Truthfully, though I loved the CSN and CSNY music, I never paid too much attention to the personalities behind it, I never traced their peregrinations from one band to another, their spouses and romantic partners, their breakups and reunions, their drug busts and recoveries.
This state of unknowingness lasted until a spate of movies came out in the last decade or so about these personalities. Yes, I’d seen the concert film where Neil Young talks about his near-death experience with a cerebral aneurysm. (I think that was the film Heart of Gold), but in general, I didn’t know about Big Pink, the Laurel Canyon scene—you name it. These were documentaries that benefited from compelling on-screen interviews of interesting subjects and extensive archival footage. And, by resurrecting the music, they drew on their audience members’ deep well of musical nostalgia.That I certainly do have, in abundance.
Two of the CSNY documentaries were especially memorable. David Crosby: Remember My Name by AJ Eaton focuses on the eponymous musician. In the film, Crosby said he was 76 years old, had eight stents in his heart, and numerous other serious medical problems. As to the repeated breakups and reunions of the group, in interviews by Cameron Crowe, he didn’t spare himself or hide his regrets, especially the time he wasted as a junkie. Time, he said, is the ultimate currency: “Be careful how you spend it.” If you want to see Joni Mitchell and her contribution to the group, this is the documentary to see. Available for streaming on YouTube.
Echo in the Canyon is Andrew Slater’s documentary about the brief years in the mid-1960s when Laurel Canyon was home to an astonishing number of California-based rockers. Jakob Dylan is the interviewer. Again, David Crosby fesses up. The Byrds booted him not for “creative differences,” the euphemism of the time, but “I was kicked out because I was a ‘glass-bowl.’”Having seen these two films, I’d agree with that, at least in those years. Still, there’s the music . . . Available for streaming on YouTube.
In a heartfelt tribute to Crosby, Washington Post staff writer Pamela Constable explores her unexpected sadness at his death last week. She says, it “feels to me like the death of harmony in a new age of rage.”