Greetings again from the darkness. Headliners for the eternal Rock ‘n Roll question, “Is he still alive?” are Keith Richards and the subject of this documentary, David Crosby. The two men epitomize the ‘sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll’ battle cry. Director A.J. Eaton and Producer Cameron Crowe team up to allow Crosby to tell his own story. It’s been 45 years since Crowe (whose story as an upstart reporter was the basis of ALMOST FAMOUS) first interviewed Crosby for Rolling Stone magazine, and this time Crosby is 75 years old and looking back on a life maybe not so well lived.
There is a mythology to the 1960’s and David Crosby WAS the 1960’s. He was a pop star who spoke his mind about politics and social issues … often to the detriment of his popularity or status within a band. The film states he has ‘been at the forefront of rock music for 5 decades”, and while it’s true he experienced tremendous success with The Byrds and Crosby, Stills and Nash, and later Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young (Crosby considers those two separate bands), he has also spent an inordinate amount of time on the sidelines – fired from bands, strung out on drugs, and even serving jail time.
Most of the interviews we see are clips from the past. This includes Graham Nash, Stephen Stills, Neil Young, Jackson Browne, and Chris Hillman. Roger McGuinn appears to be the only one who agreed to go on camera for the documentary. Crosby explains this by saying most everyone he created music with “hates” him and won’t talk to him … because he was an “a**hole”. Alienating 50 years of friends and collaborators is not an easy thing to own up to, but Crosby comes across as quite reflective during his time on camera speaking with Crowe.
Floyd Crosby, David’s father, was an Oscar winning cinematographer known for TABU: A STORY OF THE SOUTH SEAS (1931) and HIGH NOON (1952). The two were not close, but Crosby says his mother showed her love quite often. It’s fascinating to follow Crosby as he narrates the journey of his life: going sailing after being kicked out The Byrds, hanging with Mama Cass, discovering and loving Joni Mitchell, doing most every possible drug, and suffering health issues that include 8 stents in his heart, a liver transplant, and life as a diabetic. It’s mesmerizing to hear Crosby tell the story of Neil Young writing “Ohio” almost immediately after the Kent State massacre. We even meet Crosby’s wife Jan and see their lovely California home, replete with dogs and horses. Perhaps the most entertaining segment is when Crosby heads back to Laurel Canyon and visits “Our House” where Crosby, Stills and Nash were born with a 40 seconds take in the kitchen.
The only bit more amazing than Crosby still being alive is that stunningly pure voice has never failed him. It’s a voice that has appeared on so many records over the years, and now in this 70’s, Crosby has experienced a musical rebirth. The film would make a nice companion to the recently released documentary ECHO IN THE CANYON, but mostly it plays not like a story of redemption, but rather a farewell and apology letter. It’s quite possible that’s exactly the note Crosby wanted to hit.