“I still believe that music can change the world”
I’m a doctor’s office People Magazine reader. I don’t buy it or go out of my way to read it but I invariably pick it up when I’m waiting for an appointment. So I’ve surprised myself lately to find that I’m picking up and devouring music celebrity memoirs. And if it’s an audiobook, even better!
A few months ago, I listened to Judy Collins reading her memoir Sweet Judy Blue Eyes: My Life in Music. I’ve always been a fan of Collins and her music. She is totally candid about her personal struggles, her love affairs, her activism, and the folk music scene. Yet, she is gentle in her description of music industry insiders. There are juicy details about her “brilliant romance” with Stephen Stills, some inside stories about sex, drugs, rock and roll and her fellow artists.
I lived through the '60s but I certainly didn’t live it the way that the singers, songwriters and musicians did, committed to making a difference through their music. It was such a turbulent time yet much of the folk music of the day is still relevant and so beautiful.
Her book created such a wave of nostalgia that I was taken back to her concert with Arlo Guthrie that I attended at the Carter Barron Amphitheatre in Washington D.C. She tells a great story about Arlo Guthrie sitting in a Chicago bar when Steve Goodman showed him a song called “City of New Orleans":
"While at the Quiet Knight, Goodman saw Arlo Guthrie, and asked to be allowed to play a song for him. Guthrie grudgingly agreed, on the condition that Goodman buy him a beer first; Guthrie would listen to Goodman for as long as it took Guthrie to drink the beer. They ended up sitting at the bar together while Steve sang “City of New Orleans” ten times or more, while Arlo wrote down the words and learned the melody.''
Sweet Judy Blue Eyes is full of references to folk singers from the '60s, including Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul and Mary and many more. Folk music led to folk rock in the late '60s and '70s. Collins includes the story of Mama Cass putting David Crosby, formerly of the Byrds, Steven Stills of Buffalo Springfield and Graham Nash of the Hollies together one night at a party in Laurel Canyon and their beautiful harmonies were born.
Craving more nostalgia and yes, gossip, I read the new memoir by Graham Nash entitled Wild Tales: a Rock and Roll Life. His relationship with Joni Mitchell led to the Crosby, Stills and Nash song “Our House” referring to their home in Laurel Canyon in the Hollywood Hills. Laurel Canyon was home to the 60s counterculture musicians including Frank Zappa, the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Mama Cass and many more. And if a '60s musician didn’t live there, they were hanging out there.
Well, next I had to read Laurel Canyon: the Inside Story of Rock and Roll’s Legendary Neighborhood by Michael Walker. Fun and filled with more gossip and juicy details.
Now I browse the CD collection at Cook and reminisce to old favorites such as “Both Sides Now” and Someday Soon” by Collins, “Teach Your Children” and “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” by CSN, “Turn, Turn, Turn” and “Mr. Tambourine Man” by the Byrds and even “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” by Peter, Paul and Mary. All songs that stand the test of time.