David Crosby on Cannabis, His Dislike of Jim Morrison and Why ‘Being Naked in Public is Never Fun’
Rock icon David Crosby is not one to mince words — even when criticizing himself, which is a recurring theme in the new documentary ‘David Crosby: Remember My Name.’ And he’s just as unapologetically candid when the cameras are off, I learned after chatting with Crosby over the phone to discuss the première of the doc, which opens this weekend (July 19) in New York and Los Angeles.
So far, the doc has received excellent reviews from critics who find his frankness refreshing in an age when so many public figures are afraid to go off script and drop their filters.
“Nobody does that anymore,” Crosby told Civilized. “I mean, we have a president who lies just about every time he opens his mouth. Nobody’s honest anymore, so it probably takes people by surprise when they hear someone speaking open and honest, without any of the polish or the bullshit they’re used to hearing these days.”
And he expects the same frankness from the people he talks to. Crosby has no problem with veering away from a scripted question by posing a more personal one (like when he asked me, “What’ve you heard from critics about the film?” and “Hey, you’ve watched it, right? What’d ya think, man?”). That quirk might seem jarring at first, but it makes for a lively interview as well as an engaging documentary.
‘David Crosby: Remember My Name’ offers a touching yet unvarnished portrait of a flawed artist who has no shortage of regrets in life and very little time left to make things right with the people he’s hurt.
And he knows it.
“People ask me if I’ve got regrets. Yeah, I’ve got huge regret about the time I wasted being smashed,” Crosby confesses at the beginning of the documentary. “I’m afraid of dying, and I’m close. And I don’t like it. I’d like to have more time — a lot more time.”
But he knows that might not happen given his medical condition.
“I’m 76 years old, I’ve had two or three heart attacks, I’ve got eight stints in my heart. That’s as many as you can put in,” Crosby reveals later in the doc, when reflecting on how he’s likely to have one final heart attack in the next few years.
Although produced by director/rock journalist Cameron Crowe and directed by A.J. Eaton, Crosby himself often acts as the host of the new doc as he invites viewers inside his home on the outskirts of Santa Barbara, brings them on the road while gigging across the country and revisits famous sites that inspired the songs he recorded as a member of The Byrds and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Those pit stops include revisiting the home that “Our House” was written about, and traveling to Kent State University, which was immortalized in the classic protest song “Ohio.”
Along the way, Crosby opens up about the many mistakes he’s made in the past, from treating ex-girlfriends terribly (“I hurt a lot of people), to losing years of his life to drug addiction (“The drugs became more important than anybody or anything, including music”), to alienating bandmates like Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Neil Young with his turbulent behavior (“I let those guys down terribly when I became a junkie”).
Civilized: What’s the best part about working on a documentary like this?
Crosby: Working with Cameron and AJ and the rest of the crew. We had a great team.
What was the hardest part about working on this doc?
Crosby: All of it. Talking about [longtime girlfriend] Christine [Hinton]‘s death [in a tragic car accident in 1969] was especially hard. But all of it was difficult. Being naked in public is never fun.
Since Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young broke up for good in 2015, you’ve seen an unlikely resurgence in your career. A lot of critics probably thought you were down, but in the last few years, you’ve received more commercial and critical success than you have in decades. Do you think your musical renaissance is indebted to the mistakes from the past?
Crosby: Yeah, in some ways, I do. I’ve managed to work through some of those things from the past in the music I’m making now.
Was anything cut from the film that you wish had made it into the finished piece?
Crosby: Yeah, there was more stuff on my time in prison [for getting busted with cocaine and heroin in 1982]. And my liver transplant. We had enough material to make a three-hour documentary, but we cut it down to about 90 minutes, and I like what we put together in the end.