We all have pop culture blind spots. For some, it’s Marvel movies. For others, it’s classic TV sitcoms, video games, or even professional wrestling. But for me, it’s rock music from the ‘60s and ‘70s. Sure I jam to Hendrix, Zeppelin, and The Rolling Stones, but I couldn’t name a handful of songs from The Grateful Dead and Crosby, Stills & Nash, even if my life depended on it. And yet, I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of A.J. Eaton’s documentary, David Crosby: Remember My Name; a candid story about love, regret, and of course, great music.
The film details the life of musician David Crosby. Crosby rose to stardom in ‘60s-era rock groups The Byrds and Crosby, Still & Nash/Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. At the time, Crosby lived up to the image of a wild, drug-addled, womanizing rock star, which makes his life story fertile ground for the documentary treatment.
What separates this film from similar docs, is that Crosby comes across as an open book. His willingness to discuss his troubled past, and often make himself look like a jerk gives this tale some rough edges. He’s the quintessential straight shooter. The film opens with an anecdote about a German prostitute named The Duchess; that’s the starting point, and things get more personal from there.
The doc runs through most of the major events in Crosby’s career, but the film is less about his exhilarating highs, than how he survived the crushing lows. And winning the audience over is no easy feat. From the outside looking in, Crosby represents the height of privilege. He has enjoyed a level of fame and wealth that most of us will never achieve. Eaton wants us to understand how a man who had it all and lived out his dreams, could get weighed down by so much emotional baggage.
Crosby experienced a revolving door of significant people in his life; lovers, colleagues and friends. Throughout the picture, he considers his role in driving them away. Dealing with Crosby was always challenging. His strong need for attention dates back to childhood, where he often disrupted his classes. His inability to get along with others is a lifelong issue. As an adult, Crosby’s got kicked out of his first band, The Byrds. And this behaviour drove a wedge between him and his bandmates in Crosby, Stills & Nash.
The doc does address one of the entertainment business’ burning questions: Does the industry turn people into dicks, or does it attract them? Going by Crosby’s story, there’s a clear answer.
Today, Crosby is almost 80-years old, and there is something special about seeing him synthesize his life lessons into self-awareness. Wisdom comes with age, and this ancient rocker processes his mistakes in real-time and comes to some painful conclusions. It’s no coincidence that the same conflicts keep happening to him over and over. The problem isn’t his schoolteachers, lovers, or bandmates. The problem is him, and Crosby won’t argue that point. And it’s that honesty and mindfulness that makes our time with him so meaningful.
One of the film’s most cutting moments is when Crosby talks about his drug addiction. Everything starts to click when he shares how his drug use became a coping mechanism and a method of escape. His behaviour taps into a larger conversation about how we demonize people with addiction issues. Crosby’s drug addictions and refusal to seek treatment lead to jail time. But is putting emotionally traumatized people behind bars for numbing themselves any sort of justice? Shouldn’t we place more resources in getting to the root of the problems? It’s a conversation with no easy answers, but Crosby’s story humanizes the issue and provides a jumping-off point for the discussion.
Listening to Crosby speak, and noting how much time has passed him by, it’s tough not to reflect on our own lives and legacies. Through his many struggles, Crosby has painted us a perfect picture of what not to do: build bridges, don’t burn them. Despite his many achievements, he’s scrambling to make the most of whatever time he has left. This is a man at the end of life’s grand journey wondering, “How do I make good?” His mistakes teach us the value of being in the moment, loving those around you, and making peace with the world each day.
Crosby isn’t any one thing, and he struggles to be his best self on any given day, as we all do. He may act like an asshole, but he knows it, and he’s working out his issues. And it’s the lead figure’s cognizance that separates David Crosby: Remember My Name from becoming a rock star hagiography. This doc is not afraid to get messy; it casts an unflattering light on a rock legend, and it’s a better film for it.
- Release Date: 8/02/2019