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In a year full of major 50th anniversary commemorations — from Woodstock to the moon landing — why not one for “Easy Rider,” Dennis Hopper’s hippie-biker flick that was released on July 14, 1969?
That was the idea when a rep for Peter Fonda, who starred in the film as the laid-back Captain America, reached out to New York impresario Peter Shapiro and Live Nation earlier this year about staging an event where the movie would be screened with the soundtrack performed live by some of the legendary musicians who appeared on it.
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When Friday night’s “Easy Rider Live” show at Radio City Hall Music in New York was announced in late July, Fonda had not yet passed away from lung cancer. Before his death at age 79 on August 16, Fonda encouraged fans to come, saying, “Enjoy the new print. Sing along with the songs. Laugh with the humor! Remember the spirit! Find the love.”
Fonda was represented by his third wife, Margaret “Parky” DeVogelaere, on stage at the show; Hopper’s widow Victoria was also in attendance. A full house of elder New York hipsters turned out for the event. In the crowd were music industry stalwarts like Elvis Costello, Hal Wilner and Larry “Ratso” Sloman.
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“Easy Rider Live” had its work cut out for it. “People want something different,” Shapiro tells Variety. “It’s hard to be different. We never had a full run-through.”
Enlisting 10-time Grammy winner T Bone Burnett as musical director took some of the weight off Shapiro’s shoulders. But it was mostly Shapiro’s program. Fonda had previously reached out to John Kay of Steppenwolf and Roger McGuinn of the Byrds to perform their “Easy Rider” classics during the screening. Shapiro added Peter Stampfel from the Holy Modal Rounders as well as Nicole Atkins, and decided that local African-American musicians led...
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