Friday, August 8, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: Iluminating the Lives of Joni Mitchell, Carole King and Carly Simon - Written by Sheila Weller

Illuminating the Lives of Joni Mitchell, Carole King and Carly Simon by Jon O'Bergh

Sheila Weller has written a fascinating book about Carole King, Joni Mitchell and Carly Simon and the journey of a generation. The book is filled with insights about what influenced their artistic temperaments and helped establish them as three of the most successful and respected female songwriters of the 1960s and 70s.

Weller makes the case that they collectively represent in their lives and songs a large portion of American girls who came of age in the late 1960s. They were of a generation that struggled to recast their lives to create a new sense of womanhood. Weller has an eye for detail and little nuggets, and she is adept at finding ways to keep the three parallel biographies connected so they continually resonate with each other.

I'm particularly grateful for how Weller describes the arc of each woman's trajectory from scratching out a living to fame and renown, so you actually understand the incremental steps to success (something that most interviews annoyingly gloss over). Describing Joni Mitchell's career in 1967, she writes how Mitchell acquired a passionately devoted manager in the fall of 1967, Elliot Roberts.

Elliot took the tape he'd made of Joni's Michigan performances and made the rounds of the record labels, then almost all still based in New York. He had every confidence he would prevail... But the A&R men viewed Joni as a singer in the passé folk genre (an art song singer might have been a more apt label); they declined to offer her a contract.

The music industry is filled with such tales of short-sighted people in power overlooking talent, and we relish knowing that they'll get their come-uppance. Soon after, Mitchell met David Crosby, who had achieved some success with the folk-rock band The Byrds. He almost overlooks her at first, dismissing her as "just another blond chick singer." But the blues singer Estrella Berosini, whom Crosby had wanted to produce, rebutted him, urging him to listen to her words. Crosby becomes enamored and shifts his attentions from Berosini to Mitchell.

The book understandably concentrates on their formative years and when they are at the apogee of their influence. Changing musical tastes in the 1980s and beyond would move them off center stage, but they would not be forgotten. In 1975, a 17-year old Prince would be in the front row at a Minneapolis concert, in rapt attention listening to Joni Mitchell. One day he would record Mitchell's 1967 masterpiece written in tribute to her brief love affair with Leonard Cohen, "A Case of You." These are the kinds of connections that keep us in wonder and that make reading this book so rewarding.

More music articles at Song of Fire -

Article Source:,-Carole-King-and-Carly-Simon&id=1380614


  1. Thank you for reviewing my book. Readers interested in the book, or the three women -- Carole, Carly, Joni -- can visit on the book's website for more information, reviews -- and to order.

    Thanks - Sheila Weller

  2. Hi Sheila,

    Your book sounds fantastic and thanks for your comments. I'm sure that my readers will find your book fascinating as they really are three major figures of the era. Thanks again.

    Dr Robert Muller
    The Psychedelic Hippie