Legends of The Canyon: Classic Artists

Legends of The Canyon: Classic Artists

Henry Diltz shot the photo for The Doors’ Morrison Hotel album cover. He tells a great story about that photograph in the liner notes to his DVD Legends of The Canyon, detailing life in the Los Angeles music scene in the late 1960s.

Known primarily as Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s official photographer, Diltz was there for the formation of the scene that became so large and unwieldy that even though I’ve read books about the Sunset Strip and individual rock clubs likeThe Whiskey, The Troubadour, etc., I never really felt like there was an actual “Los Angeles music scene” in the way we’ve thought of San Francisco, Seattle, Austin, or even parts of New York City.

I always believed that Los Angeles’ music scene was too connected to the biggest-big-money show business traditions of managers, agents, labels, and distributors to ever be considered on the level of the others (or even that of Nashville, which has always been a mix of major labels and clubs). But by bringing in his photos and films as primary sources and by interviewing — at length — the remaining living members of the scene, through Legends of The Canyon: Classic Artists Diltz tells a warm, familial story of an organic folk scene forming in spite of (as opposed to “because of”) the mammoth entertainment business happening in Los Angeles in the late ’60s.

I especially enjoyed getting to know Graham Nash and David Crosby more than ever before. Both are fascinating as they detail folk music and the people who made the ’60’s what they were for American music. I would expect to see a similar documentary about San Francisco’s Haight neighborhood, Jefferson Airplane and The Grateful Dead, but seeing Los Angeles given such a careful documenting by the artists and musicians who lived there before the scene blew up was a real treat.

Legends tells the origin story of the Sunset Strip, before it became a cliché of ambitious wannabes. It was once home to people who truly became “legends.” In fact, at first I thought this film was primarily meant to peek inside the politics of CSN&Y. Then I thought it was (most significantly) meant to peek inside the internal politics of The Mamas and The Papas, but even after all of their origin stories and personnel changes are exhausted, the DVD continues full steam into a narrative about Joni Mitchell coming to The Canyon, and Woodstock and Greenwich Village (NYC) are brought into the family tree, complete with all original photography.

In fact Legends is about the artists who played the Sunset Strip’s legendary clubs, but its heart lies in showing their musician’s lifestyle in Laurel Canyon, living in cheap bungalows, sleeping late, smoking pot, and playing acoustic guitars. After perusing the handful of excellent DVDs and books on the subject (Laurel Canyon: The Inside Story of Rock-and-Roll’s Legendary Neighborhood, Canyon of Dreams, Blue Jean Baby, Hotel California, Waiting for the Sun) this is the best, most loving portrait of Laurel Canyon ever produced in print or screen.

110 minutes, not rated. Directed by Jon Brewer for Image Entertainment. Starring Henry Diltz, David Crosby, Graham Nash, Steven Stills, Michelle Phillips, Van Dyke Parks, and Dallas Taylor.

(Image Entertainment -- 20525 Nordhoff St. Suite 200, Chatsworth, CA. 91311; http://www.image-entertainment.com/; )
BUY ME: Amazon

Review by . Review posted Sunday, October 24th, 2010. Filed under Features, Reviews.

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