David Crosby: Remember My Name

Establishing the new standard by which future tell-all, fully transparent rock documentaries will be compared, David Crosby: Remember My Name is a remarkable achievement.

Always the most inscrutable of the three or four musicians comprising Crosby Stills Nash and occasionally Young, David Crosby first rose to fame by packaging the electricity of The Beatles with the folk leanings of his fellow Byrds. He then segued to join veterans of other successful groups (Stephen Stills and Neil Young from Buffalo Springfield, and Graham Nash from The Hollies) for even greater success.

But with success came internecine warfare among group members and in the case of Crosby a spiraling, debilitating drug addiction.

The documentary starts almost at the end; Crosby admits he knows his end is near and he can’t explain why he is still alive (his liver transplant, the fact that he’s a diabetic, and the eight stents in his heart certainly beg the question).

But what the film drives home with conviction is that music drives Crosby. When posed with the thought experiment, Crosby confesses he would not trade an ideal home life if it meant no more music.

The film’s title is a clever riff on Crosby’s first solo album If I Could Only Remember My Name. Crosby’s recent output of music is as prolific as it is surprisingly excellent; his voice is somehow sparkling and intact.

The documentary started as a labor of love by debut director A.J. Eaton, years ago. When Cameron (Almost Famous, Jerry Maguire) Crowe got wind of the production (serendipity in the halls of J.J. Abrams’ production offices), he volunteered to do an interview. Crowe had already gone deep with Crosby over the decades, having interviewed him for Rolling Stone many times. 

The searing honesty Crowe and Crosby captured in the interview fired a return visit, and then another. Crowe then signed on as producer, which brought the production to a much higher profile.

The film takes a generally chronological approach, but it is poignantly bookended by Crosby’s departure and return to his wife and home in Santa Ynez. The most touching part of the film is when Crosby is driven into the hills of Laurel Canyon and stands outside the house where CSN was born. “It took 40 seconds. Not hours or days, we knew we were a band within 40 seconds of first singing together.” The wistfulness in his eyes as he stands in the driveway, recounting for us (and ruminating internally) of what was born and eventually lost is stirring.

Given that he triggered the loss of friendship with these musical compadres (apparently including fellow Byrds founders Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman), it is fascinating that they all appear in the film. Undoubtedly the common thread of Crowe’s even keel unlocked these important clips.

The early footage is great, as is the genre-defining photography of Henry Diltz (who banters with Crosby in a memorable sequence).

A crisp 95 minute running time left much on the cutting room floor; his reunion with a seemingly lost son (and now fellow bandmember) has been told elsewhere. But Crosby’s love of his boat, the many loves of his life, his descent into drugs and surrender to the FBI are all laid bare.

This is a film that was only hinted at in Crosby’s appearance in Echo in the Canyon. It is a film against much will be measured.

Watch the trailer here.

Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.