Love Singer-Songwriters?


Title: Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon—and the Journey of a Generation
Author: Sheila Weller
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Year: 2009, 2008c
Call Number: 782.42164 WELLER S
If you listened to the radio at all during the late 1960s through the late 1970s, the airwaves were filled with the music of Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and Carly Simon. And although this music is now considered vintage by many—relegated to easy-listening and sometimes present in incarnations of elevator music, many of us who grew up listening to the music of these three trailblazers from the singer-songwriter genus have their songs as a sort-of-soundtrack of our coming of age years, as author Sheila Weller points out. The book has two interesting aspects: it is a pop-history of the lives of Carole, Joni, and Carly and the men in their lives; and it is a revealing look into the music industry of the 1960s and 1970s and the double-standard they were confronted with when compared to their male peers (who were, in many cases, also their romantic partners). I must confess to indulging in the guilty pleasure of the first, in addition to appreciating the second. It is fun to know who all of these songs were written to, or what inspired them. What inspired “Up on the Roof” (James Taylor and Joni Mitchell sang background on this one on Carole's Tapestry album)? Who is Joni Mitchell’s “Carey” (yes, there was a real-life “Carey”)? Who did Carly Simon write “Anticipation” about? In addition to songs about the men in their lives, there is the poignant story of Joni’s “Little Green.” And come on admit it—don’t you really need to know who Carly wrote “You’re So Vain” about (no, it was not Mick Jagger!)? About the only disappointing thing I have to say about the book is it seemed to sort of peter out when Weller wrote about the years after the 1980s. And when I read the last page, I turned it expecting the next chapter and there was no more! Not that I was expecting more, but Weller could have done a better job of wrapping up her story. Still, this book is worth the read for music fans of these women, and of other singer-songwriters from this era (there is quite a bit about James Taylor, and, as many of you might already have guessed, Crosby, Stills, and Nash, along with mentions of many others). And there is a terrific index in the back that includes, among other things, song titles of most of Carole’s, Joni’s, and Carly’s work up to circa 2008 (in addition to much of James Taylor's work). 

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