Saturday, August 11, 2018

40 Years in the Making: The Magic Music Movie

If you hung out in Boulder, Colorado, between 1970 and 1976, you had opportunities to enjoy Magic Music. They played on the CU campus on Friday afternoons, they played around the area, at one point they opened for The Youngbloods, and they were on Cat Stevens' tour for a single performance, when, thrilled by the audience's standing ovation, they played three encores and were promptly fired.

They lived in schoolbuses in Eldorado Canyon a few miles south of Boulder, and later in the nearby mountain town of Allenspark in a rustic art gallery lent them by an acquaintance. They were hippies, and their music showcased acoustic excellence, gentle lyrics, and rhapsodic harmonies. They could have been big, but they never broke through. This movie, made by Lee Aronsohn, a fan from those 70s performances who wondered what ever happened to them, is not just a history and an homage, it is also an act of healing.

During their brushes with potential success, their differing visions created acrimony strong enough to drive them apart for decades. But when Aronsohn, wanting to reunite the band, contacted Chris Daniels, the most successful musician post-Magic Music, he was able to connect with the members one at a time, including their third manager.

The filmmaker's goal is to recreate an iconic photo of the best-known iteration of the group, so he must persist in his efforts to track down not just most, but all of the musicians represented there. And in the course of locating and communicating with them, and putting them in touch with each other, he achieves something remarkable - 40 years on, the negativity of their squabbles shrinks against the memory of the music they made together. As men in their 60s, they realize that life is too short for grudges, and when they take the stage once more, the moment is richer than mere performance.

Even if you weren't around in the 70s and don't care about hippies, you could take instruction from the ways this group of musicians thwarted opportunity, maintaining a level of integrity that turned out to be incompatible with stardom. And it might prompt you to reconnect with those you cut out of your life.

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