If you consider American musicians in terms of the collaborators they’ve had over the course of their careers, few are as impressive as David Crosby. There’s Roger McGuinn, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and of course Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, and Neil Young.
Yet at age 77 and in failing health, Crosby is long estranged from all his old friends and colleagues. Still, many nights of the years, the wild-haired, walrus-mustached troubadour is probably still playing a set somewhere in America, still telling his stories.
While very much a look at the man at the end of his sprawling, remarkable life, David Crosby: Remember My Name is not the story of someone fading quietly. Crosby today is often as biting as he is sad, cut off from most of his closest and oldest relationships, but often remarking on their collapse with vinegary barbs — many of them directed at himself.
Structurally, director A.J. Eaton follows a fairly familiar rock-music biopic, dipping into Crosby’s childhood reared by emotionally distant parents in Southern California, before sweeping into his early-60s voyage east to Greenwich Village. He joins The Byrds. He swaps songs with Dylan. He blows up one band so he can team up with Stills, Nash, and eventually Young. CSNY peaks, declines, reunites, and separates again and again. Laurel Canyon is the wellspring of musical genius, until it’s ripped apart by drug abuse and personal accusations.
Crosby, to his credit, does not shirk the blame for his own misery. By his own admission, he spent most of the 70s as a crackpot junkie until that landed him in a Texas prison in 1982, which was far from the end of the demons. There’s some solace in his marriage to Jan Dance, who may be the last person still willing to remain at his side as he deteriorates.
Unlike most rock hagiographies, there’s no happy reunion with the old bandmates. Eaton includes the final time Crosby, Stills, and Nash appeared together: a 2015 White House Christmas tree lighting where they butchered “Silent Night.” Things are even more frayed with Young.
While Crosby’s raw and honest, he is nearly the sole source of information in Remember My Name. Stills, Nash, and Young are limited to archival clips dissing their former collaborator. Only Cameron Crowe, whose had an association with Crosby dating back to his days as a kid reporter for Rolling Stone — and who’s credited as a producer here — chimes in as an occasional interlocutor.
But that’s not a fatal flaw. Remember My Name is an autobiography of a man whose time is nearly up. Crosby knows he can’t make things right with his former friends, but he can at least acknowledge what went wrong, and keep cranking out new music until he can’t anymore.