The iconic music legend David Crosby - of Crosby, Stills & Nash (and Young) - is the subject of this compelling, reflective documentary...but his actions speak louder than his words.
David Crosby is a legend. Let's get that straight. The influential singer/song-writer has been making musing for over 50 years and has been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame not once, but twice (as a member of The Byrds as well as with Crosby, Stills and Nash). Crosby is still churning out albums, even if he no longer collaborates with his long-time band mates: Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Neil Young. To say that there was a falling-out would be putting it lightly, although the common thread is that all of the others seem to loathe David Crosby, even to this day.
David Crosby's personal troubles have been no secret. In the early 80s he spent nine months behind bars on several weapons and drug offenses, and was arrested for drunk-driving and a hit-and-run accident. As recently as 2004, he was charged with criminal possession of a weapon and marijuana possession. These are just the known charges on the books, but by any account, it's safe to say that Crosby's life has been a full one.
How he is still even alive after all these years is just one topic covered in the Cameron Crowe-produced documentary, "David Crosby: Remember My Name." Catching up with the now 78 year old Crosby, you would never know how much of a bad-ass this guy really was, and still is, underneath his weathered, leathery skin and that trademark long hair and handle-bar mustache. He's now diabetic, had a liver transplant and has five stints in his heart. Every time he leaves home to go on the road (still performing to sold-out audiences), his wife Jan wonders if it will be the last time she sees him. The worry is with good reason.
As a chronicle of David Crosby's life, this documentary is essential. It goes over all of his trials and tribulations, both personal and professional, and tells the rise and fall of one of our country's greatest folk bands, CSN (Crosby, Stills, Nash...and sometimes Young). Crosby was right there in the thick of American history, be it Woodstock, the civil rights movement or the Laurel Canyon sound that defined a generation.
But along the way, because of his brashness, or perhaps his immaturity, or perhaps due to his many addictions, Crosby admittedly lost all of his friends in the music business. He's now burned every bridge and cashed in every chip. And this is where the film goes astray, in how it waxes poetic and shifts responsibility away from its subject.
Stills, Nash and Young are all glaringly omitted from the documentary, and only appear in archival interviews dating back a few decades. The reason, we assume, is that they don't want to have anything to do with their old band mate, a guy that they find to be toxic and abrasive. When everyone else thinks that you might be the problem, well, you might be the problem. As Crosby tries to come to terms with this on camera, he offers up some weak and vague explanations of his actions that mostly fall flat. He seems to be all talk when it comes to feeling true remorse.
In one scene, the filmmaker asks him why he doesn't try to make amends with Neil Young, who Crosby admits he did wrong to. Crosby responds he doesn't know where Young lives. I call BS. When you take a closer look at David Crosby beyond the scope of this documentary, you'll find a guy who doesn't have it in him to right the many wrongs he has created in his life, and in the life of others. From that perspective, this documentary appears to be an exercise in gaining public sympathy for a man that may very well not deserve much of it.
Towards the end of the film, Crosby even jokes (?) with the filmmaker that this may all be a ruse to gain sympathy...that Crosby might not be acting genuine. Who knows if this is revealing or if it's just Crosby having a laugh, but the film doesn't choose to delve further into it.
A more effective version of this film might have featured Young, Stills and Nash talking about David Crosby, instead of how Crosby sees himself. And maybe they would have granted interviews had they known they'd have a chance to speak the truth to his actions. The lack of a varying perspective other than Crosby's hurts "David Crosby: Remember My Name," and instead gives it the feel of personal propaganda.
Respecting David Crosby as a musician and spotlighting what he has contributed over his professional career? Everyone's on board with that. But trying to paint Crosby as a victim over the course of 90 minutes? That's a tougher pill to swallow.
I'm not saying that Crosby is or isn't anything in particular (there are multiple sides to every story, with the truth usually residing somewhere in the middle), but it's safe to say that this film wants you to think a certain way about him...and forcing feelings out of the audience is a manipulative maneuver, and in this case just some sloppy film-making.
Genre: Documentary, Music.
Run Time: 1 hour 35 minutes.
Directed by A.J. Eaton (feature-film directorial debut).
"David Crosby: Remember My Name" opens on Friday, August 23rd, 2019.
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