Lou Adler, a legendary music producer and record company entrepreneur, has been involved — Zelig-like — with virtually every big youth culture explosion in the formative years of modern Los Angeles.
Adler restlessly devoured every new pop trend: early '60s surf and car culture (he produced many of Jan & Dean's hits), L.A. folkie romanticism (he produced and put out the Mamas & the Papas' hits), the Sunset Strip club scene (his discovery, Johnny Rivers, put the Whisky a Go-Go on the map), protest rock (he produced Barry McGuire's "Eve of Destruction"), rock festivals (Adler co-produced the Monterey Pop Festival) and '70s stoner culture (Adler launched Cheech & Chong and directed their first movie, "Up in Smoke").
That still leaves out plenty of other career highlights, like writing Sam Cooke's "(What a) Wonderful World" and producing Carole King's mellow-music classic "Tapestry" and bringing "The Rocky Horror Show" to America, but you get the idea. Pop historians still haven't made up their mind if Adler was a wily opportunist or a sage hipster with an uncanny nose for talent.
But from the late 1950s to the mid-1970s, wherever the zeitgeist was, Adler wasn't far away, always part of the scene but safely behind the scenes. As the Mamas & the Papas singer Michelle Phillips once put it: "Lou was rich, wore interesting hats and didn't give a lot of clues to his innermost being."