"The Music Never Stopped," based on the case study "The Last Hippie" by Dr. Oliver Sacks, M.D. ("Awakenings"), chronicles the journey of a father and son adjusting to cerebral trauma and a lifetime of missed opportunities. Through the music that embodied the generation gap of the 1960s, the film weaves the heartwarming progress of Henry and Gabriel's relationship.
In 1967, after his father Henry Sawyer (J.K. Simmons) forbids him to see a Grateful Dead concert, prodigal son Gabriel Sawyer (Lou Taylor Pucci) runs away from home. Nearly twenty years later, Henry, a straight-laced engineer and lover of big band music, is shocked to learn that his estranged son requires major surgery to remove a previously neglected brain tumor.
After the operation, the extent of Gabriel's condition is made clear: the tumor damaged the part of his brain that facilitates the creation of new memories. For Gabriel, past, present, and future become indistinguishable, and he lives fixed in the era of Vietnam, acid trips, and psychedelic music. Determined not to let their son slip away from them again, Henry and wife Helen (Cara Seymour) vow to connect with Gabriel, who is barely able to communicate effectively. Unhappy with Gabriel's lack of progress, Henry does his own research on brain injuries, which leads him to Dr. Dianne Daly (Julia Ormond). She is a music therapist who has used her methods to make significant progress with victims of brain tumors.
As Diane works with Gabriel, she realizes that he is most responsive to the music of the Rock and Roll era - The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and particularly the Grateful Dead. Even though he is unaware that the era of his music has long passed, the effect is remarkable, and he begins to be able to have conversations and express himself. Although Henry loathes rock and roll, he is determined to forge new memories and salvage his relationship with his son. While his own health fails, Henry begins his own pilgrimage through the bands of the sixties. As he learns the songs that animate his son's soul, he indeed begins to form an unusual but emotionally vibrant bond with the child he thought he had lost.