Exploring the Bohemian Oasis: Vintage Snapshots of Rockstars in Laurel Canyon

By Sarah Norman | May 7, 2024

It was all about hanging with like-minded individuals

In the 1960s and '70s, folk musicians, psychedelic rockers, country rockers, and pop groups tried to get a little edge flocked to Laurel Canyon. Rock stars, it seemed, had found their Shangri-La, an idyllic world where a group of disparate friends all grew together to become some of the best-known artists of the 20th century. Artists like Joni Mitchell, The Eagles, The Monkees, and Crosby, Stills & Nash all lived within walking distance of one another and would routinely hang out and jam together into the wee hours of the morning. The Laurel Canyon rock star scene was, like the California sound many of them made famous, a mellow affair.

The canyon's twisted, humpbacked roads, dense eucalyptus, and neighborhoods of hidden homes feel like a woodland, country town that's a world away from Los Angeles, but it's somehow only five minutes away from the Sunset Strip. That's what made the area so charming to the Bohemian artists of the Woodstock generation.

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source: getty images

For Jackson Browne, the draw of living in Laurel Canyon wasn't the nature or the parties, it was being around other songwriters all working on their craft. He said:

I was writing songs and playing open mic night at the Troubadour. That was a fun hang too because you’d wind up waiting around for about four hours with a bunch of songwriters on the street, waiting for this window to open. I made a lot of friends there.

Free love was definitely a thing in the Canyon

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source: reddit

Michelle Phillips, who was married to Mamas and Papas bandmate John Phillips during their heyday, says that for many in the Laurel Canyon area it wasn't really a big deal to sleep with someone outside of your relationship:

I was raised in a very free atmosphere. To me, having an affair was not as serious as it was for the rest of them. The first night we got together, we had all been sitting at the table, and John and Cass’, we looked over, and they were asleep. And that’s when Denny got up and went over to the sliding glass door and off we went. And that’s when he [John Phillips] wrote ‘Go Where You Want to Go.