Singer-songwriter in the Byrds, CSN (Crosby, Still, and Nash), and CSNY (Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young), David Crosby’s compositions still reverberate with the intensity and feeling of the late-60’s rock-folk movement. His mustache’s appearance and his free-loving attitude are the last remnants of a bygone era. Nevertheless, Crosby has regrets, regrets springing from a tip of a needle, regrets stemming from drugs. Not since It Ain’t for My Health, the Levon Helm documentary, has a retrospective of a musical artist been handled with as much honesty and care as director A.J. Eaton’s David Crosby: Remember My Name; An unflinching narrative of this songwriter’s remorse.
Crosby opens the film by recounting the first time he encountered John Coltrane: How he met up with friends, and a 4′ 2″ German hooker in Chicago, while on drugs. That’s a taste of the wild and unpredictable ways the songwriter spins his yarns. Intriguingly, Remember My Name isn’t a showcase of Crosby’s past songwriting triumphs, though his love affair with music that began on that Coltrane day does take center stage. “[He’s] afraid of dying. And [he’s] close.” The 76-year old singer-songwriter suffers from diabetes and a failing heart, held pumping by eight stents, and given two years to live (maybe). The songs we know, the stories we don’t. And Crosby has plenty of stories, even as he runs short on time.
Initially he’s a regular Lord Byron, the songwriter begins Remember By Name as a young, swashbuckling, cocky, and talented folk poet — and fond of a good time. Nevertheless, in his life exists demons: He reels from a father who never said “I love you,” while he forestalls his hurt by medicating with drugs. Throughout his travails, a brutal honesty digs into his words like an ear worm. And with that honestly, are dissonant and uncomfortable confessions. “I’ve hurt women,” Crosby surmises, never shying away from his role as a gateway drug to the women around him, leading them to heroin and cocaine, and being an asshole in the process. In fact, his recollections of Joni Mitchell are sincere yet corrosive; He’s effusive of her talent, yet he’s a jerk: essentially taking credit for discovering and nurturing her career.
Mischievous, there’s a charm to Crosby, a charm that along with his talents have formed the levee keeping him alive. Many friends: Graham Nash and Jackson Browne among them, spend their time in triage to save their friend. They’re the only rhyme or reason he still lives while many others of his generation have died. And as we helplessly watch as Crosby recounts his descent into a crippling drug habit, and his napalming of bands and alliances, death dances on the edges of this one-man show. Most notably, when he recounts the vehicular death of his girlfriend Christine Hinton. Her brief existence, passing at the age of 21, forms a metaphor for the 74-year old’s fear of dying, and ostensibly, his many regrets. These connections are made through Eaton’s gadfly questioning and Crosby’s forthright answers.
Nevertheless, as we spin through Remember My Name‘s 95-minute runtime, adorned with archival footage and concert material, the songwriter’s current wife Jan Crosby’s influence grows. She ultimately slows the careening train, and suddenly, the documentary morphs into a love story. The songwriter lives to work, lives to go on tour, but lives mostly to return to his wife. And even if he views his time in Laurel Canyon with some amusement, or recounts his role in recording the song Ohio in response to the Kent State Massacre with pride, the brief future remains. Crosby is lucky, lucky to be alive. While Crosby may ponder his legacy and wince while recounting the many dark paths he merrily skipped down, Remember My Name is honest and amusing, and arrives all for not, because there’s no way anyone will ever forget David Crosby.