This A J Eaton documentary (trailer), released so
close in time to Echo in the Canyon, covers some of the same ground and
personalities, but in a totally different way. Echo is about the musician-heavy Laurel Canyon area in a brief
period of the mid-sixties. This film, by contrast, examines one man’s career
and his musical and cultural influence over a lifetime, and it shares a fair
amount of that music with you.
As to cultural influences, in a poignant coincidence, the
film tells how Dennis Hopper modeled the character of Billy in the film Easy Rider on Crosby. It was bittersweet
seeing clips from the film so soon after its star Peter Fonda died (a young
Jack Nicholson too).
In the documentary, David Crosby says he’s 76 years old, has
eight stents in his heart, diabetes, a liver transplant—in short, a load of
health problems. “How is it you’re still alive?” he’s asked, when so many
others are not. There’s no answer to that, and he doesn’t attempt one.
Yet he’s still making music, still releasing albums as
recently as last year. He’s touring. His life is music. It’s too bad he shot himself in the foot so many times
with his band mates in the Byrds, and Crosby Stills Nash, with and without
Young. His behavior was terrible, but it was in Echo that he said point-blank that Stills, Nash, and Young dumped
him “because I was an a——.” Subsequently, acrimony has repeatedly thwarted the
group’s attempts to reassemble.
He doesn’t spare himself or make excuses. What emerges from the
many hours of interviews with Cameron Crowe, who’s known the musician for 45
years, is compelling viewing. Jon
Bream in the Minneapolis Star Tribune
says, “Rarely have we seen such an unvarnished, unflattering and revealingly
real portrait of a music star.”
Echo was dinged
for not including Joni Mitchell (she came later, the filmmakers said), but you
see plenty of her here. Crosby saw her perform in Florida and brought her to
Los Angeles, but as with most of his relationships with women, theirs was
fraught. He blames himself. In 1969, his girlfriend Christine Hinton was killed
in an auto accident, and Graham Nash (if I remember correctly) said that after
Crosby identified her body, he was never the same. Since 1987, he’s been
married to Jan Dance.
Asked whether he has regrets, he admitted to big ones, mainly
the wasted decade as a junkie, which led to lost music and lost potential.
Time, he says, is the ultimate currency. “Be careful how you spend it.”
Tomatoes critics’ rating: 91%; audiences: 92%.