David Hepworth’s 2017 book Never a Dull Moment: The Year That Rock Exploded set forth the author’s belief that the year crystallized the “rock era,” producing more enduring recordings than any other year in the genre’s history. It’s difficult to argue with any year that yielded John Lennon’s Imagine, The Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers, Carole King’s Tapestry, Joni Mitchell’s Blue, Elton John’s Madman Across the Water, Carly Simon’s Anticipation, Sly and the Family Stone’s There’s a Riot Goin’ On, The Who’s Who’s Next, The Beach Boys’ Surf’s Up, Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality, and eponymous debuts from America and Electric Light Orchestra, not to mention Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, Isaac Hayes’ Shaft, and other landmark albums that aren’t quite “rock” but have proved influential in the genre.
1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything is the title of the eight-part documentary series currently airing on Apple TV+. Based on Hepworth’s book, it takes an in-depth look at the varied musical activities of a tumultuous year which saw some artists offering escape, some offering comfort, and still others using their platforms to inform and educate. Some artists looked inward and others looked outward, but the result was a year of thrilling and often groundbreaking music across the spectrum. Director Asif Kapadia (the Amy Winehouse documentary Amy) places these varied recordings in context with archival footage of not just the artists – there’s choice footage of David Bowie, George Harrison, and Marvin Gaye, among others – but of the people and events informing and inspiring them (Angela Davis, George Jackson, the Attica Prison Riot, religious cults, and early reality TV).
The docuseries is produced by Universal Music Group’s Mercury Studios, and so it’s unsurprising that the soundtrack will arrive via Universal. On November 26 (Black Friday), Island Records and UMe will release a 180-gram white vinyl 2-LP soundtrack, with the standard 180-gram black vinyl 2-LP iteration arriving the following Friday, December 3. The digital version is streaming now.
Its 20 tracks are derived from within the Universal family of labels, so those looking for appearances by Carole King, Joni Mitchell, David Bowie, and others featured in the series will have to look elsewhere. But the line-up is an impressive one, nonetheless, featuring three of the four Beatles; Motown luminaries Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, Edwin Starr, and The Temptations; Elton John; The Who; The Rolling Stones; Rod Stewart; Cat Stevens; folk heroes John Martyn and Nick Drake; reggae’s The Slickers; and others. While no CD iteration has been announced, both vinyl soundtracks include download cards.
1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything is currently streaming on Apple TV. You’ll find the track listing and pre-order links for the soundtrack LPs below.
- John Lennon – Imagine
- Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On
- George Harrison – My Sweet Lord
- Cat Stevens – Peace Train
- Elton John – Your Song
- The Who – Won’t Get Fooled Again
- The Rolling Stones – Brown Sugar
- Rod Stewart – Maggie May
- Paul McCartney – Another Day
- Leon Russell & The Shelter People – Of Thee I Sing
- Diana Ross – I’m Still Waiting
- Stevie Wonder – If You Really Love Me
- Edwin Starr – Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World Is Today)
- Isaac Hayes – Shaft
- James Brown – Superbad
- John Martyn – Bless the Weather
- Nick Drake – Northern Sky
- The Temptations – Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)
- The Slickers – Johnny Too Bad
- The Beach Boys – Feel Flows