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Laurel Canyon documentary dives into rich musical history

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

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From the mid-60s through the early 70s, Los Angeles' Laurel Canyon neighborhood was a hotbed for artists -- and an incubator for legendary music from the Mamas and the Papas, Buffalo Springfield, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Jackson Browne and many others.

It fell to Alison Elwood, director of "History of the Eagles," "The Go-Go's" and more, to turn the magic, and the myths, into an exhaustive four-hour documentary called "Laurel Canyon," airing at 9 p.. Sunday, June 7 and on June 16 on Epix.

"It's like (David) Crosby says at the end of the film -- there's no explaining why or how it happened," Elwood says by phone. "Paris happened in the 20s. The Renaissance happened. Some places become a magnet for people who discover that they can create something.

"It's not that they set out to do that, necessarily, and you can't force these things. They just happen."

"Laurel Canyon" features memories from scores of top musicians who were part of the scene there, along with a treasure chest worth of footage and commentary and images from photographers (and residents) Henry Diltz and Nurit Wilde. "It was just a perfect storm," notes the Monkees' Micky Dolenz, who lived near neighbors included Alice Cooper, Frank Zappa and Mitchell and Graham Nash. Michelle Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas adds that because the area was "cheap and charming" and just minutes from the clubs on the Sunset Strip, ""Laurel Canyon had this fascination for people in the arts for years and years. And because we were all there together and hung out together, we fed off each other and great things happened."

And while there was a "dark underbelly" of the Manson Family murders and the specter of the Vietnam War, Ellwood hopes that "Laurel Canyon" mostly documents that triumphs that happened there.

"It's just the story about this sort of zeitgeist that happened in this place," she says. "It became a magnet for all these artists discovering who they were, what their places was in the world through their art. And it just got bigger and bigger."

"Laurel Canyon" airs at 9 p.m. Sunday, May 31 and June 7 on Epix. Epix.com.

Web Site: www.Epix.com

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