The Magic Years: Scenes from a Rock-and-Roll Life

The Magic Years: Scenes from a Rock-and-Roll Life
Paperback, 344 pages.
ISBN: 9781597145732.

By Jonathan Taplin

Jonathan Taplin’s extraordinary journey has put him at the crest of every major cultural wave in the past half century: he was tour manager for Bob Dylan and the Band in the ’60s, producer of major films in the ’70s, an executive at Merrill-Lynch in the ’80s, creator of the Internet’s first video-on-demand service in the ’90s, and a cultural critic and author writing about technology in the new millennium. His is a lifetime marked not only by good timing but by impeccable instincts—from the folk scene to Woodstock, Hollywood’s rebellious film movement, and beyond.

With cameos by Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Martin Scorsese, and countless other icons, The Magic Years is both a rock memoir and a work of cultural criticism from a key player who watched a nation turn from idealism to nihilism. Taplin offers a clear-eyed roadmap of how we got here and makes a convincing case for art’s power to deliver us from “passionless detachment” and rekindle our humanism. 


“Jonathan Taplin not only believed in magic, he made magic happen. From the 1960s to the present day, he supported and traveled with entertainment royalty, from Bob Dylan and George Harrison to Martin Scorsese and Wim Wenders, helping them get their art out to the world. And through it all, he kept his head and his integrity. The result is a memoir of exceptional humanity and credibility.” Louis Menand, author of The Free World
"Jonathan Taplin was everywhere you weren’t, from Dylan’s electric debut at the Newport Folk Festival to the Rolling Stones’ recording of Exile on Main Street on the Côte d’Azur to the filming of Mean Streets on the Lower East Side—and more. He tells his tale with wisdom, humor, historical grounding, and an unblunted passion for justice, not to mention the curiosity, gumption, and lust for life that got him to those places to begin with." Lucy Sante, author of Maybe the People Would Be the Times
"This is a unified story, from Taplin’s time as road manager for Bob Dylan and the Band to movie producing to investment banking to technology writing, and what makes it so is thinking: someone always wondering what’s behind the curtain, if only because what’s behind it is almost certainly going to make a better story than what’s in front of it. So in a concise and burrowing manner, he tells you about the music business, with Meyer Lansky behind both MCA and Warner Communications; Michael Milken as the architect of the media landscape that Donald Trump harvested; how with their version of Marvin Gaye’s 'Don’t Do It' the Band, having 'trapped themselves within a sort of puritan destiny,' at least for a few minutes 'shed the hair shirt'; or for that matter why Gaye’s What’s Going On 'was as politically symbolic as track star’s John Carlos’s raised fist at the 1968 Olympics.' And a hundred other tales and grace notes." Greil Marcus, Los Angeles Review of Books
“The Magic Years remarkably shares how Jon Taplin was on the front lines of so many pivotal and historic events. He has a helluva story to tell. I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t seen a lot of it with my own eyes.” Robbie Robertson
“Jonathan Taplin and I had our share of conflicts and disagreements, but he was the one who made Mean Streets and The Last Waltz possible, for which I will always be grateful. We had quite a few adventures on both projects, and they’re all chronicled in this memoir of his colorful life in show business.” Martin Scorsese
“Jonathan Taplin has lived many lives and all of them have intersected with greatness. In this candid, insightful memoir, he chronicles his collaboration with seminal artists. This is a fascinating insider perspective of a time that forever changed music and film.” Don Henley
“The Magic Years reads like a Magical Mystery Tour of music, loss, beauty, family, justice, and social upheaval. It contains true magic, and true inspiration, as do the years, the people, and the story Taplin tells.” Rosanne Cash
“Jon Taplin has lived an extraordinary life during an extraordinary time. I have watched him land on his feet again and again after completing death-defying midair acrobatics. I don’t know if the things in this book actually happened, but I know all of it is true.” T Bone Burnett
"Readers will ride shotgun as Taplin journeys through some of the great moments in late ’60s and ’70s popular culture, with a significant coda on the forces that drive today’s artistic output. There is much to savor here." Library Journal
"The Magic Years is an extraordinary autobiography, in that it isn’t just the chronicling of a life, but it is an extended meditation on the artistic, social, political, and cultural changes that have taken place in the last forty years. . . It is very much like The Education of Henry Adams." Douglas Preston, president of the Authors Guild and author Lost City of the Monkey God
“The Magic Years disproves Robin Williams’s famous line: Jon Taplin remembers the sixties (and seventies and beyond) and he was definitely there, as a maker and impresario. It’s an enviably rich life that he chronicles with unfailing charm and menschy generosity.” Kurt Andersen, author of Evil Geniuses: The Unmaking of America
“Taplin is a formidable writer whose wit, attention to detail, and gift for turning a phrase makes The Magic Years a book worthy of its legendary subjects.” Danny Goldberg, author of Serving the Servant: Remembering Kurt Cobain
“In 1968, when the Band’s Music from Big Pink was released, it felt like the incense and acid haze hanging over the music had been blown away by a cool mountain breeze. Jon Taplin was present for those days, and for everything that came afterwards. His memoir is as clear and strong as an Adirondack stream. Catch this cannonball.” Charles P. Pierce, author of Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free
“It’s uncanny to find someone closely involved in so many iconic events, and with such understanding. That’s why you have to read this vital book: despite losses, exhaustion, and compromise, the love and faith in it call us to make a new, glad day.” Nigel Smith, William and Annie S. Paton Foundation Professor of Ancient and Modern Literature, Princeton University
"A tome that transcends memoir to stand as one of the most clear headed critiques of the broad, quick changing American cultural revolution, from the socially-conscious folk era of early ‘60s to the democracy/artist battering digital world of today." NYS Music
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Category Memoir

About the Author

Jonathan Taplin

Jonathan Taplin

Jonathan Taplin is an author and director emeritus of the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab. Taplin’s book Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy, published by Little, Brown & Company, was nominated by the Financial Times as one of the Best Business Books of 2017. Taplin has produced music and film for Bob Dylan and the Band, George Harrison, Martin Scorsese, Wim Wenders, Gus Van Sant, and many others. He was the founder of Intertainer, the first streaming video-on-demand platform in 1996.

Taplin graduated from Princeton University. He was a professor at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism from 2003 to 2016. He is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He currently sits on the boards of the Authors Guild, the Americana Music Association, and Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti’s Technology and Innovation Council. His commentary has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Time magazine, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, Medium, the Washington Monthly, and the Wall Street Journal.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the page above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


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