David Crosby: Remember My Name: Everybody’s Been Burned, by David Bax
From his large but unflashy house in the Santa Ynez Valley, surrounded by lush rows of grapevines and rolling hills, famed singer/songwriter David Crosby, with his trademark whispers now white strands framing a smile, would appear to be living the most idyllic of hippie retirement dreams. He has, by his own admission in A.J. Eaton’s David Crosby: Remember My Name, all the things most important to him: “My children, my wife, my dogs and my music.” But, as Eaton shows us in his deceptively breezy documentary, our demons are no so easily placated. Tranquility is fragile. Happiness is not guaranteed. Death is.
Mixing interviews conducted with Crosby by Cameron Crowe with a bevy of existing footage and plenty of new material showing Crosby living, touring, playing and recording, Remember My Name makes a sly show of being a standard biographical documentary. But Crosby, who still thinks of himself as the only guy in Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young who never had a hit, is too ill at ease to be packaged thus. Eaton wisely follows his subject down whatever bitter path he chooses. In an early scene, Crosby–one of the first 1960s musicians to move to Laurel Canyon–revisits the neighborhood’s general store and takes in all the photos of the stars who have come in and out of the place. He points out to us that he’s not in any of them.
If Eaton weren’t as curious and observative as he is, he might have been fooled by Crosby’s genial old salt facade. The man can certainly tell a hell of a charming story. This movie about a folk singer unexpectedly opens with jazz music and Crosby relaying a story about a jazz musician. He does eventually get to the name-dropping rock star stories too but he does it all with an unforced poetry and a relaxed Southern California accent.
It’s only gradually that Eaton approaches the reality that none of these famous folks are on speaking terms with Crosby, whose reputation for being a prick is fascinatingly incongruent with the gentle man we see on screen. Many of these old peers, of course, are dead, like Jim Morrison (of whom Crosby dismissively states, “What a dork”). But Stills, Nash and Young are all still alive and kicking and conspicuously not among those interviewed for Remember My Name. He hasn’t talked to any of them for years.
So why make the movie now? Why not wait till some reunion tour and get yourself a big happy ending?
Because Crosby could drop dead at any moment. His heart is weak from decades of abuse and is always on the verge of giving out. Not that that stops him from leaving his happy home and family for weeks at a time to tour. Nor does it stop him from carrying and exacerbating his passel of grudges. Remember My Name is less about the grand life of a rock star than about a man stubbornly refusing to change, even in the face of death.