Girls Like Us
My parents were immigrants. Their Western musical knowledge when they arrived in Canada was limited to the Beatles, Doris Day, and Elvis. Eventually my dad discovered Simon & Garfunkel and he karaoked Bridge Over Troubled Water (don’t you laugh!) at my wedding. So I did not grow up in a house with a vast library stocked with the classic albums, with the rock gods, the R&B pioneers, the jazz greats. Many of my friends with similar backgrounds can relate. Our introduction to music came later, in school, through friends.
I went to school in what was then a hippie granola neighbourhood where the cool kids played hackey sack, dropped acid, and worshipped Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. Eventually I decided to hang with Boyz II Men, Madonna, New Kids on the Block. What this means is that it took me a lot longer to discover the others. I only listened to Carole King’s Tapestry for the first time in university. Tapestry sold more than 22 million – 22 million! – copies worldwide.
Girls Like Us is a triple biography - Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and Carly Simon, connecting their lives, recounting their triumphs and heartaches along the ups and downs of their careers… how they emerged from a generation that expected women to stay by the stove and have babies to helping to define a new creative, artistic, and sexual reality for women. At least that’s the premise.
I bought the premise.
Perhaps because Weller wrote the book like a novel. A dishy, racy delivery that reads like fiction but amazingly enough isn’t. Like Carole’s terrible taste in men, Joni’s restlessness with a good man, and Carly and James Taylor. All summer while I was reading I was obsessed with Carly and James Taylor. For a few weeks there they were like the Brange to me.
Like…look at this honeymoon photo. Weller calls it “blithely glamourous”. I called it so cool it kicks my ass.
On a deeper level though, Weller asserts King, Mitchell, and Simon represented a new generation of women who opened doors and created opportunities that hadn’t existed before and who lived by a different set of rules… or no rules… at least not the rules of their predecessors. It wasn’t simply the sexual liberation – although I ate up those parts (Joni seduced her lovers not by taking her clothes off but by inviting them back to her apartment and playing her songs and they all slept with everyone and then wrote songs together) – but also the modification of social expectations, from parenting to working motherhood, the stigma of abortion, the struggle with how big a part a man or a husband should play in a woman’s life … these three pretty much covered it all, and more.
And then it leaves you asking: have we regressed from the progress? Have more choices led to more judgment? Think of the MiniVan Majority. Or not. Maybe the opposite is true. More choices, more benefits, more good? It’s an endless debate…