David Crosby: Remember My Name

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David Crosby has lived a charmed life. Born with singing talent and a baby face (which he disguised with abundant facial hair), he was part of two legendary rock groups and has enjoyed success as a solo performer.

The new documentary film David Crosby: Remember My Name examines his career and his life and reveals flaws and shortcomings along with fame and fortune.

Crosby was a member of the Byrds, the band for whom the term “folk/rock” was coined in the 60s. He later joined Stephen Stills and Graham Nash to form Crosby, Stills and Nash. (They soon added Neil Young to the group.)

Unlike much of the media coverage of Crosby in the last decade or two, the film does not overemphasize his health challenges. Yes, it does mention them and he and his wife Jan both acknowledge that he’s getting on in years, but the film reveals Crosby to be alive and feisty as ever.

With fewer talking head shots than are often seen in similar films, DC:RMN presents the expected archival images of Crosby’s milestones along with recent performance footage that demonstrates he can still sing.

Crosby himself has a good deal of on-camera face time, sharing memories. And opinions. Praise for Joni Mitchell. Dislike for Jim Morrison. Awareness of reasons why his former bandmates don’t speak to him.

Roger McGuinn tells why David Crosby was kicked out of the Byrds. Graham Nash gives his take on his recent sour relationship with Crosby. Photographer Henry Diltz talks about his recollections and takes some new pics of Crosby.

A memorable segment shows Crosby examining a large photo of the 1970 Kent State shootings and suggesting that he provided key impetus for Neil Young and the band to write and record the song Ohio.

David Crosby: Remember My Name will entertain and inform baby boomers. But will younger viewers care? I think yes, based on the success of recent rock-oriented films (dramatic and documentary).

Current media reminiscences of the Woodstock festival may also generate some interest in Crosby and others who enjoyed their greatest acclaim in the 60s and 70s. No, it’s not a coincidence that the film is being released on the 50th anniversary of that iconic event of modern pop culture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead

National Lampoon—the magazine and its spinoffs—helped set America’s comedy agenda for the latter part of the 20th century.

In Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of The National Lampoon, the main players in the saga—the ones who are still alive—share insight into what made it a big deal in the 70s and beyond. Director Douglas Tirola and his crew have assembled a stylish, quick-moving documentary that is far more than just a stroll down memory lane.

Co-founders Doug Kenney and Henry Beard shopped their idea around to magazine publishers in New York but got no takers until Marty Simmons stepped up to deliver investment money. Kenney and Beard included a provision in the deal that their 25% interest would be bought out in five years. This provision made both men rich at an early age.

The magazine had early troubles. An inconsistent graphic style and a lack of quality advertisers threatened its success. A new graphic designer and an important ad buy from José Cuervo led to increases in subscribers and revenue.

Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of The National Lampoon details outside projects beyond the magazine: the National Lampoon Radio Dinner comedy album, the stage parody of Woodstock called Lemmings, the National Lampoon Radio Hour and the Animal House and Vacation movies. Interestingly, it is revealed that NBC called to ask if they wanted to participate in the TV show that became Saturday Night Live, but Lampoon passed. (Many of its alumni became part of the SNL cast and crew.)

DSBD features sound bites from magazine staffers as well as persons involved in the Lampoon story, along with those who were influenced by the work: P.J. O’Rourke, Tony Hendra, Chevy Chase, Judd Apatow, John Landis, Tim Matheson, Kevin Bacon and others. Along with these comments Tirola presents a huge sampling of Lampoon content, such as the classic cover featuring the man who led a massacre in Vietnam, U.S. Army Lt. William Calley, as Mad’s Alfred E. Newman with the caption “What, Me Lai?”

DSBD offers tribute to those who fall into the Dead category including Michael O’Donoghue, John Hughes, John Belushi and, especially, Doug Kenney.

I was a National Lampoon subscriber for much of the 70s and am familiar with how outrageous the magazine was. The underlying truth of this shameless material was… it was hilarious! I enjoyed a nostalgic rush revisiting Foto Funnies, Son O’ God comics, the John Lennon parody on Radio Dinner, among other bits.

Henry Beard refers to an “attic” of postwar American culture and says, “we basically looted it.” Lampoon’s success came from ripping holes in popular culture and in the sacred counterculture. Dead Stoned Brilliant Dead chronicles an era of humor whose influence is still strong. Baby Boomers may be the prime audience for the film, but Gen-Xers and Millenials will enjoy seeing what brought us all to where we are today.