1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything (Apple TV+) - review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything

Apple TV+, May 21, 2021

Jun 08, 2021 Web Exclusive
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“We were creating the 21st century in 1971,” David Bowie’s disembodied voice proclaims in the opening credits of 1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything, the Apple TV+ eight-part docu-series. This statement feels like an exaggeration, but as the 45-minute episodes unfold, the enormity of that single year’s impact on not only music, but on global politics and culture, and vice versa, cannot be overemphasized.

The series is based on the book Never a Dull Moment: 1971 the Year That Rock Exploded by David Hepworth. The multiple award-winning Asif Kapadia (Amy, Senna) is the series director and co-executive producer. Kapadia once again puts together an exceptional piece of work that has enough space to tell its story in full. 1971 avoids the talking heads approach to documentary. Instead, the series is a riveting collection of archival footage, both video and stills, much of which is either fresh, or has not previously been seen ad nauseum.

The imagery is propelled by the narration. This is a combination of archival audio, which retains its authentic character but is still high quality, and present-day commentary from individuals who experienced that year, and its impact, firsthand. Even when 1971 focuses on individuals who are still alive, their voices are from past recordings.

To give a snapshot of how influential and pivotal the year 1971 is, some of the albums released that year are: John Lennon’s Imagine, Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, The Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers, Sly and the Family Stone’s There’s a Riot Goin’ On, Joni Mitchell’s Blue, James Brown’s Hot Pants, T. Rex’s Electric Warrior, Gil Scott-Heron’s Pieces of a Man, The Who’s Who’s Next, The Doors’ L.A. Woman, Isaac Hayes’ Theme from Shaft, Carole King’s Tapestry, Bob Marley and the Wailers’ Soul Revolution, and David Bowie’s Hunky Dory.

These selections just scratch the surface of a year whose musical output, in quality, in range, and key change points in sound and style feels like it actually spanned two decades. The same goes for the cultural upheavals that occurred that year. These include women’s rights, civil rights, gay rights, socialism, counterculture, to mention just a few. The musical and cultural happenings are deftly intertwined in 1971, illustrating how each shaped the other.

1971’s episodes are thematic in nature. Politics, addiction, the aptly-titled Changes episode introducing David Bowie, Alice Cooper and T. Rex, singer/songwriters, racial unrest, powerful Black artists including James Brown (classic line: “I’m not Black or White, I’m a tax payer”), Gil Scott-Heron, the Academy Award-winning Isaac Hayes, Bill Withers, the unforgettable Soul Train, ending on reggae overtaking the UK, Kraftwerk and synthesizers, The Who, Andy Warhol, and the transformation of Bowie.

Bowie is one of the through-threads of 1971. The iconic artist released the aforementioned Hunky Dory and recorded The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, shaking up the world in the process. The image of him walking to Glastonbury in a dress, to perform before it was a festival and was just a fair, is priceless. The Dick Cavett Show is another through-thread, as the progressive talk show entertained many musicians in the interview seat. Cavett’s exchange with Stone is one worth rewinding. A direct connection to the present time is independent artists who wholly controlled their career, most of them Black, such as Brown and Withers.

In case the persistent impact of 1971 wasn’t made completely clear in the series, the rapid-fire montage of musical artists from that point in time through the following 50 years culminating in Billie Eilish shows that since that moment in history, there is nothing in music that 1971 has not touched. Essential viewing. (www.tv.apple.com)

Author rating: 9.5/10

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