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'Laurel Canyon' docuseries a deep dive into Joni Mitchell, the Eagles and more in '60s and '70s L.A. scene

George Varga, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in Entertainment News

What was so special about Laurel Canyon, which nurtured the fabled California Sound in the 1960s and was home to such budding future music legends as former San Diegan Frank Zappa, Joni Mitchell, The Doors and Crosby, Stills & Nash?

What led to the community's second wave in the early 1970s, when Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Little Feat and others became residents?

And what role did some of the Laurel Canyon musicians have at Woodstock and Altamont -- the most famous and infamous rock-music festivals, respectively, of the 1960s -- which took place barely four months apart at the end of that tumultuous decade?

"Laurel Canyon," the lovingly crafted docuseries on EPIX that concludes Sunday, provides the multifaceted answers.

The two 90-minute segments focus on what transpired in that bucolic Los Angeles neighborhood between the mid-1960s and mid-1970s, and the many solo artists and bands -- from The Byrds to the Eagles -- that came in between. A treasure trove of pictures by Nurit Wilde and famed music photographer Henry Diltz is interspersed with a generous array of recent and archival footage, along with wealth of new and vintage interviews.

While several books and previous film documentaries have explored the same subject matter, including 2018's decidedly uneven "Echo in the Canyon," the deep dive provided by "Laurel Canyon" is thoughtful and illuminating. The many interview subjects range from Neil Young and Steve Martin to Linda Ronstadt and Mitchell, who was conspicuously absent from "Echo in the Canyon."

 

"It could have been anywhere, but the music was just blossoming at that point in Laurel Canyon," said Chris Hillman, who -- as a co-founder of The Byrds -- was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991.

The former San Diego bluegrass musician lived in Laurel Canyon from 1964 to 1968. Hillman and The Byrds' Roger McGuinn co-wrote their band's classic song, "So You Want To Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star," when both lived in Laurel Canyon.

Mitchell's third album, 1970's "Ladies of the Canyon," featured fellow Laurel Canyon residents Neil Young, David Crosby, Graham Nash and Stephen Stills. Nash wrote the Crosby, Stills & Nash classic "Our House" in (and about) the home he shared there with Mitchell. She wrote all of the songs for her classic 1971 album, "Blue," while residing there.

'Could never happen again'

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