Having just finished Sheila Weller’s excellent book, Girls Like Us: Carly Simon, Joni Mitchell, Carole King and the Journey of a Generation, I’ve been thinking about the music of my life. While I’ve also been a secret student of Leonard Cohen, Laura Nyro, Bruce Springsteen and Mary Chapin Carpenter, I found in Weller’s book bouquets of memory, fresh with what I heard about from all these lights in my life about how to be write and live.
It seems the whole year I was 15 was spent listening to Joni Mitchell’s Blue, or at least, the best moments of that whole year. I inhaled in “A Case of You” (about her love affair with Leonard Cohen) and exhaled out “Little Green” (about the daughter she surrendered), deciphering what the words meant about the nature of life and loss. I analyzed and loved every nuance of “For the Roses,” especially “Judgment of the Moon and Stars,” and felt it was my call to art and life. I sang “It’s Too Late, Baby” with friends when I was 12, belting out “Ba…ah…beee” and then, at campfires each summer, sang “You’ve Got a Friend,” a kind of anthem for my generation. I treasured and mourned what Carly Simon told me in “The Way I Always Heard It Should Be” about marriage or not, turned up the radio for “Anticipation,” and in my 20s listened to “Haven’t Got Time for the Pain” at least 3,487 times to convince myself what I already knew about the needlessness of trauma-dramatizing life.
Like many of us, music saved my life. It saved it from being overwhelmed by doubt, depression and fear — Carole’s voice on the 8-track, Joni’s on the record play, or Carly’s on the radio. It saved me for writing my own music through poetry, song, prose.
So now that I realize we never know about the time to come, whether we lay in bed all morning just to pass the time or shake our fist at lighting and roar like forest fires, I also realize how the time that passes and the time to come rings with song. Whatever lonely (or not-so-lonely) road we’re traveling, traveling, traveling, I want to belong to the living and feel the earth move. Thanks to Joni, Carly and Carole, I do.