Sydney Film Festival Review: David Crosby is an open book that teaches us children well in Remember My Name

David Crosby was a Byrd who became a “difficult cat”. In Remember My Name he is an old dog armed with a guitar in one hand and a spliff in the other. This musician and artist is very candid about his full and colourful life in this feature-length documentary. This film is ultimately an entertaining and insightful one about an outspoken, hippie troubadour.

Relative newcomer, A.J. Eaton directs this impressive film. The subject matter could have been tricky to negotiate. Crosby after all has struggled with addictions and health problems, as well as crumbling relationships with lovers, family and collaborators. There could have been some holes to fill, and yet the finished product manages to be an intriguing look at all this and much more. By steering clear of hagiography and with Crosby’s forthright attitude, you get a sense that this old man is an open book.

Producer, Cameron Crowe helps bring out and shape some of Crosby’s honesty. In one scene the Rolling Stone journalist uses his first Crosby interview in 1974 to ask follow-up questions about some thorny topics. This is a springboard for the two to discuss Crosby’s acrimonious relationships with his former friends and bandmates. The result is so wistful.

This film tackles the major beats in Crosby’s life. He was a member of The Byrds until he was fired. He then went on to form part of Crosby, Stills and Nash, a folk supergroup that would accept Neil Young into the fold. They had some massive hits including “Ohio,” “Teach Your Children Well” and “Our House”. They visit the inspiration for the latter here, and this offers some interesting moments.

Crosby’s romantic life is also covered. He likens his stormy relationship with Joni Mitchell to like falling into a cement mixer. There is the passing of one of his first loves, Christine Hinton. She was killed in a car accident and her passing irrevocably changed Crosby. While Crosby’s long and affectionate marriage to Jan Dance is also discussed, very little is offered up about his children apart from a fleeting mention to his daughter, Donovan.

The music in this film is incredible and the new songs make you appreciate why he is going through a career renaissance. But it’s the classic tunes that still sparkle and are worthy of those two Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions. The film also includes archive interviews with Graham Nash and Neil Young. While their soundbites are well-chosen and suit the narrative, you can’t help but wonder what it would have been like if the pair were questioned for this actual project.

Remember My Name is an excellent music documentary because it traverses the dark and light moments. There are some really poignant times for reflection while at other moments there is pure lightness and humour. This range and depth of emotion means it should strike a chord with a lot of different people, just as those old CSNY harmonies do. At its core, Remember My Name is a satiating and heady mix of disarming truths and playful humour. Not bad for an old dog…




David Crosby: Remember My Name played as part of the Sydney Film Festival.