March 11th, 2012

planet

[book] Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell...

Full title: "Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon - and the Journey of a Generation" by Sheila Weller.

It's good if you're already fans of the artists and others in their genre. I found it too cutesy at times, with these elaborate backstories about supporting characters ending with "and that nobody who she barely paid attention too was... James Taylor!" or whatever. So I started skipping the Carly Simon chapters because I just wasn't "getting it".

But I LOVE LOVE Joni Mitchell and mostly love Carole King so reading their very different stories was wonderful. Joni Mitchell was the folk/jazz singer outsider, critical of the industry, constantly artistic. Carole King was an industry insider songwriter, cranking out songs for girl groups in the pre-Motown era.

And here's my bad feminist moment... holy cow, I didn't know birth control was mostly illegal for unmarried women until 1972! I just assumed that all the free lovers at woodstock in 1969 were on birth control, but I guess everyone just used the withdrawal method.

So that's why Carole King and Joni Mitchell both had early unplanned pregnancies. Carole King married her boyfriend when she was 17 years old. Joni Mitchell had just seen a close friend jump into a marriage because of pregnancy, suffer horrible abuse, try to kill herself to escape, which put her in danger of losing her baby... so she knew marriage wasn't the answer. At 21 she ran off to hide the pregnancy from everyone who knew her and lived in extreme poverty until she was pressured by hospital staff to give up her baby for adoption, a decision that haunted her forever. And it had to be kept secret. Bob Dylan was this frat boy from New York, trying to act like he had a turbulent, adventuresome past. Joni Mitchell had one but, being a woman, had to hide it.

They both secluded themselves after experiencing success, Carole King to the ranches and forests of the midwest, Joni Mitchell to Europe. They were both very grounded, practical women who could take care of themselves, enjoyed some adventure, battled their personal issues, made both good and bad decisions when it came to me.

It was nice to read the stories behind the songs I've grown up liking so much, but the book could have been a shorter, that's my only complaint.