It’s easy to engage an audience by making TV shows about music they love. This has been a truism for PBS for many a pledge-drive season now, so it’s no surprise the network would air a show like last night’s American
Experience Masters, Troubadours, about the ’70s folk-rock scene in Los Angeles. It’s much more of an achievement, though, to get someone to see the accomplishment in music they don’t like, and here is where I have to hand it to this documentary.
The post-Woodstock, Southern California / Laurel Canyon music scene encompasses artists that I worship (Joni Mitchell, Carole King) and musicians that I have never been able to stand (James Taylor, the Eagles*)—and got me to see and appreciate the connections among them, especially by tracing the long friendship between King and Taylor.
Of course, more important to PBS, this probably will be a big nostalgia DVD for their baby boomer audience, but it’s also a thoughtful look at how a genre of music captured the spirit of California at the time (often, most actutely, through the work of non-Californians like Albertan Mitchell.) Any folk-rock lovers—or nonlovers—catch the piece?
* Among other things, the documentary discusses the band’s insistence on being called “Eagles,” no definite article.