A.J. Eaton's documentary David Crosby: Remember My Name surprises on many levels. Hitting me in the gut the way it did was unexpected. I found it to be one of the most cathartic nonfiction films I've ever seen. What opens the door to Crosby's own arrestingly honest assessment of his life is the purity of the rapport between musician and his questioner, Cameron Crowe. Decades of earned trust between these two reap beautiful, heartbreaking candor about: loves both quick and dead, inevitable regrets, calling bullshit when you see it, and repeatedly finding one's purpose renewed in the quiet spaces between tumult.
This is not some pat whitewash of a legend. The interviews are intimate and raw, and there seems almost an urgency in Crosby to say the things that are important to him while he still has breath. There are field trips to Laurel Canyon and to Kent State, mental trips to Woodstock and to the deck of his beloved schooner, and trips through time beautifully illustrated with exceptional archival footage. Along the way there's Graham, Stephen, and Neil... Joni and Jackson. The Byrds and Dylan too. But surprisingly absent are contemporary interviews with any of them, and one might imagine this film was made in a hermetically sealed ego-driven bubble, but it doesn't at all feel that way. The filmmakers have woven third-person recollections from older documentary productions with archival images and David's current-day interviews into a rough fabric of a full life, flawed and brilliant, and contentious as hell.
Nobody has more to say about Crosby being difficult than Crosby himself, and he's haunted by the fact that, "all the guys I made music with won't even talk to me." Yet when queried if he could do it all over and have more of a normal life, the question sounds absurd as soon as it hits the air. Through myriad ups and downs, both personal and professional, one thing has remained steadfast: Crosby's belief that his musical gift must be shared.
Seasoned with rare song demos and well-worn anthems, the film frequently puts the music center stage where it belongs, reminding us of its power to effect change in a broken world or in a broken soul.
One feels the pressures of time, miles, and a lifetime of abuse of the vessel. Particularly touching are the moments with David's wife Jan, who recognizes that every time he walks out the door could be his last. The spectre of mortality looms, and yes, there are reflections on the preciousness of time and a deep appreciation for a remarkable past, but this is a film rooted in the here and now - an appreciation of what's present, authentic, and lasting. It all combines into a mix of hopeful sadness as Crosby, 77, begins a tour with a fresh band, new songs, and bills to pay... vitally pretending that creating forward is easier than looking back.
I wholeheartedly recommend this film to my musician friends, practitioners of the arts, those who adore the great music of the 1960s-70s, and to all students of the real thing.
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