Laurel Canyon Love
Updated: Aug 6, 2020
The inspiration to write this post came after listening to the song "Our House" by Crosby, Stills, & Nash. My home has become more than a respite during this time; it's a safe haven and a place that gives me comfort and peace. The stress from the work day melts as I make the way up our winding mountain road to our home in Lake Arrowhead. I feel relief and happiness when I pull into our drive. I'm home. I make my way up the stairs and all is good. A hot shower, a warm meal, a soft bed, and people who love me are waiting inside.
The style of our home has changed dramatically since last February and has brought forth a new energy. That energy has inspired more creativity in me. I find music to be the perfect stimulant for the creative mind - there are times when I listen to hundreds of songs in one day. I'm especially drawn to the softer, more poetic music and just recently rediscovered Joni Mitchell. Joni was a triple threat musician - an angelic voice, a poetic writer, and a uniquely accomplished guitar player. Even Eric Clapton was in awe of her guitar playing style when he was first introduced to her at a party in Laurel Canyon. She was said to have possessed a wicked right hand. A couple of nights ago, my husband and I were sitting out on our deck and it was the perfect evening. I saw a shooting star, the air was warm, and then he put on "River" by Joni Mitchell. More than a song about Christmas, it captured everything I was feeling in the moment, like most of her music. And, I felt so grateful for her and to the person who was playing it for me. It was probably one of the most beautiful moments in my life, and I've had a lot of them. You can listen to "River" here.
So today I thought I would share a little bit about Joni Mitchell and of her time in Laurel Canyon. I've certainly enjoyed immersing myself into the music history of Laurel Canyon. The happy accident, the fluke of what happened there in the 1960's and 70's was a benefit for all those who appreciate music. It was nothing short of a gift that keeps giving.
Ask anyone in Hollywood where the craziest people live and they’ll say Laurel Canyon. And ask anyone in Laurel Canyon where the craziest people live and they’ll say Lookout Mountain. So I bought a house on Lookout Mountain. — Joni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell bought her home on Lookout Mountain Drive in Laurel Canyon in the spring of 1968 with the royalties from her first album, "Song to a Seagull." The 1910 cottage had large paned picture windows that filled the room with light, a cozy little fireplace, and a dining area that overlooked a duck pond. She found it so charming and suited to her personality that she bought it without looking at any other homes. She met Graham Nash, who was visiting from the UK with his band, The Hollies, shortly after she purchased it, and by July they were living together. Joni’s house soon became a favorite place where Laurel Canyon-dwelling musicians hung out, playing songs for one another with acoustic guitars in all-night jam sessions. David Crosby and Stephen Stills dropped in one night and began singing and harmonizing together with Graham Nash, and, in that serendipitous moment, the super group of Crosby, Stills, and Nash was born.
Joni and Graham lived an idyllic 60s lifestyle: they sat around writing songs, bouncing ideas off one another, painting, and reveling in the creative atmosphere of Laurel Canyon. In 1969, Graham Nash wrote "Our House", one of the sweetest love songs ever written, inspired after a day of domestic bliss with Joni. Here is the story behind the song in Graham's own words in a very moving five-minute video here. It will also give a little more insight to their relationship, and there is actual footage of the home they shared together.
Aspiring and talented musicians flocked to the bucolic enclave of Laurel Canyon in the 1960's to the early 1970's in an effort to ditch the pricey rents of L.A. They could live cheaply in Laurel Canyon and still be only twenty minutes from the clubs where they performed on Sunset Boulevard and the recording studios in Hollywood and L.A. Chris Hillman of the Byrds and Frank Zappa were among the earliest residents, followed by The Mamas & The Papas, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Joni Mitchell, Graham Nash, Neil Young, The Doors, Love, Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, and The Eagles, just to name a few. There were anywhere from 30-50 (now legendary) musicians living in the canyon at one time; they met at barbecues and parties where they played for one another, did drugs together, and slept together. (This was the 1960's after all, and a sexual and cultural revolution was in full bloom!) They may have came for the cheap country living, but they stayed for the creative music environment. There is also no denying that some of the most melodic and atmospheric music came out of the canyon. A marriage of folk and rock music took place during that time and much of the popular music was coming from one single place: Laurel Canyon, California. Epix released a new two-part docuseries in May called Laurel Canyon that features an intimate portrait of the artists who lived there through a wealth of newly unearthed footage and audio recordings - I highly recommend watching it if you enjoy music history. You can watch the trailer of the film here.
Joni Mitchell's Laurel Canyon home was described once as one that a lot of natural light, with crystals hanging in the windows, colorful vases, and a big wood piano in the middle of her living room. Her home and her Laurel Canyon neighborhood was very conducive to creativity and where some of her best work was done. I found myself longing to go back to that time and place, to be in that nurturing and creative environment, until I realized I have my own Laurel Canyon right here. We all do. Love the home you live in now. Be appreciative of the good people in your life, and give them love and encouragement. Know that each and every one of us has the talent and ability to create great things. I encourage you to pursue your own talents. All you have to do is do what you love doing most and be filled with gratitude for the awareness of it.