The Legends of Laurel Canyon
1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die
It’s So Hard To Tell Who’s Going To Love You The Best
Transfiguration of Vincent
Christmas in the Heart
Glitter and Doom Live
Let It Roll: The Best of George Harrison
Secret, Profane & Sugarcane
Playing for Change
My wife, who is younger than I am and a music fan like I am, sometimes refers to me as a hippie. She says this to exaggerate our age differences, and to point out that we are from different generations, as if we were decades apart (As a point of fact, she was born six years, nine months and seven days after me, but who’s counting?).
In a sense, I can understand her point, because a lot happened in those six-plus years. For example, I can remember Beatlemania, but she wasn’t born until after “Help!” was released. Although I was much too young to be a hippie, I identified with the youth movement, especially the music, while her point of reference usually dates back no further than the Clash. I may have only been seven years old during the ‘Summer of Love’, but that didn’t stop me from buying love beads and bell-bottom jeans (My Dad made me return the love beads). That is why I anticipated watching “The Legends of Laurel Canyon,” while she remained skeptical.
As it turns out, I am very happy to report that she enjoyed this documentary as much as I did. For me, it reaffirmed my love for what I already knew, but for her, it was revelatory. The story begins with theories regarding how the circumstances surrounding the Kennedy assassination led the youth of the time to become skeptical of the older generation, and provided the impetus for Beatlemania as a means of rejecting the status quo. By leading us through Dylan’s influence on folk music, it follows Stephen Stills and a few other key players as they settle in Laurel Canyon and form bands that emulated both the Beatles and Dylan. The Byrds and Buffalo Springfield were first, and a scene developed around clubs like the Whiskey a Go-Go and the Troubadour. Along the way, we meet the Mamas and the Papas, Joni Mitchell and others, and through their collective work, we discover a generation defined by its pursuit of intelligence, self-awareness, curiosity and sensuality.
Before I go too much further, I should point out that this documentary could be subtitled “Stephen Stills and his Influence on the California Culture of the Sixties.” Stills is by far the primary focus of this story, and it is his music that provides much of the soundtrack. The footage covering the birth of Crosby, Stills and Nash is revelatory and beautiful, covering details that I had not previously known. It also allows the story to move smoothly from the highs of Woodstock, to the subsequent lows of the Manson murders and the Kent Sate shootings.
Back then, there was a phrase about never trusting anyone over thirty. Now that I’m 51, I have a different perspective on that axiom. I still identify strongly with this music, as if it were frozen in amber while I continued to age. In a sense, that is true, and happily, I believe the same is now true for my wife. Maybe I’ve become entirely too old, but I’d prefer to think that our time has come, and this music lives on in the spirit of all the people who experienced it firsthand when it happened, as well as those who are just now discovering its essence. As I reread this paragraph, I recognize that I need to confess to something after all: OK, so I’m a hippie.