David Crosby: Remember My Name is a brutally honest look at the career and personal struggles of a rock music legend. Following a mostly expository format, the film uses Crosby’s own words in interviews with Cameron Crowe to chronicle an impressive journey of music, drugs, sex, feuds and political courage.
Director A.J. Eaton and producer Cameron Crowe, though clearly reverent of Crosby’s talent and accomplishments, never allow their film to worship its subject. It’s doubtful Crosby, who is more forthcoming than most documentary subjects would dare to be, would have allowed them to approach him that way. This is a story more focused on regrets than of selling albums and packing stadiums.
Crosby informs us that he’s had hepatitis, is diabetic and has eight stints in his heart resulting from multiple heart attacks. Eight is the limit, and the singer senses his death approaching quickly. Rather than wait around for the end to come, he has kept busy and continues to tour and release album after album.
I’ll admit to not being as familiar with The Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash (and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young) as I am with the catalogues of other bands of the 60s and 70s. For other viewers in the same position, this may not be that revealing of a look at Crosby’s music, but it’s a fascinating character study. Anecdotes about where lyrics and tunes originated, which might make up a considerable chunk of other rock docs, are few and far between. This is more about the troubled and difficult personality playing the guitar. The singer’s reflections and confessions are mesmerizing, but the film takes its time. It is slow paced and allows Crosby to tell the story in a fairly scattershot manner. The flashbacks occur chronologically, but are cut in a way that allows him to take us off on tangents when he feels like it.
The imagery on screen is largely composed of Crosby in the present, still photos from the past and concert footage. There are two key stories that utilize animation as B-roll. Because it is used so infrequently, it seems out of place when it occurs.
Let me start by saying that I don’t know as if I have ever heard a Crosby, Stills, & Nash song. However, whoever was behind the marketing of this documentary knew what they were doing. The trailer for this film was all I needed to be drawn in. This was very much a documentary that was tailored to fans of the group, but it definitely can be enjoyed by anyone.
I will say if you are going into this viewing experience looking for a deep dive into CSN’s music catalog, you may be disappointed. Instead, this documentary focuses on David Crosby’s life, career, addiction, and mistakes. This man has lived a life. And as many people who are interviewed point out, it is amazing that he is still alive at this point. What I found most interesting was how willing Crosby was to admit to his mistakes and the realization that sometimes relationships can’t be fixed.
Stylistically, I also really enjoyed this film. It really was David Crosby just looking into the camera and telling his story. There are very few moments where the filmmaker interjects to ask a question. This stylistic choice really allowed Crosby to build a relationship with the audience. While you learn that Crosby may not have lived much of a righteous life, you do develop a sense of respect for the life he has lived. He has a really poignant moment where he is talking about what music means to him. The passion that you can see in him is really inspiring.
This documentary isn’t without its issues. Honestly, it is very surface level. There were many times throughout that I wish they had just told us more. There is a passing moment where Crosby mentions a daughter he is estranged from that is never brought up again. I also wish more had been included about his time traveling with the band and their conflicts. There were also some minor pacing issues.
Overall though, this documentary is very enjoyable. If you are just looking for an interesting profile on a musician this one might be for you. However, do not go into this film thinking you are going to learn a lot about the band’s music. The music is played throughout, but it really wasn’t enough to get a good picture of their music catalog. As someone who knew nothing about David Crosby or any of the groups he performed in, I’ll be exploring that catalogue on my own very soon.