Carole, Joni and Carly News…

May 3, 2008

The publication of my book GIRLS LIKE US has opened the floodgates: The fans of these three magnificent trailblazers — Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and Carly Simon — are rushing forth, both as reviewers and as readers — to rave about how their music guided and enriched and wrote the soundtrack for their lives.

And all three — classy survivors in every single way — are, right now, doing amazing and deliciously musical things.

I went to see Carly at Joe’s Pub in NYC the other night, and it was one of those nights when you were just filed with joy. Here was a real woman, wearing her immense life experience (lightly, happily) on her sleeve, coming out and showing us what it was all about.  Accompanying herself on her guitar,  telling funny long stories, and as intimate as if we were all in her living room, she sang songs from her brand-new album, THIS KIND OF LOVE (does she not look great on the cover, by the way?)– many, bossa-nova-ish and sensual — and then she re-set her greatest hits to startlingly right new arragnements. She sang “You’re So Vain” as the ballad it had originated as, and “Coming Around Again” (one of my favorites of hers) with that same, measured gravity. When she growled out “I’ve Got To Have You,” and allowed that Kris Kristofferson had written it, someone in the audience (not a plant, I’m sure), piped up, “He wrote it about YOU!”) My favorite part of the evening (other than her giving me new reason, via her banter, to like a song I’d always thought was mere filler, “Da Bat Flew In My Face”): When Ben Taylor and David Saw brought her out for an encore (the stirringly apt “Let The River Run”) with a funny revving-up, half-tongue-in-cheek chant, “Miss Car-ly Simon.” I’m the mom of an almost-26-year-old son who is now so smart and savvy and generous in the field we share that I turn to him for advice all the time now — HE helps ME. To see the same dyanamic with Carly and her son just tickled me.  More, it reveals a hidden undercurrent of women as creators and performers: how they bring their whole lives into their creative arena, how their kids give back, how you see family at work. This was a whole woman and her life is in all her offerings. Let the river run, indeed!

At this same exciting moment, there’s lots of Carole news. Her DVD, WELCOME TO MY LIVING ROOM, is out, and here, too, all her rich life, and her concerns (from Western land preservation to Democratic politics, to her large family), not to mention her decades of majestic songwriting, is in the DVD. Filmed in Southern California in 2005, it is intimate and beguiling — the Carole that fans have loved, for her authenticity, for her energy, for her gospel-soul chops. There are 29 songs in it, and they span her entire carer, from “Locomotion” and “Up On The Roof” (“Up On The Roof”! That song — seriously — was the reason I moved from LA to NY, for life, 41 years ago) thruogh the TAPESTRY gems (“I Feel The Earth Move,” “So Far Away,” “You’ve Got A Friend,” “Beautiful”) to her uplifting later offerings like “Song of Long Ago” and “Been To Canaan.” (I’m still waiting for Carole to include the beautiful “Change of Heart, Change of Mind” and “Welcome Home” and “Feeling Sad Tonight” in her concerts. Beautiful pieces we don’t hear so much.) The DVD also has bonus features: an unprecedented look at Carole’s pre-tour rehearsals and even songwriting sessions. 

At the same time that this DVD is out, so, too, is the Deluxe Edition of TAPESTRY, with verisons of each song you’ve never heard before as well as those you have. It’s a beautiful package, not least because of the loving, precise liner notes written by Harvey Kubenick. So many people have told me that they lived their lives to TAPESTRY. Younger readers have said things like, “My mom played it all the time” and “My sister played it all the time” — “We sang along and knew EVERY song by heart.” This anniversary/tribute edition brings back its beauty, in music, packaging and photography. On the back inside page of the liner notes the banner headline from 1972 from the Hollywood Reporter: CAROLE KING SWEEPS GRAMMYS. Spine tingling! You gotta love it!

As for Joni… She continues to win kudos and awards. Herbie Hancock’s winning of the Grammy for Joni’s songs was, most people realize, a way of the Academy to say (aside from appropriately rewarding Hancock): Joni, we know you are simply the best songwriter of our generation; we’re sorry we egregiously overlooked you all those earlier Grammy years. I will bring you more Joni news as I hear it. But rest assured, this woman of strong work ethic, is busy painting and composing — and outspokenly criticizing what needs to be criticized (yikes, now that I’ve said that…I hope not my book!) — whether she’s in L.A. or in Canada. I am particularly gratified that MOJO said that my portrait of “complex” Joni — yes, artists are complex — is the most complete and probing that we are likely to get.

Bye for now…I’m off on my book tour to L.A., Portland, Central Oregon (and hanging out with my old Berkeley roommate there; fun!), Berkeley and San Francisco. I will send blog-posts from the road!




  1. […] Girls Like Us -The New Book by Sheila Weller! wrote an interesting post today on Carole, Joni and Carly News…Here’s a quick excerpt … to rave about how their music guided and enriched and wrote the soundtrack for their lives. … Filmed in Southern California in 2005, it is intimate and beguiling — the Carole that fans have loved, for her authenticity, for her energy, for her gospel-soul c hops…. […]

  2. What a GREAT book; I preordered on Amazon, it came Thursday, and I finished it an hour ago. I’m 48 and those women’s lyrics really defined my growing up — especially Carly’s — I grew up in NYC and she defined who I thought I should be; loose, free, easy, in love, out of love, in pain, out of pain… and marrying JT!!!
    Great book. Thanks for writing it. I needed updates on all three of them!

  3. Today is my 52nd birthday. My wonderful son just gave me this book as a gift. I truly came of age with the music of these women. I still love to sing along, now with my iPod instead of vinyl! Thanks for this beautiful book. I look foward to reading it!

  4. Okay, this will likely turn out to be one of those silly stories that’s funny only to those who were there, but here goes anyway.

    In 1978 when “Boys In the Trees” came out, I was 22 and living my dream: singing and playing full-time in a very popular and successful regional band (if only that region had been SoCal or the East coast instead of the upper Midwest, my life might have turned out differently) and living with my very own JT type (except for the heroin part . . .). Along with the boys in the band, I happily shared the stage with another woman, Karen, who is a very intuitive harmony singer and whose style was a nice contrast to mine. We had been influenced by a lot of the same singers, Carly being one of them (but we weren’t doing any of hers or Joni’s or Carole’s songs at the time–we were doing Linda, Emmylou, Bonnie, and Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks instead.)

    Being two women amongst six guys (counting our sound & light man, John “Deaf Ear” Ely, from Kokomo Indiana!), we had our little inside jokes and stuff the guys DIDN’T GET. One of these centered on the Carly song “De Bat (Fly In Me Face)”. One day during set-up, I started singing “Fly in me face, fly in me face . . .” and Karen sang along. It happened that we were playing a late spring outdoor fest, and the wind was whipping around like crazy. Not a problem when wearing jeans, but it played havoc later during the show with the dresses/skirts we were wearing.

    Afterwards, when we were tearing down and laughing about our inadvertent “exposures,” I started singing, “Fly up me dress, fly up me dress; Oh I hope de wind he don’t come out, and fly up me dress tonight.” A couple months later, while playing another outdoor gig–this one on a perfectly miserable hot and humid July day–we were attacked by a rogue gang of bees. Inevitably . . . “Fly up me skirt, fly up me skirt; Oh I hope de bees dey don’t come out, and fly up me skirt tonight.”

    But the best (worst?) was yet to come. Does anyone remember when Danskin leotard tops and wrap-around skirts were all the rage? Being easy-care and impervious to wrinkles (not to mention their versatility), these were the staples of our onstage wardrobes. Just one problem: (well, two, to be exact) 😉 They RODE UP. (And, of course, they made it difficult to, erm, pee. I actually had a seamstress modify the crotch of my favorite leotard by cutting it and putting in snaps. It was the only one I had done.)

    So, the most oft-used and longest-lasting interpretation of Carly’s whimsical song became, for Karen and me (much to the amusement of the boys, who watched us trying to surreptitiously adjust our leotards onstage): “Crawl up me butt, crawl up me butt; Oh I hope de Danskin don’t come out, and crawl up me butt tonight.”

    Now, I’d love to hear Carly’s story. 😀

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