Stream of the Week – 1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything (Apple TV+)
1971 was a big year. I don’t say that from experience (in fact, my parents were 15 years old in Cardiff, Wales at the time) but from the albums of that year in my collection. It was a “changing of the guard” of sorts. The ’60s were over and “flower power” was on its death bed, even though it was only two years after Woodstock. Instead, the world had changed. A war was raging in Vietnam, racial tension was at an all-time high across America, and Richard Nixon was mid-way through his first term in the white house.
More importantly, music was changing with the earth-altering breakup of The Beatles. While Paul McCartney and George Harrison, who did his star-studded Concert for Bangladesh that summer, were enjoying successful solo careers, it was John Lennon who was topping the charts with “Imagine”. Lennon himself was quoted that year as saying “flower power didn’t work. So what. We start again.”
Rock and roll was ushering in a new era. Led Zeppelin was in the midst of their prime, T-Rex was climbing the charts, Black Sabbath and Alice Cooper were introducing a heavier sound to teenagers and new starts David Bowie & Elton John were starting to make their mark. It was a big year for women as well with Carole King releasing her iconic “Tapestry” and Fort Macleod, Alberta’s Joni Mitchell putting out her iconic breakup album “Blue”. But perhaps no song summed up the times as much as “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye. Marvin was breaking down barriers left and right, not only as an African American artist but also in his lyrical content. “Picket lines and picket signs. Don’t punish me with brutality. Talk to me, so you can see oh, what’s going on.”
This eight-part series covers a lot of ground as it bounces back and forth across the globe. Lennon and Yoko Ono were making a name for themselves in their new home of New York City. Hunter S. Thompson was “fear and loathing” with his new brand of “gonzo” journalism in Las Vegas and Bob Marley was creating a revolution in Jamaica. Overseas, much time is spent in France. Jim Morrison would pass away in his Paris apartment at the age of 27, mere months after Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix had died at the same age (technically in 1970). The Rolling Stones were in the French countryside too, laying low following the killing of Meredith Hunter by Hell’s Angels during their notorious 1969 Altamont concert. Keith Richards was primarily doing a LOT of heroin, but the band also found time to write and record their first double album which would become “Exile On Main Street”.
Okay, so that album came out in 1972 – but in order to tell the whole story, the filmmakers do spend a little bit of time in the surrounding years with the Manson family murders in the late ’60s through to the Watergate Scandal which lasted from 1972-1974. So maybe it wasn’t just 1971 that changed everything but it certainly was a pivotal year by many accounts.
I highly recommend this series for music buffs, history buff or really anyone who enjoys a good documentary.
1971 : The Year That Music Changed Everything is available to stream on Apple TV+