He’s a jailbird, a two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, and is still gunning for a third induction, just to make Eric Clapton jealous. He’s a guy who says he wants to be loving, but admits to alienating people in his life with a temper he cannot control. He’s a prickly pear with the voice of an angel and the subject of “David Crosby: Remember My Name,” a new documentary that transcends the usual rock doc career retrospective to create an unflinching portrait of the man one bandmate called “insufferable.”
Directed by A.J. Eaton and featuring interviews by Cameron Crowe, who first interviewed Crosby in 1974, the movie hits all the points you expect. From a Hollywood childhood with a cinematographer father who never told his son he loved him, to the heady days of the Laurel Canyon scene that gave birth to The Byrds and Crosby, Stills and Nash (and later Young) to hanging out with The Beatles and being dumped by Joni Mitchell in a song, his early days are amply covered. Fast forward to the darker stuff, heroin addiction (“Addiction takes you over like fire takes over a burning building,” he says.), the death of his longtime girlfriend Christine Hinton and a stretch in a Texas prison for drug and weapon charges. All are covered with extraordinary candor by filmmaker and subject alike.
“David Crosby: Remember My Name” never feels like a shill for Crosby or an advertisement for a new record. Although it contains biographical elements and plenty of nicely chosen archival footage, it’s not a Ken Burns style historical piece. Instead it’s a deeply felt tribute to a man who has left his mark but wants more. Crosby’s face brims with emotion as he discusses the past and concern as he talks about the future. “I’m afraid of dying, and I’m close,” he says. “I’d like to have more time.” It’s those moments that separate “Remember My Name” from the average bio. In an era of curated celebrity content the honesty on display here, coupled with some truly great music, is refreshing and fascinating.