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David Crosby wants you to ‘Remember My Name’

The documentary film "David Crosby: Remember My Name" opens today at the Magic Lantern. Following is my review, which I wrote for Spokane Public Radio:

Few musicians can boast the resumé of singer-songwriter David Crosby.

Not only was he a founding member of The Byrds, the influential rock group that had a No. 1 hit in 1965 with the Bob Dylan song “Mr. Tambourine Man,” but he teamed up with Stephen Stills and Graham Nash to found the immensely popular trio Crosby, Stills & Nash – which later, with the addition of Neil Young, became Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

Besides playing rhythm guitar, and adding his sweet harmonies to all three groups, Crosby wrote – or at least contributed to – a number of memorable songs, including “Guinnevere,” “Long Time Gone” and “Wooden Ships.”

But Crosby made an impact in other ways, too. Though it didn’t show up in D.A. Pennebaker’s 1968 documentary “Monterey Pop,” Crosby had alienated his fellow Byrds members during that 1967 music festival by spouting Kennedy-assassination conspiracy theories between songs. That and other personal conflicts got him fired from the group.

And even though Crosby rebounded with Stills and Nash – their appearance at the Woodstock festival being one of the best moments of Michael Wadleigh’s 1970 concert film – he ended up alienating both of them to the point where they, along with Young, have vowed never to play with him again. Or, for that matter, even speak to him.

And let’s not forget his ongoing bouts with drugs, a habit that earned him a nine-month stint in a Texas prison. Or his liver transplant, brought on by hepatitis C and criticized by a number of critics because of his past drug usage.

All of this is made clear in the film “David Crosby: Remember My Name,” a documentary directed by A.J. Eaton and based largely on interviews done both by Eaton and the film’s co-producer, and filmmaker in his own right, Cameron Crowe.

Along with the interviews, featuring Crosby himself and his wife Jan, but also musicians such as Jackson Brown and former Byrd Roger McGuinn, Eaton fills in his narrative with archival footage – the only appearances of Stills, Nash and Young – while following Crosby as he visits his old Laurel Canyon haunts and even as he heads out, at age 78, to headline a concert tour.

Even after all his success, he says, he still has to find a way to pay the bills.

But, of course, it’s more than that, too. Born the son of an Oscar-winning cinematographer, Crosby took to music early – and to the lavish kind of lifestyle that musical success afforded. Multiple relationships – including one with Joni Mitchell – were part of the mix, resulting in four children by as many different women.

As Crosby readily admits, he wasn’t the best of romantic partners – though he does express regret over what might have been had girlfriend Christine Hinton not died in a 1969 car accident.

He hasn’t been a particularly good friend, either, as his former bandmates would confirm.

Music, though, has been his constant. When asked if he had to choose between his comfortable Central California home and his music, he doesn’t hesitate.

Music, he says. It’s all he has to offer.