Programming Review: Apple TV Plus' '1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything'

Apple TV Plus turns its documentary lens on music with its limited original series 1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything.  

The eight-episode documentary explores the music and musicians that shaped the culture and politics of 1971. The first episode quickly establishes the social, economic and political unrest during the time that originated from the battle between those opposing the Vietnam War and racism and those seeking to squash the countercultural movement. 

Wrapping the words and actions of the leaders and dissenters of the time around inspirational and protest songs from such performers as Marvin Gaye, John Lennon, Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, The Who, The Rolling Stones and Bill Withers, the documentary provides a unique perspective about the time period and how music reflected, and at times influenced, a cultural change in the country.

Beyond the music, the documentary’s use of graphic footage depicting victims of the Vietnam War, the Kent State shooting and the Attica prison uprising brings the pain and violence of the period to light. The unnerving clips and photos however, are used effectively to help better understand the creation of music inspired by those events, from Gaye's What's Going On to Neil Young’s Ohio to Gil Scott-Heron’s The Prisoner. The documentary also features fascinating, unseen and rarely-seen footage of iconic figures on both sides of the cultural war simmering in America at the time.

Amy producers Asif Kapadia and James Gay-Rees offer an entertaining, informative, and oftentimes disturbing walk through a turbulent year from a predominately music-themed perspective. 1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything uses the upheaval of the time to focus a light on the career-defining music of some of the industry’s legendary and successful artists.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.