It was the end of the 60s … and the start of the 70s. Our boomer generation was moving from a world of idealism into a more sober world of real threats. The nation was in turmoil, campus protest marches were part of the weekly agenda, cultural upheaval was in high gear, and the soundtrack backing it all up included four of the best rock and folk albums recorded in the 20th Century: a convergence of social chaos with musical luminosity. Brent Green, one of the nation’s foremost authors and speakers about our generation, tells how it all happened.
Rita Coolidge pounded a lover’s wedge between Stephen Stills and Graham Nash, causing CSNY — Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young — to eventually break up. David Crosby consumed massive quantities of drugs, some say because he was mourning the untimely death of his girlfriend Christine Hinton, who was killed in an auto accident while taking their cats to a vet. In spite of the loosely knitted band’s internal travails, they nevertheless came together and recorded a strident song protesting the Kent State killings, plaintively entitled, “Ohio.” Neil Young had written it in fifteen minutes, and the song made its debut on radio stations across the nation in a matter of days.
With Bridge Over Troubled Water zooming its way to be the Billboard number one song and album of the year, Paul Simon choseinstead of touring to teach a songwriting class at New York University -– attended by just a dozen students. Even with Simon & Garfunkel’s growing wealth, Art Garfunkel sometimes chose to hitchhike to their gigs -– when he wasn’t absent from music, acting in Mike Nichol’s film rendition of Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 (which upset Simon).
After one-too-many nasty confrontations with John Lennon, especially over the unwelcome intrusions of Yoko Ono into The Beatles’ recording sessions, Paul McCartney finished the last day of the year by dropping a letter bomb on his band-mates: a writ to dissolve their partnership. Ringo escaped the turmoil by recording a country album with some of Nashville’s greatest luminaries.
James Taylor became the first artist signed by The Beatles’ Apple Records label, and he was then merely an unknown hippie with a mental hospital in his background. Yet James sauntered onto the national stage with Sweet Baby James, his quiet second album, which propelled his folksy stage act from small nightclubs to full stadiums in a matter of months.
The Beatles finished their final album entitled Let It Be. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young finally cobbled together their highly anticipated Déjà vu. Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel recorded the last songs for their masterpiece, Bridge Over Troubled Water. And James Taylor, an unassuming and shy “chick magnet,” ushered in Sweet Baby James, a new genre of folk-rock, charming college students everywhere.
David Browne, an acclaimed Rolling Stone senior editor, tells the stories of 1970’s incomparable rock legends in the context of a chaotic, deadly, and tumultuous year. Entitled Fire and Rain: The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, James Taylor, CSNY and the Lost Story of 1970 reveals how these four landmark albums came to be.
Browne’s new book on the era is “Fire and Rain: The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor, CSNY, and the Lost Story of 1970.”
By clicking on this link, you can hear a radio interview I recently did with David Browne. It presents a context for the time that boomers might recall on a personal level, while also providing insights and details that most of us probably never fully understood.
Category: Boomer Lifestyle