of the character Chester when the show lightened up in subsequent seasons; wish I could find those episodes online somewhere.

Here’s the title song from the CSNY album Déjà Vu.

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