'Echo In The Canyon' Documentary Cements Laurel Canyon's Legacy Singer-songwriter Jakob Dylan and director Andrew Slater talk about the documentary Echo In The Canyon about music from Laurel Canyon in LA that went on to influence a later generation.
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One LA Community Where Folk And Rock Converged

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One LA Community Where Folk And Rock Converged

One LA Community Where Folk And Rock Converged

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Some music is so ingrained in our collective minds that it's easy to forget how game changing it was.


THE MAMAS AND THE PAPAS: (Singing) All the leaves are brown...


THE BEACH BOYS: (Singing) I'm pickin' up good vibrations...


THE BYRDS: (Singing) Oh, what will you give me? Say the sad bells of Rhymney...

CORNISH: In the late '60s, a marriage of two musical genres took place, rock and folk, and a lot of the most popular music from that union was being made in a single place - Laurel Canyon in the hills above Los Angeles.


MICHELLE PHILLIPS: They lived right down the street from us, Brian and Marilyn.

CORNISH: That's Michelle Phillips of The Mamas & The Papas. When she says Brian, she's talking about Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys.


PHILLIPS: And one day I went over there, and the whole living room was full of sand. And there was nothing in the living room but a Steinway and piano bench and just all sand. And I looked at her, and I said, what is going on? She said, I know it's crazy, but he's writing some great songs.

CORNISH: These artists were writing new classics from their homes in the canyon.


THE BEACH BOYS: (Singing) There's a world where I can go and tell my secrets...

CORNISH: A new documentary called "Echo In The Canyon" tells the story of the place and the people and brings in contemporary musicians influenced by the music of Laurel Canyon, musicians like Fiona Apple...


FIONA APPLE: (Singing) In my room, in my room.

CORNISH: Regina Spektor, Beck, Cat Power all appear in the film. Jakob Dylan, son of Bob Dylan, interviews the musicians and also performs. And the director of "Echo In The Canyon" is Andrew Slater. When I spoke with Dylan and Slater, it was Slater who pinpointed the pivotal moment for the fusion of folk and rock. It was 1964 when the group The Byrds came on the scene.


THE BYRDS: (Singing) To everything, turn, turn, turn...

ANDREW SLATER: That moment when those songs from the first Byrds record go on the radio, it's the first time songs of poetic depth and grace become pop songs. And that paves the way for people to write differently and then to come to California chasing the dream that The Byrds have, with success being more or less the American Beatles.


THE BYRDS: (Singing) To everything, turn, turn, turn.

CORNISH: Can we kind of talk about Laurel Canyon itself? What does it look like? And how did it become, in a way, this kind of artist colony?

SLATER: You know, in the mid-'60s, the way the canyon is set and the way the houses are very close to each other, if a group of musicians or artists resided there, it would be fairly easy to walk down the street and visit each other. But, really, the main thing about LA is that you're always on the edge of wilderness, you know? You're - there's a coyote in your backyard. And then being so close to the Sunset Strip where clubs were where people could perform created this kind of synchronicity in Los Angeles for making that music.

CORNISH: We hear from many artists present day talking about what it was like. And I want to start with one from David Crosby.


DAVID CROSBY: We were putting good poetry on the radio. There wasn't any of that before. It was "June, Moon, Spoon," (singing) baby, I love you (vocalizing). It wasn't dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free.

CORNISH: Jakob Dylan, you bring together this group of artists from today to talk about how they were influenced by this music. I have to admit, I didn't immediately see the connection until I saw them sitting on a couch together (laughter) and I thought like, oh, I can hear some of the influence here. How did you think about who were the descendants, so to speak, of this sound or approach?

JAKOB DYLAN: The main connection is songwriting. The music that we're talking about in the film, that's what we're doing really does come from. It's splintered off in many different directions, but at the core of it, that's what we're all doing, which is the same thing, which is melody and finding words to go with that that we find compelling.


NORAH JONES: (Singing) You wonder if this heart of mine will lose its desire for you, never my love, never my love.

DYLAN: We chose songs that, you know, that I could explore with believability. Just you like a song doesn't mean you can do a convincing job of singing it or playing it, you know. And there were some that my instincts would steer me away from and some that I found more challenging than others, like Brian Wilson's The Beach Boys "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times." Instinctually, it didn't follow much of what I - you know, I've sung it along with the radio like anybody else has a lot. But once you actually break it down and you start performing it yourself, it provided a lot of challenges.


DYLAN: (Singing) Each time things start to happen again, I think I got something good going for myself but what goes wrong? Now, sometimes I feel very sad. Sometimes I feel very sad.

His instincts and melody, where they go, I know he's complex, but you want things to sound easy even if they are complex. And that's a good example of that. But when you start playing it, you realize it's a lot more complicated than I first imagined.

CORNISH: So you did a Beach Boys cover. You also - a moment of The Mamas & The Papas' music, and Michelle Phillips is right there while you guys are doing this, which seems intimidating.


JADE CASTRINOS AND JAKOB DYLAN: (Singing) Go where you want. Do what you want. Go where you want.


PHILLIPS: It's so touching.

DYLAN: Oh, good, you like it.

PHILLIPS: I love it.

DYLAN: Oh, cool.

PHILLIPS: I love it. I love it. Wow, what a great song that was.

DYLAN: Yeah, right?

CORNISH: These are songs that people know so well. How did you think about what you wanted to reveal? You know, what would feel kind of fresh to people?

SLATER: Well, we didn't want to make - this is Andrew. We didn't want to make a tracing paper version or a historical document of these songs and this period. The approach to the songs was really to take songs that had been sung by a bunch of men singularly or together and turn them into a conversation between a man and a woman.


UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) Monday Monday it was all that I hoped it would be. Oh, Monday morning, Monday morning couldn't guarantee that Monday evening you would still be here with me.

CORNISH: What do you think is the legacy of Laurel Canyon?

SLATER: The legacy was about the spirit of partnership and togetherness. And I hope that that kindness and the idea of Laurel Canyon will last. I think it exists in many pockets in America and many creative communities.

CORNISH: Andrew Slater, thank you so much for speaking with us.

SLATER: Thank you.

CORNISH: And, Jakob Dylan, thank you for speaking with us.

DYLAN: Well, thank you.

CORNISH: The film is "Echo In The Canyon." It's scheduled to open tomorrow in Los Angeles and next Friday in New York. And the songs from the movie come out tomorrow as well.


UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) What was to be. Oh, Monday Monday, how could you leave and not take me? Every other day, every other day, every other day, every other day...

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