The Sentimental Spirit of Almost Famous, 20 Years Later

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We revisit Cameron Crowe's AlmostFamous, which turns 20 this weekend and remains a spirited and sentimental flick about falling in love with music:

, Cameron Crowe’s beloved film loosely based on his own experiences as a budding music journalist in the 1970s, our young protagonist William Miller and the various rag-tag members of the band he’s following for astory, Stillwater, are about to die in a plane crash. The cabin is shaking, the lights are flickering, the ice in the glasses is rattling and everyone is shouting. It’s not unlike the riotous, uncontrolled pit of a rock show .

Narrowly, they avoid the fate that Lynyrd Skynyrd so tragically met in 1977. The noise and convulsion cease, the skies outside the plane windows turn blue and the pilots excitedly open the doors to the cockpit just in time to shout, “We’re gonna live!”throughout this year leading up to its September birthday, remains an unruly snapshot of a bygone time in American pop music—a time when it was “all happening,” as Penny Lane says so dreamily at one point in the film.

, it upholds a kind of mystique surrounding the glory days of classic rock paired with narratives about growing up and the importance of music in our a classic coming-of-age tale. William’s sister bequeaths her record collection upon him before flying the coop to escape their overbearing mother .

William and Stillwater are chasing parallel dreams throughout the film. William is seeking to get his words in print, and Stillwater, a rapidly rising band not yet awarded superstar status, are itching to get theirin print. What makes it a great music movie is the representation of the hustle—not the glory.tracks the before times, the getting there.

Ellen Johnson is an associate music editor, writer, playlist maker, coffee drinker and pop culture enthusiast atLittle Women


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After traveling extensively in Morocco, of course.

I’ve long wanted to know what happened to Penny Lane. My heart says she moved to New Zealand and raised sheep, wrote poetry, and painted beautiful pictures, but my head says different. What do you think?

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