In an industry that buries its young too frequently, David Crosby is a survivor.
Crosby is not only a survivor of three bands that helped define an era, but multiple physical ailments and addictions that could have easily landed him in an “In Memoriam” segment on an awards show.
In the documentary “David Crosby: Remember My Name,” which is currently in limited release in Los Angeles, the now 77-year-old barred his soul. He talks about his life with The Byrds, Crosby, Stills and Nash, as well as Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.
He pulls no punches on his personal life, filled with triumphs and tragedies, including his battles with drug and alcohol addiction, medical issues, the sudden death of a loved one, and his brushes with the law.
At a recent press junket in Beverly Hills, Crosby said his new motto is “only the good die young.”
“Keith (Richards) and I are getting T-shirts printed that say that,” Crosby said.
Crosby added, “The important part is not how long you have... what matters is what you do with it. That I can work with. I can't do anything about the fact that I'm old. I don't know how much time I got. I do know how I want to spend it.”
It's all in the detail
In recent years, Crosby has been spending time making new music, beginning with 2014's “Croz,” which was his first solo album in more than 20 years. Since “Croz,” he has released three new albums including another of new material that he says is half way done.
Filmmaker A.J. Eaton first met Crosby when he was writing “Croz.”
“I was so surprised about how fresh and luscious the music that he was writing was,” Eaton said.
Then Eaton met filmmaker Cameron Crowe, who first interviewed Crosby when he was a 16-year old journalist for Rolling Stone magazine, and “things went into high gear.”
Years after first interviewing Crosby, Crowe would write and direct 2000's “Almost Famous,” which was reportedly based on his crazy experiences on the road with Crosby, Stills and Nash, Led Zeppelin and other bands.
Crowe said he brought his years of journalism into his filmmaking career, which also included “Fast Times at Ridgemont High, “Say Anything...,” “Jerry Maguire” and “Singles.” Crowe won the Best Screenplay Oscar for “Almost Famous” in 2001.
Like journalism, Crowe said, filmmaking is about detail.
“He (Crosby) never forgets the detail,” said Crowe, who is the film's producer. “He talks about the cop at Woodstock, he's talking about the crease in his pants, the shine on his shoes... without the details, it's all generic.”
Eaton said a goal from the start of the documentary was to “do justice to the music” and his legion of fans.
“We also need to tell a story that people can watch from the beginning not knowing who David is and get an idea of the person he is,” Eaton said. “The movie as I see it, is a portrait of an artist, warts and all. David and Jan (Crosby's wife of more than 30 years) had been approached dozens of times to do a documentary, to do a movie about them. I'm honored to be given this trust, but it was also a major responsibility because the music means so much to so many people.”
At first, Crosby said he agreed to participate in the documentary because part of the focus was the “aberration” of his “surge of writing” at his age and “how did this come about?”
“It went vastly much deeper then I planned on, or was expecting and probably deeper than they had hoped even,” Crosby said. “But the fact was it was going there and we knew it, so we were on that tiger and we just grabbed the ears and stayed on.”
The documentary dives into Crosby's musical history dating back to The Byrds, which was formed in Los Angles in 1964, and into the trials and tribulations with CSN and CSNY.
First time hearing Mr. Tambourine Man
Crosby remembered the first time he heard himself on the radio.
It was on the Sunset Strip, April of 1965, when “Mr. Tambourine Man” was played on KRLA, the biggest station in L.A. at the time. The whole band was in a 1956 Ford Station Wagon they had bought from the singer/songwriter Odetta. They were dancing in the street, according to Crosby, when “Mr. Tambourine Man” was played.
“We were crazed because it meant we won, it meant that we had a life,” Crosby said. “It was an enormous moment.”
“Mr. Tambourine Man” would reach No. 1 on the Billboard charts that year, but tensions between him and rest of The Byrds would lead to him leaving the band two years later.
Crosby also discusses the formation of Crosby, Stills & Nash in early 1968 and the debate on whether Neil Young could fit in the with trio in 1969.
Now, Crosby is estranged from Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Neil Young, and believes a reunion is doubtful.
“I had one job and that's just not lie,” said Crosby about the documentary.
Crosby, who also discusses an interesting night at a John Coltrane concert and his relationships or opinions on other icons of the era like Jim Morrison and Joni Mitchell (“best singer/songwriter hand's down”), believes the documentary paints a “honest picture of another human being.”
“It's uncomfortable being naked in public, but worthwhile if you're trying to understand a human being,” Crosby said.
For more information, visit sonyclassics.com/davidcrosby/.