I watched this documentary about one of the gods of folk rock, musican David Crosby, twice in a row; I never do that with a movie. The first time I watched it, I didn't like it. I couldn't see the forest for trees. Basically, the first run through made me feel sad. I was emotionally affected by witnessing this pioneer of iconic music, master of harmonies, a creative genius in my opinion, as he lamented, (in the twilight of his life), his estrangments from friend-partners and fellow legends that he created treasured classics with that moved the world.
I didn't like seeing another one of my musical heroes and activism role model, Graham Nash, lash out in anger and palpable pain. I didn't like this movie; the whole thing felt depressing and uncomfortable.
So, why did I watch it again?
Because I suspected there was a lot more value to this conversation than the initial kneejerk reaction I had let me appreciate. I respect and admire Cameron Crowe as an interviewer of my favorite rock icons and of master filmmaker Billy Wilder too. I like Cameron immensely as a person, and trusted he would handle this film about David Crosby with care, in his capable hands. And of course, I love David's music and choose to give a fresh view to his words about his life.
Unlike many other documentaries, this one gives the strongest voice directly to David, the subject, rather than being populated with talking heads filling the air with their "expert" commentaries. Crosby took this opportunity to review his life in an honest, poignant, heartbreaking, joyous, and creative way.
As a child, his father never showed him any love. He lived through music, was a pioneer of sound, admitted that he could not live without music, which he would reluctantly choose above all else, to the surprise of his loving, devoted wife, Jan Dance, who shared some raw and touching personal reflections of her own. David wondered if his absolute need for music made him selfish. His gifts are necessary for his survival, and perhaps for many of his fans as well.
On the second view, I was struck by the music. This is the music I love; the music of my childhood, my life, my heart. Additionally, in the last few years Crosby has reinvented his career with a group of young musicans to supply harmony to his wonderful words; he turned out four albums chock full of his talented, transportive brand of magic. His muse apparenly stronger than ever; his perseverence through the ravages visited upon his body and soul solidly shines.
The arc of David Crosby's career included the pinnacle of collaborative artistic perfection and arguably some of the most stunning harmonies that have ever soared on this crazy cosmic sphere. Likewise, his career and life went careening out of control through his weaknesses, addictions, drugs, anger, angst, and ego. His health and relationships suffered terribly from these strains. How dare he be human?
Jackson Browne shares the story of an intervention he helped stage for David at one of low points of this life journey. It was notably unsuccessful, thus, former friend, Graham Nash, is furious and fumes at this loss and betrayal. How, if, or why to reconcile any form of relationship is up to them. I mourn the pain they have endured, and I get lost in the celebration of the music. As the credits rolled again, I came away without judgement and revisited the absolute privilege of being a fan.
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