Apple TV+ review: '1971' an exhilarating exploration of a musical revolution

Posted:
in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV edited May 21
The ambitious eight-part series utilizes a wealth of archival footage, and lots of great music, to tell the stories of the songs of 50 years ago.

Apple TV+'s 1971
Apple TV+'s 1971


In the first episode of 1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything, the new eight-part documentary series that debuts May 21 on Apple TV, the famed record executive-turned-Apple executive Jimmy Iovine lays out what's essentially the series' thesis statement.

"1971- I don't think the music was a reflection of the times," Iovine says, "as much as the music caused the times."

The series, adapted from a book by David Hepworth called "Never a Dull Moment: 1971 The Year That Rock Exploded," flows from that idea. It explores the music of 1971, while also fitting it into the wider cultural context of what was going on that year.

It's this focus that lifts the series far above the more familiar, VH1-style I Love the '80s series, which had little to say.

What was Going On

The Staples Singers, in Apple TV+'s 1971
The Staples Singers, in Apple TV+'s 1971


The documentary looks at the major social events of 1971, and how they were reflected by that era's major musical artists. It especially focuses on the Vietnam War, growing racial tensions at home, and the rise of feminism, and how those things influenced or were influenced by, the music of the era. If it ever seems as if artists speaking out for political causes is a new phenomenon, 1971 puts the lie to that notion.

1971 was executive-produced by Asif Kapadia, the British filmmaker who won an Oscar for another music documentary, Amy. That movie, from 2015, focused on the brief life and career of the late singer Amy Winehouse, while Kapadia has also made acclaimed documentaries about a pair of international athletic legends, the auto racer Aryton Senna and the soccer star Diego Maradona.

On 1971, Kapadia is credited as the "series director," while he, Danielle Peck, and James Rogan took turns directing the episodes. James Gay-Rees, Chris King, and Adam Barker are also credited as executive producers, in addition to Kapadia.

Each of the eight episodes has a general theme, with a focus on specific artists. But it isn't particularly rigid about that; more than one episode touches on racial consciousness, and there's plenty of, say, Bowie in multiple installments.

This also isn't the familiar musical analysis, of the late '60s and early '70s, that focuses on one specific genre -- rock 'n' roll -- and only a small handful of familiar musical artists. Certainly, there's plenty in 1971 about David Bowie, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and other stalwarts of classic rock radio. But the series also devotes plenty of screen time and analysis to the likes of Aretha Franklin, Isaac Hayes, Sly and the Family Stone, and Gil-Scott Heron, the man behind the spoken-word classic "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised."

Some of this might be old hat to boomers and others intimately familiar with the music of that era. But at this point, most people paying attention to music are younger than that. Even Kapadia, the main director, was born in 1972.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

Keith Richards, in Apple TV+'s
Keith Richards, in Apple TV+'s "1971"


What stands out in 1971 is the massive amount of footage, some of it rare. The first episode alone credits more than 60 sources of archival material, for a 45-minute episode, with video coming from such eclectic places as the Hugh M. Hefner Moving Image Archive and the Richard Nixon Presidential Library & Museum. There is also more footage from interviews on The Dick Cavett Show than probably any other source.

There's no primary narrator and no contemporary talking-head interviews. Instead, we hear the interviewees speaking off-screen, as the filmmakers chose to let the on-screen real estate be dominated by that archival footage. This mostly works, but if there's one major drawback of the series, it never makes quite clear whether each interview is new, or from many years ago.

One advantage to the eight-episode length is that rather than just include snippets of the relevant songs, the production is able to play many of the songs all the way to the end.

Listen to the music

Tina Turner is featured in
Tina Turner is featured in "1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything," premiering May 21, 2021 on Apple TV+.


And that's another great thing about 1971 -- there's a lot of really fantastic music. The production also spared no expense in clearing all of the necessary tunes.

It was the year of Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On," the Rolling Stones' "Sticky Fingers," The Who's "Who's Next," Carole King's "Tapestry," and some of the first music released individually by the Beatles following their breakup the previous year. It was also the year of the Concert For Bangladesh, the decline and death of Jim Morrison, and even the debut of Jesus Christ Superstar.

The documentary goes through all of those songs and albums, while also illustrating the social importance of each part. There's even a brief detour into the arrival on the scene of the Osmonds who -- unlike most of the other artists referenced in the series -- were completely separate from the counterculture.

The first episode begins with Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On," and sets the stage for the music that was made in reaction to Vietnam and the Kent State shooting, like Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young's "Ohio." The second goes more into the drug side of the counterculture, and how it had started down the downslope by 1971. The fourth looks at the feminist currents of the time, tied in with the rise of Carole King and Joni Mitchell. And the final episode is largely about David Bowie.

Sure, some of the stories told have been told a lot before, including in entire documentaries; several segments about Tina and Ike Turner were already covered in the recent HBO documentary Tina, which was also the case with the recently released doc about Frank Zappa. There have also been plenty of 50th-anniversary celebrations, this year, of these songs and albums, and the upcoming vintage concert film Summer of Soul features many of the same artists, albeit in 1969.

I Feel the Earth Move

John Lennon and Yoko Ono are featured in
John Lennon and Yoko Ono are featured in "1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything," premiering May 21, 2021 on Apple TV+.


1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything continues a strong run of music-related documentaries by Apple TV+, which have covered the careers of stars of the present (Billie Eilish), the relatively recent past (The Beastie Boys) and both (Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.)

It appears Apple TV+ has found a niche with this, something it's better at than other streaming services, and there's more to come, including an upcoming documentary about Louis Armstrong and a series with popular DJ Mark Ronson.

With its fine deployment of great music and even better archival footage, 1971 is another demonstration of Apple's competence with nonfiction music programming- one with the potential to appeal to boomers and younger people alike.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 14
    Holy smoke my birth year and also my favorite year in music. Can’t wait to watch this.
  • Reply 2 of 14
    fred1fred1 Posts: 828member
    Darn Another reason to subscribe. 

    (Apple-Google, please figure out how to make Apple TV+ work on Chromecast. Thank you)*



    * Yes, I know that they don’t actually read these comments. 
  • Reply 3 of 14
    davgregdavgreg Posts: 877member
    I was a kid of 10 in 1971 but had an older sister who was a HS Senior, so this music was heard in my home. It is familiar but still amazing and relevant.

    Listen to Marvin Gaye’s Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler).
    That is a great place to start and listen closely to the lyrics - they still apply today.
    That whole album - What’s Going On - is as good an entry point into that time as you will find.
    buttesilver
  • Reply 4 of 14
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 10,260member


    "1971- I don't think the music was a reflection of the times," Iovine says, "as much as the music caused the times."


    I don't think the music either was a refection of the times nor did it cause the times.   Rather, the music was a powerful force to fuel the times.

    At the time the U.S. was likely more structured than China is today:   If you were a white male you looked and acted THIS way.   If you were female you looked and acted THAT way.  If you were black you were expected to behave a certain way.   If you were gay, you did your best to hide it.,   Any deviation from societal rules was met worth scorn and abuse -- or worse.   It was a very rigid society.  But that rigidity was being challenged and it was cracking.

    In the 60's  the civil rights movement began to unfold while boys were shipped directly from their high school graduation to the rice paddies of Vietnam to die.   It was said that a first lieutenant was as likely to die from a bullet in the chest as a bullet in his back.  

    It was confusing:    Mohammed Ali when he was drafted announced he was a conscientious objector.   But how could a professional fighter be a conscientious objector?  It made no sense to a "normal" American.  But, Ali explained it clearly:
    " My conscience won't let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America.   And, shoot them for what? They never called me "nigger", they never lynched me, they didn't put no dogs on me, they didn't rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father.  ....  Shoot them for what?  How can I shoot those poor people?  Just take me to jail".

    But still, America was confused:   If your country called you, you were expected to stand up and do your patriotic duty.
    So, who was right?   The draft dodger or the guy who wanted to send him to go kill the "yellow man" as Springsteen phrased it.


    ....  So, in the 60's that rigid framework that had held America together really began to unravel.  And, by the early 70's there was a revolution going on.

    It was  a very confusing time:  the loyalty and patriotism that had powered America through 2 world wars was showing cracks in its armor.   What did it mean to be a patriotic American?   Did it mean that you had to go to a rice paddy to die?   Did it mean that a black man or woman had to sit at the back of the bus?

    ....  The music didn't create those questions but it gave voice and power to those questions....
    Japhey
  • Reply 5 of 14
    davgreg said:
    I was a kid of 10 in 1971 but had an older sister who was a HS Senior, so this music was heard in my home. It is familiar but still amazing and relevant.

    Listen to Marvin Gaye’s Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler).
    That is a great place to start and listen closely to the lyrics - they still apply today.
    That whole album - What’s Going On - is as good an entry point into that time as you will find.
    Ha - me too!  Apple also has a great series of playlists, aka 1971, 1972, etc etc.
    If you like the above try those out!
  • Reply 6 of 14
    hydrogenhydrogen Posts: 264member
    I was eighteen in 1971 .. filming and recording at that time , with professional quality, was a complex issue .  What remains of this period are rare gems …
    edited May 21 GeorgeBMacjony0
  • Reply 7 of 14
    hentaiboyhentaiboy Posts: 1,244member
    It think “The year that music changed everything” is a bit of a stretch.
  • Reply 8 of 14
    JapheyJaphey Posts: 828member


    "1971- I don't think the music was a reflection of the times," Iovine says, "as much as the music caused the times."


    I don't think the music either was a refection of the times nor did it cause the times.   Rather, the music was a powerful force to fuel the times.

    At the time the U.S. was likely more structured than China is today:   If you were a white male you looked and acted THIS way.   If you were female you looked and acted THAT way.  If you were black you were expected to behave a certain way.   If you were gay, you did your best to hide it.,   Any deviation from societal rules was met worth scorn and abuse -- or worse.   It was a very rigid society.  But that rigidity was being challenged and it was cracking.

    In the 60's  the civil rights movement began to unfold while boys were shipped directly from their high school graduation to the rice paddies of Vietnam to die.   It was said that a first lieutenant was as likely to die from a bullet in the chest as a bullet in his back.  

    It was confusing:    Mohammed Ali when he was drafted announced he was a conscientious objector.   But how could a professional fighter be a conscientious objector?  It made no sense to a "normal" American.  But, Ali explained it clearly:
    " My conscience won't let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America.   And, shoot them for what? They never called me "nigger", they never lynched me, they didn't put no dogs on me, they didn't rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father.  ....  Shoot them for what?  How can I shoot those poor people?  Just take me to jail".

    But still, America was confused:   If your country called you, you were expected to stand up and do your patriotic duty.
    So, who was right?   The draft dodger or the guy who wanted to send him to go kill the "yellow man" as Springsteen phrased it.


    ....  So, in the 60's that rigid framework that had held America together really began to unravel.  And, by the early 70's there was a revolution going on.

    It was  a very confusing time:  the loyalty and patriotism that had powered America through 2 world wars was showing cracks in its armor.   What did it mean to be a patriotic American?   Did it mean that you had to go to a rice paddy to die?   Did it mean that a black man or woman had to sit at the back of the bus?

    ....  The music didn't create those questions but it gave voice and power to those questions....
    I really dig everything you’re saying here. But don’t you think that music giving “voice and power to those questions “ means the same thing as reflecting the times? Either way, I agree with what you said more than what Iovine said. 
  • Reply 9 of 14
    JapheyJaphey Posts: 828member
    davgreg said:
    I was a kid of 10 in 1971 but had an older sister who was a HS Senior, so this music was heard in my home. It is familiar but still amazing and relevant.

    Listen to Marvin Gaye’s Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler).
    That is a great place to start and listen closely to the lyrics - they still apply today.
    That whole album - What’s Going On - is as good an entry point into that time as you will find.
    Such a great album. Follow it with Trouble Man for the perfect one-two punch. It’s crazy to me that 50 year old music is still so timeless and relevant. When I was a kid, 50 year old music was from the 30’s. And, obviously, nobody was listening to that anymore. Sadly, I know for a fact that a lot of kids today look at the music featured in 1971 the same way we looked at that 30’s stuff. Hopefully, this series will change a few minds and maybe bridge the gaping generational divide in our society. Hopefully, maybe. 

    Now, I’m going to listen to “T” Plays It Cool. 
    edited May 21
  • Reply 10 of 14
    entropysentropys Posts: 3,106member
    hentaiboy said:
    It think “The year that music changed everything” is a bit of a stretch.
    Yeah boomers.
  • Reply 11 of 14
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 10,260member
    Japhey said:


    "1971- I don't think the music was a reflection of the times," Iovine says, "as much as the music caused the times."


    I don't think the music either was a refection of the times nor did it cause the times.   Rather, the music was a powerful force to fuel the times.

    At the time the U.S. was likely more structured than China is today:   If you were a white male you looked and acted THIS way.   If you were female you looked and acted THAT way.  If you were black you were expected to behave a certain way.   If you were gay, you did your best to hide it.,   Any deviation from societal rules was met worth scorn and abuse -- or worse.   It was a very rigid society.  But that rigidity was being challenged and it was cracking.

    In the 60's  the civil rights movement began to unfold while boys were shipped directly from their high school graduation to the rice paddies of Vietnam to die.   It was said that a first lieutenant was as likely to die from a bullet in the chest as a bullet in his back.  

    It was confusing:    Mohammed Ali when he was drafted announced he was a conscientious objector.   But how could a professional fighter be a conscientious objector?  It made no sense to a "normal" American.  But, Ali explained it clearly:
    " My conscience won't let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America.   And, shoot them for what? They never called me "nigger", they never lynched me, they didn't put no dogs on me, they didn't rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father.  ....  Shoot them for what?  How can I shoot those poor people?  Just take me to jail".

    But still, America was confused:   If your country called you, you were expected to stand up and do your patriotic duty.
    So, who was right?   The draft dodger or the guy who wanted to send him to go kill the "yellow man" as Springsteen phrased it.


    ....  So, in the 60's that rigid framework that had held America together really began to unravel.  And, by the early 70's there was a revolution going on.

    It was  a very confusing time:  the loyalty and patriotism that had powered America through 2 world wars was showing cracks in its armor.   What did it mean to be a patriotic American?   Did it mean that you had to go to a rice paddy to die?   Did it mean that a black man or woman had to sit at the back of the bus?

    ....  The music didn't create those questions but it gave voice and power to those questions....
    I really dig everything you’re saying here. But don’t you think that music giving “voice and power to those questions “ means the same thing as reflecting the times? Either way, I agree with what you said more than what Iovine said. 

    Yes, I think the music very much reflected the times.  But I also think that it beyond that:   It legitimized the issues and added passion to the cause -- it poured gasoline on the flames of anger and frustration that young people were feeling. But, it wasn't only about the social issues.  It was also about young people breaking the chains of orthodoxy that they had grown up with.   One of the best was the Who's "My Generation":   "Hope I die before I get old...."   It expressed a rejection of the world young people had been born into.
  • Reply 12 of 14
    anantksundaramanantksundaram Posts: 20,225member
    entropys said:
    hentaiboy said:
    It think “The year that music changed everything” is a bit of a stretch.
    Yeah boomers.
    I'll admit to being a boomer for sure, but the vapidity, mediocrity, derivativeness, wannabe-ness of the overproduced, auto-tuned, stage-managed, poorly lyricized, 4/4 crap that we've seen since the start of the 1980s is an embarrassment. To not just one's ear, but to all the senses + the musical part of one's brain. 

    Where's/who's today's Dylan? Baez? Zappa? Mahavishnu John McLaughlin? Simon & G? Motown? Santana? CSNY? Joplin? Hendrix? ELP? Zeppelin? Charles? Cohen? Mitchell? Clapton? Ray-Vaughn? King? Turner? Fripp? Tull? The list of path-breakers is practically endless...

    Go wash out your ears and start over. They've been so seriously and sadly compromised that you can't tell the good from bad. 
    edited May 21 jony0GeorgeBMacsmalm
  • Reply 13 of 14
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 10,260member
    entropys said:
    hentaiboy said:
    It think “The year that music changed everything” is a bit of a stretch.
    Yeah boomers.
    I'll admit to being a boomer for sure, but the vapidity, mediocrity, derivativeness, wannabe-ness of the overproduced, auto-tuned, stage-managed, poorly lyricized, 4/4 crap that we've seen since the start of the 1980s is an embarrassment. To not just one's ear, but to all the senses + the musical part of one's brain. 

    Where's/who's today's Dylan? Baez? Zappa? Mahavishnu John McLaughlin? Simon & G? Motown? Santana? CSNY? Joplin? Hendrix? ELP? Zeppelin? Charles? Cohen? Mitchell? Clapton? Ray-Vaughn? King? Turner? Fripp? Tull? The list of path-breakers is practically endless...

    Go wash out your ears and start over. They've been so seriously and sadly compromised that you can't tell the good from bad. 
    They make that same point (without saying it directly) in the series:   At one point they say "You could buy 10 albums each week that would turn out to be classics".  
    It was the golden age of music. 

    But, largely the infrastructure to keep that going may have been lost:   major studios and producers would place their bets on a musician or group and then sponsor, guide and support them into making great music.   It was big money producing big bucks.   But now, at $0.99 a song (or less) it's hard to duplicate that.  The emphasis now is more on low cost production.



  • Reply 14 of 14
    anantksundaramanantksundaram Posts: 20,225member
    entropys said:
    hentaiboy said:
    It think “The year that music changed everything” is a bit of a stretch.
    Yeah boomers.
    I'll admit to being a boomer for sure, but the vapidity, mediocrity, derivativeness, wannabe-ness of the overproduced, auto-tuned, stage-managed, poorly lyricized, 4/4 crap that we've seen since the start of the 1980s is an embarrassment. To not just one's ear, but to all the senses + the musical part of one's brain. 

    Where's/who's today's Dylan? Baez? Zappa? Mahavishnu John McLaughlin? Simon & G? Motown? Santana? CSNY? Joplin? Hendrix? ELP? Zeppelin? Charles? Cohen? Mitchell? Clapton? Ray-Vaughn? King? Turner? Fripp? Tull? The list of path-breakers is practically endless...

    Go wash out your ears and start over. They've been so seriously and sadly compromised that you can't tell the good from bad. 
    They make that same point (without saying it directly) in the series:   At one point they say "You could buy 10 albums each week that would turn out to be classics".  
    It was the golden age of music. 

    But, largely the infrastructure to keep that going may have been lost:   major studios and producers would place their bets on a musician or group and then sponsor, guide and support them into making great music.   It was big money producing big bucks.   But now, at $0.99 a song (or less) it's hard to duplicate that.  The emphasis now is more on low cost production.



    I beg to disagree. The disintermediation of the studios didn't start until the late 1990s, and the popularity of streaming really didn't get going until the 2000s. 

    But I agree with your larger point: with the pervasive streaming nonsense, quality music is even tougher to make now. 
    edited May 24 GeorgeBMac
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