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Washington Free Beacon

REVIEW: ‘Rock Me on the Water: 1974, The Year Los Angeles Transformed Movies, Music, Television, and Politics’

Andrew Ferguson

July 11, 2021

It's been 30 years since the publication of The Power and the Glitter: The Hollywood-Washington Connection, by Ronald Brownstein, a commentator for CNN and, more prestigiously, a colleague of mine (at the Atlantic). Even now Brownstein's book stands as the definitive history of one of the more unsavory aspects of contemporary public life: the sluttish commingling of professional show people and politicians—the pols groveling before the show people, the show people struggling to look cerebral while keeping their hair in place.

You could argue that the modern phase of this codependency, which no amount of mockery or embarrassment can kill, began in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and Brownstein has necessarily revisited some of the earlier material in his new book, Rock Me on the Water: 1974, The Year Los Angeles Transformed Movies, Music, Television, and Politics. Here are the Eagles and Jackson Browne, Jerry Brown and Linda Ronstadt, Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson, Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda, Norman Lear and Alan Alda—all of them Angelenos, all of them paragons of the 1970s, all of them wealthy and talented people who refused to mind their own business, leave well enough alone, and stick with what they were good at.

Like The P and the G, Brownstein's new book is handsomely written and full of high-end gossip. One problem is that it can't quite deliver on the promise of its subtitle, which insists that it was the year 1974, and no other, when forces "came together in Los Angeles to form a historic constellation of inspiration, collaboration, and achievement." Los Angeles did indeed produce some cultural landmarks in 1974. Brown (Jerry, not Jackson) was elected to his first term as governor of California, launching a political career that didn't end for nearly a half century. The Godfather Part II and Chinatown, two of the best movies ever made, were brought to the silver screen. Several enduring pop stars—Ronstadt, Browne (Jackson, not Jerry), and Joni Mitchell—released career-defining albums. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young reunited for what was to that date the most elaborate and successful rock concert tour ever, success being measured here not only in box office receipts but also in the consumption of cocaine and groupies.

But landmarks in politics and pop culture happen all the time; an entire industry of journalistic gasbags exists to discover them, certify them, and write about them on their anniversaries......(Snip)

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