Folk Rock Is Revived in "Live From Laurel Canyon"
Musical hotspots seem to circulate around the country. Hair metal was birthed along the Sunset Strip in late-1980s Los Angeles, but before those boys started teasing their hair and wearing makeup there was a counter-culture movement (mostly make-up free) that happened decades earlier and just a few miles further west.
Laurel Canyon shoots upward from an intersection with Sunset Boulevard, eventually ending at Mulholland Drive. It's a small, lightly wooded community close to Hollywood, but worlds away in terms of attitude and lifestyle. In the mid-1960s it became the place to be for artists and musicians harboring a folk background, but looking for inspiration beyond the then-fading musical style. Word of mouth spread talk that something special was happening musically in those foothills, a place where folk music was indeed undergoing a progressive change.
Artists like Neil Young and Joni Mitchell came from Canada, while New Yorker Carole King, North Carolina boy James Taylor, Britton Graham Nash, and a host of others descended on the canyon to create, during a 10-year period -- a body of work that perhaps remains unmatched anywhere. Amazingly, many of these artists would go on to become some of the biggest names in musical history -- and most, eventual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame members.
The music these artists created during this period is that basis for "Live From Laurel Canyon" -- Songs & Stories of American Folk-Rock, a 90-minute show featuring many of the iconic songs composed in that storied atmosphere.
"Most of us grew up with a lot of this music," explains Khani Cole, a Valley resident and creator of the show along with Brian Chartrand, and Kip Fox. "It was a unique, special time musically in that geographic area. All these people were neighbors. They hung out together, wrote songs together, rehearsed together, had relationships together. They were young and creative and it [made for a] really unique time. They created a lot of great stuff that is still with us and has stood the test of time."
It's hard to imagine a more interlocked community. Joni Mitchell drew album covers and wrote songs for CSN&Y. Graham Nash composed "Our House" while living in Mitchell's home. Jackson Browne began and Glenn Frey finished what would become The Eagles first hit, "Take It Easy." Neil Young composed some of his biggest songs in the canyon, both as a solo artist and with Buffalo Springfield.
"I think [these artists] somehow serendipitously congregated in this area," Cole adds. "In the country at the time I think people were trying to come together and have a community . . . [and] they lived in this small little community just for a short period of time. They were all contemporaries of each other, which I think was really cool. It was a birthing place of this great American songbook. It was the birth of folk rock."