40 Years in the Making: The Magic Music Movie

Here’s a question. I’m going to hire you to put together a documentary on any subject in the world. What would you choose? Some might choose a topic that gives them access to a world they’ve dreamed of being a part, maybe experience the lifestyle of the rich or goes to an exotic location. I think most of us would chase a memory from our youth. That was the case for Emmy-nominated writer-producer Lee Aronsohn and he tracked down the band 70’s folk band, Magic Music.

Aronsohn’s documentary 40 Years in the Making: The Magic Music Movie documents (for posterity) the obscure band Magic Music that came out of Colorado’s Boulder Revolution in the 60’s and 70’s. His doc is broken up into three parts: the band’s short but tumultuous career; what happened to the band since it broke up; and Aronsohn’s attempt to get the boys back together for a reunion concert.

The opening moments of The Magic Music Movie is reminiscent of the Christopher Guest mockumentary A Mighty Wind, except this is a real story. Original fans recount the impact of Magic Music on their lives and about how great the band was in the 70’s. Aronsohn also appears on-camera with testimony about the effect of their music had on the life of a stoner college student. While Magic Music never produced an album, the memory of their music carried into his adult life, career, and family.

“…five strangers who met on a university campus’ free-speech courtyard and just began to jam together.”

Then we are introduced to the music, and the music is good, no it’s great. You may not be a fan of folk, but its sound is instantly captivating, melodic, and complex. Magic Music were five strangers who met on a university campus’ free-speech courtyard and just began to jam together. Their music leads with strong lyrics of peace and protests for its time, created the beautiful blending of the fiddle, mandolin, banjo, guitar, bass, and haunting vocals. This band that loved to perform and they became close friends fast. So much so they lived together in a van during the cold Colorado winters.

Magic Music is Chris “Spoons” Daniels, guitarist Will “Wilbur” Luckey, George “Tode” Cahill, Rob “Poonah” Galloway, and percussionist Kevin “CW” Milburn. Destined for success, they could not quite pull off a record deal. Magic Music imploded for many reasons from petty requests, a CCR-type slave record contract to differences in what kind of band they wanted to be. Somehow this band consisting of five random guys, formed from a chance meeting, all having different futures in mind, ultimately couldn’t find common ground in the business of music.

The band’s demise was inevitable. As with any breaks up, the break is rarely amicable. Some members went on to successful careers as studio musicians, while others had the taste of the music biz slapped out of them. For one, it was money, drugs, and a deal gone bad, which lead to his disappearance.

“…maybe these guys were better off never making it.”

Today, shelves are lined with documentaries about band breakups and awkward reunions. If there was one reason to see 40 Years in the Making: The Magic Music Movie is for its music. Constantly playing in the background, you’ll find an appreciation for how good this band was, how a band this good could never find success, and how the group’s dynamic tore it down. Although, by the end, you’ll conclude that maybe these guys were better off never making it.

But there are still more reasons to keep watching. Music aside, 40 Years in the Making: The Magic Music Movie is a story of forgiveness and camaraderie. The road to forgiveness was not easy. There are still hard and painful feelings, but at some point, everyone needs to let go of the past and move on. While serving as a nostalgia piece, this is a sentimental film for Aronsohn, and you can see his pride at the end of not just the final film, but in pushing a few members of Magic Music to talk to one another.

Aronsohn brings a great deal of production value to his doc. It’s beautiful to watch. Let’s face it, Colorado is a beautiful state (and I’m from California). He effectively contrasts the 60’s landscape with Colorado today. He makes effective use of what little archival footage and photos he had and created the moving photos, we see so much in docs today. He moves effortlessly from one chapter to the next, never overstaying his welcome.

40 Years in the Making: The Magic Music Movie (2018) Directed by Lee Aronsohn. Featuring Chris Daniels, Will Luckey, George Cahill, Rob Galloway, Kevin Milburn.

8 out of 10 stars

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