“We created the 21st century in 1971” are the words David Bowie is heard saying in the opening credits of “1971: The Year Music Changed Everything,” the documentary series that over eight episodes shows how at the beginning of the 70s there was a fundamental transformation in the musical field, which left behind a period marked by the hippie phenomenon, while the songs reflected the changes and social conflicts of a new period.
A stage where the Vietnam War and the sacrifice of hundreds of Americans in Southeast Asia, were the trigger for a series of protests in the United States. As Chrissie Hynde, singer and leader of The Pretenders, recalls, who was studying at Kent State University in Ohio at the time, when a group of colleagues set fire to the buildings of the military reserve officers that existed on campus.
This caused the arrival of the National Guard and an unequal confrontation that would cause the death of four young people. A tragedy that inspired Neil Young, at that time in Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, to write “Ohio”, a song that poetically referred to what happened at the university, after the soldiers were sent by the president’s government. Richard Nixon.
Interviews and images that reveal key moments in history
With the chapter titled What’s Happening? -like the song Marvin Gaye-, begins a documentary work with the signature of the British Asif Kapadia (“Senna”, “Amy”), whose source is “1971- Never a Dull Moment: Rock’s Golden Year”, the book released in 2016 by British journalist David Hepworth, where it is emphasized that the early 1970s saw “the release of more monumental albums than any year before or after.”
But the docuseries are not only dressed in music, but also in key facts of culture and politics, both in the United States and in England, which were brought together over 12 months. Starting from the aforementioned Vietnam War and the protests against it, as well as the growing epidemic of hard drugs, racism against African Americans, homosexuality, freedom of expression and, on the musical level, the greater prominence of female composers and the increased use of synthesizers.
Everything is related and commented on by the voice-overs of witnesses and protagonists of the time -thanks to past interviews or recent conversations-, such as the aforementioned Hynde, John Lennon, David Bowie, Elton John, the controversial music producer Phil Spector and the journalist from Rolling Stone magazine, Robert Greenfield, among many others. In addition to elements that make this documentary series even more unique: the archive images that draw the narrative, whether they are photographs or videos.
Many of these are exhibited for the first time and take the viewer from the anecdote, through key moments of personal life or the performances of the artists, to shocking historical moments. This is how you can see the precise moment in which a young fan of Marc Bolan, from T. Rex, bites the hair of her idol to get some strands out or Keith Richard, from The Rolling Stones, when he remains drugged on a mat, in the mansion he rented in the south of France in 1971.
An unmissable documentary work that entertains, surprises and excites
That was a change of address that the British band made to escape taxes in the United Kingdom, but they faced the mafia of Marseille while they recorded what would be the album Exile on Main St. What happened, as the documentary shows, a few months after a twenty-something David Bowie made his first visit to the United States. When with his long hair and dresses – which made him “similar to Lauren Bacall”, according to Greenfield -, the then almost unknown British artist met Andy Warhol and showed his movements as a mime.
In addition to the shocking images of the tragedy of the Attica jail, in New York, when more than 2,000 inmates rebelled in demand for better treatment, shortly after the murder of African-American activist George Jackson and were harshly repressed. Or the controversial experiment carried out at Stanford University, where a group of students divided between guards and prisoners to psychologically analyze whether or not they had power, with unthinkable consequences.
Always with the songs present, which are part of some of the best albums in history, as his spine. With Marvin Gaye singing “What’s Going On,” in reference to the youth drama of war; Carole King and Joni Mitchell revealing emotional conflicts on “Tapestry” and “Blue”, respectively, as African-American poet Gil Scott-Heron joined Brian Jackson to give life to his album “Pieces of a Man” and songs like “The Revolution. Will Not Be Televised ”.
Everything makes “1971: The Year Music Changed Everything” a must for music lovers, as well as for those who enjoy well done documentary work. A space that manages to entertain, excite, surprise and even impress, revealing the tremendous connection between the creation of musicians and poets with the social and political changes that marked a period.
Original title: 1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything
Director: Asif Kapadia, Danielle Peck, James Rogan
Gender: Documentary film
Duration: 45-48 minutes
With: Chrissie Hynde, John Lennon, David Bowie, Keith Richards, Phil Spector, Elton John, Robert Greenfield, Angela Davis, Freddie Stone, Graham Nash
Musical Supervisor: Iain Cook
Production: Danielle Peck
Web: See here
Release date: May 21, 2021
Distributor / Platform: Apple TV+