Young, Talented, & Free: Laurel Canyon in the Late 1960’s

Is there a historical time and place you’ve ever thought might’ve been great to have been around for whatever reasons?  The combination of the lens of history and the imagination can make the grass appear quite green in different bygone scenes.  For me, Paris in the 1920’s, Greenwich Village in the late-1950’s/early 60’s, and Swinging London in the mid/late 60’s are a few which stoke my imagination.

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Another is Laurel Canyon for that brief moment in the late 60’s when the music world was shifting faster than people could keep up with.  Thankfully there were artists and record company executives willing to take chances.  Granted, the “free” in my title is subjective; artists enjoyed leeway to record and perform as they liked, but massive egos are a hinderance to freedom in the spiritual sense, and there was no shortage of those in the Canyon.

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But it was a snapshot in time just before the money got absurd and the drugs too hard,  and it’s not likely to ever be repeated.  Today it’s snapshots I’d like to share in a manner which deviates from my usual format.  Rock photography became a major art form itself and crucial to the music industry around this time, and in L.A. Henry Diltz, among others, was a major contributor among the emerging folk and rock glitterati.  Perhaps I’ll explore that topic another time.

For now, picture yourself in a canyon in 1968 L.A., with tangerine trees and smoggy skies…

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Frank Zappa with daughter Moon Unit.  Getty Images
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The unofficial hostess of Laurel Canyon, Mama Cass.  Henry Diltz photo

Mama Cass may have been the unofficial hostess, but pictorially and musically speaking, to me the most interesting road in the canyon led to Joni Mitchell’s house:

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Joni Mitchell, David Crosby, Eric Clapton, and Mama Cass’s baby.  Henry Diltz photo
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Crosby, Stills, Nash, Dallas Taylor, Young, and Greg Reeves.  Henry Diltz photo
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Jim Morrison, standing outside his Laurel Canyon home.  Paul Ferrara photo
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Jackson Browne in his ’57 Chevy.  Henry Diltz photo
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Linda Ronstadt, then of the Stone Poneys.  Henry Diltz photo
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Stephen Stills and Peter Tork.
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Judy Collins and Joni in Mitchell’s Lookout Mountain home, Laurel Canyon.  Rowland Scherman photo
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James Taylor and Joni.
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John Mayall
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The Canyon Country Store, where the ladies (and gentlemen) of the canyon gathered.

I recommend the following books to anyone interested in learning more about the Laurel Canyon scene in the 1960s and 70s:

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Laurel Canyon:  The Inside Story of Rock-and-Roll’s Legendary Neighborhood – by Michael Walker
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Canyon of Dreams:  The Magic and the Music of Laurel Canyon – by Harvey Kubernik
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Hotel California:  The True-Life Adventures of Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, Mitchell, Taylor, Browne, Ronstadt, Geffen, the Eagles, and Their Many Friends – by Barney Hoskyns

-Stephen

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/p/laurel-canyon-michael-walker/1100946905/2660582144646?st=PLA&sid=BNB_New+Marketplace+Shopping+Textbooks&sourceId=PLAGoNA&dpid=tdtve346c&2sid=Google_c&gclid=Cj0KCQiA2o_fBRC8ARIsAIOyQ-nUr5rGOVMQysznRYWWeGKw0AyV9FYd9GtYNVJnKKuhsr4oNzFz474aAumGEALw_wcB

https://www.abebooks.com/Canyon-Dreams-Magic-Music-Laurel/30110395251/bd?cm_mmc=gmc-_-used-_-PLA-_-v01&gclid=Cj0KCQiA2o_fBRC8ARIsAIOyQ-kNGadghEctBnpcpBkIc6ZO4citQKhM2YH4GY7xmO6i_oF5PT47dmAaAmowEALw_wcB

https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-471-73273-0

 

3 thoughts on “Young, Talented, & Free: Laurel Canyon in the Late 1960’s”

  1. I’ve read Laurel Canyon: The Inside Story of Rock-and-Roll’s Legendary Neighborhood and really enjoyed it. It was a small window of what seemed to be a great community and music…a lot of cross-pollination going on with musicians. But like you said money and hard drugs ruined it.

    Liked by 1 person

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