This weekend is the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Woodstock Festival, where a brand-new group named Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young played its second-ever live gig. Sadly, the Woodstock 50th Anniversary concert has been canceled. But you should take some time this weekend to see the new and breathtakingly honest documentary David Crosby: Remember My Name.
Crosby first found stardom as a member of The Byrds in 1964 and hasn't lost it since. But he has lost many other things along the way. In 1969, the same year as Woodstock, Crosby's girlfriend Christine Hinton died in a car crash, sending him into a tailspin and unleashing a serious drug addiction. That led to him losing his songwriting ability and eventually his freedom. He spent months in a Texas prison from which he was released in August 1986. He's still an enthusiastic cannabis user and hopes to put his name on premium weed someday, but he's been off hard drugs (and back to writing songs) ever since his imprisonment.
In the movie, he laments the 10 years that he lost to drugs. But the film reflects his sadness over an even bigger loss--his relationships with the fellow musicians with whom he once sang all those magical harmonies, Roger McGuinn (from the Byrds) Neil Young, Stephen Stills, and most especially Graham Nash. "All the guys that I made music with won't even talk to me," he says. "All of them. All of them. One of them hating my guts might be an accident." He lays the blame squarely on himself, saying that he said and did things that were "just awful." "Big ego, no brains," he says of his past self.
He and Nash were always in some way the nucleus of the group, and the pair toured and made albums together separately from the other group members. But then in 2015, a disagreement that neither will discuss in detail erupted and led to the usually mild-mannered Nash screaming at Crosby onstage in the middle of a concert. The two apparently haven't spoken to each other since.
It's a source of great regret for them both. Crosby says in the film that when he and Nash sing together, the resulting sound is hard to top. And Nash said in a 2016 interview, "It's an incredible shame. Because when we're good, we make very good music that touches people's hearts and changes their minds."
"Money, glory fame...none of it counts."
The 78-year-old Crosby seems to know that letting those relationships die was among the biggest mistakes of his life. In a 1974 interview that producer Cameron Crowe plays on camera in the film, a younger Crosby say, "My father says that money, glory, fame, chicks, none of it counts. Only thing that counts is whether you've got any friends."
"What happened to your friends?" Crowe asks him.
Perhaps ironically, it's only due to a different lifelong friendship that the movie got made at all. Today, Crowe is best known for his work in Hollywood--Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Say Anything, Jerry Maguire--but way before any of that, he was a teenaged reporter for Rolling Stone who tagged along with CSNY as they toured in the mid-70s. His movie Almost Famous is partly based on those experiences. Crowe knows Crosby well and volunteered to conduct several of the interviews, helping Crosby dig deeper into his own past.
Crowe was busy with other projects, though, so according to press materials released with the film, he turned down multiple requests from its young director A.J. Eaton to produce Remember My Name. But without a big-name producer there was no financial backing for the film, and Crosby himself did not have the money to finance it. Finally he called Crowe. "You have to do this or I have no documentary," he said. Crowe relented, backers signed on, and Eaton was able to complete the film.
As for Crosby's friendship with Nash, there may be a tiny chance that it's not over forever. In a 2016 interview, Nash said Crosby had "ripped the heart out of" both CSN and CSNY, and that he was no longer interested in working with him. If Crosby reached out to him, Nash said he would not respond. By 2018, he seemed to regret those comments. "You know...you say things in anger and you try and take them back and you can't sometimes because words are very powerful," he told an interviewer from Sirius XM. He and Crosby hadn't spoken in more than two years, after speaking nearly every day for 45 years, Nash added. "It's just sad and I don't quite know how to undo it."
But at least it sounds like he wants to undo it. And if he was hoping for an apology from Crosby, Remember My Name is a pretty good one. I also can't help noticing that both Nash and Crosby talk about the music they make together in the present tense, not the past. And then there's this comment from Nash's Sirius interview: "If we never played another note of music, CSN or CSNY, look what we did."
I'm hanging my hopes on that word "if." Maybe that means it's not a certainty that they won't.