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‘David Crosby: Remember My Name’ review: Singer-songwriter looks back at life and the music still left to make

The musician rattles skeletons in his own closets in "David Crosby: Remember My Name."
The musician rattles skeletons in his own closets in "David Crosby: Remember My Name." (Handout)

“Morrison, what a dork,” the crustily cantankerous (cantankerously crusty?) David Crosby opines while regarding a photo of The Doors frontman displayed in the Laurel Canyon Country Store. The visit to the small Los Angeles grocery store is one stop on a “David Crosby: This is Your Life” style tour in the documentary “David Crosby: Remember My Name,” directed by A.J. Eaton and produced by Cameron Crowe. The filmmakers have driven Crosby down the Sunset Strip, past the Whisky A Go-Go and up the canyon made famous as the home for the coolest singers and songwriters of the ‘60s and ‘70s. The ghosts of Crosby’s past haunt the modest wooden houses tucked into the trees, but the singer-songwriter, with uncensored candor, isn’t afraid to rattle the skeletons in his own closet.

The LA drive serves as a device within the film for the now 77-year-old Crosby to reflect on his past as a child of Hollywood, a founding member of The Byrds, an ex-boyfriend of Joni Mitchell, a stalwart of the culturally influential LA music scene, a superstar in the folk supergroup Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, who played their second gig at Woodstock. But Crosby’s life was always peaks and valleys, and while he’s startlingly open and honest about his own shortcomings as a friend and lover; about the tragedy that he suffered, losing girlfriend Christine Hinton in a car accident; and about his struggles with addiction, he can only reflect for so long. It’s obvious that David Crosby wants to live in the moment, holding tight to every single one that he gets, regretful about any that were wasted to drugs and drink.

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From the outset, Eaton, Crosby and Crosby’s wife, Jan, are frank about reality of time and the closeness of death. Crosby has eight stents in his heart, a new liver thanks to Hepatitis C, and diabetes. He laments the passage of time, always hoping for more time to learn, sing, and make music, the seeming shortage spurring him to tour and record at a feverish output. He contemplates his past ruefully, especially when it comes to the recent feuds with his former bandmates, but dwelling on the past doesn’t seem like something Crosby spends too much time on. He’s got too much to do, too much much life to live, too many songs to share.

Comprised of archival footage and photos with remembrances from Crosby and many of his past associates, along with interviews and footage from his current tour, “Remember My Name” reflects on its own making, revealing the filmmaking apparatus around the edges to acknowledge the role in of the creator in myth-making. The idea of Crosby as a myth bumps up against Crosby as a man. That’s demonstrated most starkly when Crowe produces a tape of a 1974 interview he conducted for Rolling Stone, in which Crosby offers up a falsely attributed quote to his father about the importance of friends. It’s his own words, and confronting them now, having lost many of his friends to spats and fights, brings Crosby to his most vulnerable place.

It's this crystal-edged, often cutting honesty that makes legendary music man Crosby as fascinating, prickly, bracingly entertaining as he is, for better or for worse. But he's always willing to direct that honesty right at himself, too. Remember his name? We won't soon forget.

“David Crosby: Remember My Name" -- 3.5 stars

MPAA rating: R (for language, drug material and brief nudity)

Running time: 1:35

Opens: Friday

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