Page 484 - Joni Mitchell anger, aging and sliding sales
Joni Mitchell came into middle age with Larry Klein by her side. During their nine years of marriage, Joni's career, already derailed during her jazz experimentation, went deeper into a trough by way of her collaborations with her young husband. There are some that believe Klein's synthesizer-heavy, drum-machine-based music hurt her career. Others believe that, however off-mark their musical collaborations, Larry patiently absorbed and managed the anger that Joni increasingly felt. "Getting older was hard for Joni," says Larry. She saw an injustice. "Men around that age" - Jagger, McCartney, Clapton - "are still considered vital in pop music, but women aren't."
The first album of her songs that they produced together - her fourteenth album, 1985's Dog Eat Dog - was political in spirit. Having her romantic life settled gave Joni the luxury of thinking about politics, she has said. Dog Eat Dog was poorly reviewed and her poorest-selling album in eighteen years. And though her next album, 1988's smoother and more listenable Chalk Mark in a Rainstorm, was enthusiastically received (Billboard's Timothy White called it "lucid" and "sublimely sung") and sold better (reaching a respectable # 45), it didn't touch the luster of her early albums, nor did the songs have that personal ache.
Her 1991 Night Ride Home, whose title song honored Larry ("I love the man beside me, we love the open road"), was, as Stephen Holden said, "closer in spirit to her 1970's albums"; still it did about the same business as its predecessor. During these and subsequent years Joni Mitchell bewailed what she called her banishment from the airwaves, spoke of her disdain for MTV, and tendered the opinion that she been "blacklisted" from Rolling Stone because she had once thrown a drink in Jann Wenner's face and told him to "kiss my ass."
Page 487 - Joni Mitchell and Larry Klein divorce
At some point in her early forties, Joni Mitchell discovered she was pregnant - a surprise, since she had assumed that the infection she'd suffered in Jamaica had left her infertile. She would later tell a friend that "she wanted the baby, badly." Larry was excited to be a father. In her first trimester, Joni miscarried.
Larry had a recording date in England; musicians were waiting for him. He delayed his departure, then he asked Joni if it was okay for him to go and fulfill his commitment. She consented. In an act more naive than callous, but with a devastating effect on Joni, he did leave. "In retrospect, it was really a bad thing," he says today. "I didn't know very much about what happens to women when they miscarry - the potential psychological problems, the depression. Knowing what I know now, I wouldn't have gone. It really damaged our relationship; she saw it as me putting this job higher in importance than her health."
On Thanksgiving 1991, Joni and Larry's marriage fell apart. Larry moved to a house in Venice and "spent five years - probably the most difficult period of my life - completely reconstructing myself," Larry recalls. As Dave Naylor, who remained close to both Larry and Joni, puts it, "It wasn't just the miscarriage" that marked the end of the marriage for Joni. "She needed some inspiration, some play - she needed some interaction with men."
Page 491 - Joni Mitchell's Turbulent Indigo
By now, Joni Mitchell's patch of being ignored had ended. Her 1994 Turbulent Indigo - the startingly husky voice refracting her tart, mature complexity - was touted as one of her finest albums in years. (Tim White, now the editor of Billboard, called it "one of the most commanding statements of a peerless, seventeen-album career" and praised its "rare blend of romantic faith and fervid realism.") Joni used a self-portrait depicting herself as her hero Vincent Van Gogh as the cover. Her characters had ripped to a noir sheen. Long-brewed hurts make their way into the album; Not To Blame excoriates Jackson Browne, but nobody knows why; and, in the album's most transcendent piece - and one of Joni's finest songs ever - the cruelty and humiliation she suffered as an unwed mother in transmuted into a searing imaging of life in an historically real Irish home for fallen women called the Magdalene Laundries.
By now, Joni's having given up a baby was a whisper of a rumor bobbing under the surface of public acknowledgment. For years Joni had kept the possibility of the search for her baby in a kind of locked box. She still had not told her parents, and with every year the secret seemed more trouble to uncover. Joni was unaware that up in Canada, her daughter, Kilauren Gibb, had been searching for her birth mother since 1991 - the year that Kilauren's parents had finally confessed that she wasn't their natural child; she had been adopted at seven months old.
Page 492 - Joni Mitchell awards flooding in
1996 was an affirming year for Joni Mitchell. Late-in-coming awards started flooding in all at once: Turbulent Indigowas the surprise winner of Best Pop Album Grammy and she won Billboard's newly instituted and very prestigious Century Award. In addition, Stephen Holden publicly criticized the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's "anti-feminine" bias for their failure to honor Joni (she was inducted the next year, as well as into the Songwriters Hall of Fame); the National Academy of Songwriters and the National Songwriters Association each awarded her a Lifetime Achievement Award; BMI gave her their one-million-performance certificate for Big Yellow Taxi and Woodstock, their two-million-performance certificate for Both Sides Now; and she won Canada's prestigious Governor General's Award. There were perks to being fifty-three years old.
In addition, her personal life had come satisfyingly full circle. She was now in a relationship with Canadian poet Donald Freed, who traveled around Canada's remote areas, teaching children to turn their lives into poetry. Joni wrote a song with an explicitly midlife-female title, Face Life, about Freed. Like many women her age, who'd by now hacked at the quandary of love vs. freedom from a dozen different angles, Joni found the long-distance relationship a good solution. When the now happily married John Guerin asked, "But, Joan, isn't that guy in Canada all the time?" she answered, "Yes, but it's better that way. I see him when it's cool."
Page 494 - Joni Mitchell finds her daughter Kilauren Gibb
By the end of 1997, Joni Mitchell announced that she was searching for her daughter. Joni's Vancouver-based managers handled the responses; hundreds of thirty-one-year-old adopted women wanted to be Joni Mitchell's baby. Knowing that she was the one (see the book for the amazing back-story), Kilauren contacted and recontacted Joni's managers, calling or e-mailing almost every day. Finally, the Gibbses located a long-buried photograph of Kilauren in their arms, taken the day she left her foster mother. In early March of 1997, Kilauren sent this photo to Macklam and Feldman; they matched it against the ones Joni had been sent one year earlier by the foster mother. To Joni's protectively skeptical managers, there could no doubt now.
Kilauren and Marlin (her son) flew, with first-class tickets from Joni, from Toronto to L.A. They were met by a limousine and driven to Joni's house. Joni raced downstairs and opened the door. And, as she would later write it, in her abashed, eloquently measured song, Stay In Touch, about the occasion: "In the middle of this continent, in the middle of our time on Earth, we receive one another." Here was her Kelly Dale - here was her Little Green - thirty-two years later.
Since that time, Joni Mitchell and Kilauren Gibb have made their way through a thicket of complicated emotions to arrive at a relationship that feels like real life. Joni visits her daughter and grandchildren in Toronto; they visit her at her houses in L.A. and near Vancouver. Watch some home movies of Joni with Kilauren and her grandchildren below:
Page 497 - Joni Mitchell isn't backing down
Joni's nineteenth album, 2000's Both Sides, Now, and her twentieth - 2002's double-disc Travelogue - both feature her singing her songs in her new, life-deepened voice.
In 2003, Joni was the subject of a PBS American Masters tribute - biography, Woman of Heart and Mind. James Taylor was among the participants honoring Joni in word and song. She unappeasedly continued to call the recording industry a "cesspool," railing, of the pop landscape: "What [should] I do now? Show my tits? Grab my crotch? Get hair extensions and a choreographer?" Danny Kortchmar puts the complaint thusly, referring to rap music, "Today, people write love songs to their jewelry."
Joni has essentially asked, thought-provokingly: Do we destroy the female artists among us? She concedes that since so many people have said her early work was her best, maybe it was time to believe it herself.
Joni spent the summer of 2007 recording her twenty-first album, Shine, a bravura effort of electric music, every track [of course] produced by Joni, who supplied virtually all of the instrumentation. James Taylor added his guitar to the title song. She dedicated it to her grandchildren, Marlin and Daisy. It was released, on Starbuck's Hear label, in late September 2007. Joni was reportedly annoyed that her proposed cover - the arched backs and bulbously muscled thighs of leaping male dancers - was not thought to be the best signifier for a Joni Mitchell album cover. But there those muscled buttocks were, on the cover. Starbucks surely learned what everyone knows: She is Joni Mitchell and she isn't backing down.
Page 501 - The Two Carole Kings
Throughout the 1980's, there were two Carole Kings. One was a genial legend and good-works activist who gave fund-raising performances for Gary Hart during his presidential bid in 1984 and Willie Nelson's first Farm Aid concert. In image and, increasingly, in real life, she was an environmentalist, taking her earth-motherliness to the next-political-stage.
The other Carole King - Carole King Sorenson - was known only in Custer Country, Idaho, and there she was very much disliked. She was considered a combative, wealthy interloper with a New York accent that didn't quite get Custer County's values. "You don't wear dirty jeans to a community meeting, like Carole did - that's what rich hippies do. You leave your ranch work clothes at home and you wear pressed, proper clothes."
Carole had purchased the Robinson Bar Ranch only after doing research to determine that a road that ran very close to their living quarters was their private property. In September of 1981 Custer County had declared the road public, and its sheriff issued Carole a criminal citation for placing a locked gate on her road. During the seven years that the case bumped along, in and out of courts, "Carole was very unhappy; she was in a deep, deep depression," a confidante says.
Reconsidering her city-vs.-wilderness approach, "I jumped; I cast off everything; I ran away from this town," she admitted to the Los Angeles Time's Charles Champlin at the dawn of 1984, with the failure of her fourteenth original album, Speeding Time, fresh behind her. "I have a way of not doing anything in the middle when there is an extreme available."
Page 502 - Carole King honored
Over the next three years, though she made forays into New York and L.A., performing in an off-Broadway play in 1987 and acting in and writing the score for a minor movie, Murphy's Romance (starring Sally Field and James Garner), most of her time was spent in Idaho with Rick.
In 1987 she and Gerry Goffin were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and a year later they received the National Academy of Songwriters Lifetime Achievement Award. That was what happened when you started writing as a teenager, became a seasoned pro before you could vote, and a superstar in your twenties, then slowly dissolved over ten years: a lifetime achievement award at age forty-six. Carole was determined to not be "honored" into irrelevance.
In the meantime, she was developing a second career as an environmental activist. On February 10, 1988, Carole King finally won her bruising locked-gate case. The victory allowed Carole to widen her focus from her - not particularly sympathetic - personal situation and to come out swinging against the new logging and access-road-building on all the land of her adopted state. As she succinctly put it: "I protected my rights and now I am working to protect everyone's rights."
Page 504 - Carole King releases City Streets
In 1989, when she recorded her next album, she named it (and its title song) City Streets. For its cover she was photographed against a graffiti-streaked brick building: eyes closed, head high, wild haired, an adamant, sensual expression on her face. Four of the album's ten songs she wrote herself; two she wrote with Gerry, and the rest with various new cowriters. Capitol promised her - and delivered - major promotion. City Streets was her strongest-sounding and strongest-selling album since just before the two disasters she'd lovingly produced with Evers.
Rolling Stone praised the album's good intentions and acknowledged the buzz of "comeback" expectation, but then leveled that familiar verdict: "King has yet to re-create the chemistry of her work with producer Lou Adler in Tapestry and its immediate follow-ups in the early Seventies." The album reached # 10 on the adult contemporary charts.
Page 505 - Carole's marriage to Rick Sorenson ends
Her new album, reinvoking New York, heralded a kind of twenty-two-year-later return. With her youngest child, Levi, about to graduate high school and go off to college, she had more freedom; she acquired an apartment in Manhattan and began testing the waters of living there again. At some point in 1990 she did a children's play and met a handsome young actor named John Bennet (he went by the name of Johnny B) who had a bit part in the production. "And they got together," says Roy Reynolds. "He was a young, good-looking guy. But he was too young for her." Nevertheless, she fell for him.
It felt safe for Carole King to have this split life; Rick never left the mountains. Except when he did. Trading in his animal pelts for inconspicuous blue jeans, one day Rick drove to Boise, then boarded a plane to Salt Lake City and then another to Kennedy Airport. The buzzer rang in Carole's apartment. She was stunned to see him at the door. Her fourth marriage was now over.
Page 506 - Colour of Your Dreams
Carole King released her sixteenth original album, Colour of Your Dreams, in 1993. A song from the album, Now and Forever, became the theme of the movie A League of Their Own. Like Carly, Carole saw that scoring films for congenial peers (Penny Marshall, a Bronx-to-L.A. girl, was to Carole what Mike Nichols and Nora Ephron were to Carly) was a way to extend her reach beyond the age-ceilinged limits of radio.
Carole went on tour for the new album and her 1994 live album, Carole King in Concert, was the result.
Page 510 - Carole King's in love again
At some point in the mid-to-late 1990's Cynthia Weil heard from Carole. "She was in distress. Another relationship" - with Johnny B - had ended, Cynthia recalls. "It was the first time she called and said, 'Can I come and spend time with you?' So Barry and I said, 'Please, stay with us.'"
Carole stayed with Cynthia and Barry for several weeks, during which time Cynthia had the idea of fixing her up with a screenwriter director friend of theirs, Phil Alden Robinson, who was eight years younger than Carole. "I told Carole, 'This guy could be for you!'", Cynthia recalls. In a week or so after their first date, Cynthia got a call from Carole and Phil, who announced to their matchmaker, in unison, "We are madly in love." "Phil is the first guy who has ever taken care of Carole the way she should be taken care of, and who appreciates her in the way she needs to be appreciated."
With Phil, Carole returned to her Brill Building social set after decades of self-imposed exile. Carole's 2001 album, Love Makes the World - of mostly new songs she wrote with others - radiated her new sense of satisfaction. The title track is as infectious, whole-hearted, and commercial as any of her Brill Building or early-1970's hits, but the album implicitly acknowledges that the music scene has move on, and Carole seems willing to make do with her slightly patronized but affectionate placement in the baby boomer legends market.
page 510 - The Brill Building Pro
Carole King was sixty now and a grandmother of three, by way of her daughters with Gerry. Sherry a producer of children's records, and her husband Robbie Kondor, had two children; singer-songwriter Louise and her husband, Greg Wells, would soon have their second child. As for her children with Charlie: Levi, a University of Texas Ph.D. in cognitive science, would soon marry his girlfriend, Bina, and Columbia University-educated Molly was a sculptor.
After having been the first female rock star to actively campaign for a presidential candidate (McGovern in 1972 with James Taylor), Carole had never stopped being political: she campaigned for Gary Hart in 1984, and worked with Bill Clinton on wilderness issues throughout the 1990s. For the 2004 election, she actively campaigned for her friend and Idaho neighbor John Kerry, traveling the country and giving intimate concerts in donors' living rooms. The next year she held a concert in Hyannis, capturing the spirit of the campaign. The 2005 live double-CD The Living Room Tour (issued by Starbucks) is Carole's retrospective of her forty-year career.
In November 2007, James Taylor joined Carole King in headlining for three nostalgia-filled sold-out nights at the Troubadour. Danny Kortchmar, Russ Kunkel, and Leland Sklar backed them up; Gerry was given props from the audience.
Carole is no longer with Phil Alden Robinson. By age sixty-five, she was single again. Danny had bemusedly noted that the responsible, conventional girl he'd first met as the "Brill Building pro" had-surprisingly-gone on the live "three different lives; maybe four different lives." To which one might add: "And counting."
Page 513 - Carly Simon's Oscar - Let The River Run
Jim Hart seemed to provide just the right mesh with Carly. "Not just anybody would want to take on this very complicated person - Carly is high-maintenance," says Jeanie Seligmann, voicing a widely held opinion. It seemed that Carly both needed to be taken care of and needed to take care of Jim. Jim found Carly's efforts against her phobias touching and heroic. "Fifty percent of Carly's day is spent warding off the fear that something is going to kill her - imagine having to live that way!" he says.
"Jim is very steady. He may be in a kind of low-grade depression all the time, but it works for him; it makes him mellow. Carly is an emotional roller coaster. Jim will listen to Carly's slight-of-the-day; he's not entitled to this own drama, he's not competing with her. Shecan take the stage all the time," says Jake Brackman.
Carly worked with Jim on the theme song for Mike Nichols's next movie, Working Girl. Viewing the opening footage of the movie - the Staten Island ferry gliding past the Statue of Liberty toward Manhattan's skyscrapers - Carly knew she wanted to score it with "a hymn with a jungle beat." It was Jim Hart who turned to Finnegans Wake to come up with the first line of the soaring anthem, "Let the river run / let all the dreamers wake the nation." Carly and Jim together turned to the poets William Blake and Walt Whitman, and came up with the hosanna "Come, the New Jerusalem," the song's emotional fulcrum. Let The River Run is one of Carly Simon's most stirring songs; and when she was named Best Song winner at the 1988 Academy Awards, she took the stage and said, "Thank you to my husband, Jim Hart. You wrote the best lines of the song - thank you, sweetheart."
Page 515 - Carly Simon productive early 90's
During the same years that Jim Hart toiled and stalled on writing his novel, Carly was very productive. Now, moored in a marriage to a man who tended to her emotionally, Carly became both the social maven and the workhorse. She began writing the first of what would be four children's books, Amy The Dancing Bear, and working with Jake Brackman on an opera, Romulus Hunt. She opened a small Manhattan art gallery named (after her Academy Award-winning song) Riverrun; and she would eventually open, with her friend Tamara Weiss, a boutique, Midnight Farm, that is still thriving on Martha's Vineyard.
Most important, she released two albums by the end of 1990 and one in 1992. One of the 1990 offerings was My Romance, in which she wisely renewed the standards franchise that would serve her well in years to come, this time interpreting a group of wistful torchers - My Funny Valentine, In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning, Bewitched and Time After Time, among them. She also included Danny Boy: the first song she had ever learned to sing, courtesy of her nanny, Allie Brennan.
The other album, Have You Seen Me Lately? featured her new original compositions. It was a pressing midlife quest; as she frankly described it to The New York Times's Stephen Holden, Carly was finding that "I have more questions and am trying to find answers more concentratedly that I've ever had in my life." The album didn't catch on like its predecessor, Coming Around Again, had. But the 1990's would produce so many life-and-death challenges that Carly Simon's palette of concerns - expressed in her songs - would give way to more primal issues.
Page 516 - Carly Simon writes Love Of My Life
Carly Simon's next album, the soundtrack for her friend Nora Ephron's 1992 directorial debut, This Is My Life (about a single mother raising two daughters), gave her a minor hit (#16 on the adult contemporary chart). Love of My Life came to her one night when Sally and Ben were going to bed. As the youngsters strode to their bedrooms that night, Carly impulsively called out: "You are the love of my life!" The angst of motherhood - both prosaic and operatic ("My heart is riding on a runaway train!") - illuminated the song.
Ben Taylor co-stars in the video for Love Of My Life
Toward the end of 1992, Jim's inability to complete his novel after four years of effort - and four years of Carly supporting him, emotionally and financially - was eating away at their marriage. He gave up on the novel entirely. Despite being "madly in love" with each other, as he puts it, "When you marry a famous, relatively wealthy woman and you don't have money of your own, you're a bounder. With any relationship that's this unbalanced, you both withstand a psychological barrage." Jim Hart moved into a small apartment in a tenement building on the Upper West Side and went back to selling insurance.
Carly deeply missed the man who soothed her through her anxieties, and Jim wrote of now being "a spoon without a mate," aching "for your melody and musk...a tad of linen next to your skin...the timbre of your voice close to my breath." The separation only last a few months. Emergency intervened: Carly's mother, Andrea Simon, was diagnosed with lung cancer. Jim returned to Carly, while Carly cared for her mother on the Vineyard.
Page 518 - Carly Simon's song for her mother
Carly Simon's relationship with her larger-than-life mother had always been complicated. One day (before Andrea's cancer had been diagnosed) Carly dashed off a lyric-metered letter to Andrea about the unresolved issue of Ronnie Klinzig. "Why can't you apologize / You say it was all Daddy's fault / He loved Auntie Jo and treated you like a scullery maid....." Still, Carly contended, the victims were her and her sisters. She considered mailing the letter - but was stopped by a remembered bit of Andrea's advice: never mail a letter composed in strong emotion. The wise demurral would inspire an album (and title song), Letters Never Sent.
Even as Andrea's cancer advanced, "she was still indomitable," Jim says. "She said, 'You've gotta do this! You've gotta do that!'" Carly cared for her frail mother. As 1993 turned to 1994, Andrea's prognosis dimmed. Carly, Joey, Lucy, and Peter decided not to tell their mother she was dying. "We knew it was a truth that she did not want to know," Lucy has said. In February, she succumbed; Carly was at her bedside, and "I wanted to crawl under the covers with her and go back to the womb," she told a confidante. In the alternately solemn and buoyant Like A River, Carly returns to the simile (female=river) she'd coined twenty-two years earlier in Think I'm Gonna Have a Baby, but now shears it of its breeziness. "I'll wait no more for you as a daughter," she sings, then turns around and vows, "but I will wait for you for-e-ver, like a river."
Page 520 - Touched By The Sun
Immediately after Andrea Simon's death, Carly's friend Jackie Kennedy Onassis took a turn for the worse in her battle against lymphoma. Carly had a lunch for Jackie on April 14, 1994 - "the last day that Jackie was leading a normal life," says Joe Armstrong, who was present. Carly said, "I have something for you," and she put a tape of a song, Touched By The Sun, into Jackie's hand, explaining that she had written it for her. The song was about a woman living in proximity to greatness - as women of Jackie's (and Andrea's) era did - but also living daringly, even foolhardily. ("I need to let them say, 'She must have been mad.'") People thought Jackie Kennedy "mad" when she married homely, crass, foreign Aristotle Onassis and fell off her young-widow-of-Camelot throne. Jackie, Joe Armstrong says, "was bowled over by Carly's song."
At the beginning of the third week of May, Carly and Joe knew that Jackie was dying. They were on their knees, praying, in Joe's Upper West Side living room, when the phone rang. It was Marta, who'd been Caroline and John's nanny, saying, "Come right over." Jackie wanted to say good-bye. The Fifth Avenue apartment was mobbed with friends, but only women, and few of them, at that, were allowed into the bedroom. "Madam wouldn't want a man to see her like this," Marta told Carly, so Joe hung back as Carly entered the bedroom of the most queenly woman in America. A day or so later, Carly and Joe returned to the apartment - for Jackie's wake.
Letters Never Sent was released in 1995, with Carly's songs to her mother and Jackie on it. But there were no singles, no hits. Carly was now called a "heritage" - read older - artist by Arista. She had passed the fifty-year mark.
Page 521 - Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye
Carly loved Jim; her charming poet was the stallion who thought of her a goddess. But for all that romance, issues remained in their marriage, so they threw themselves into couples therapy. But "two or three" therapists later, they felt fatigued and disheartened. They realized one root of their problem: "Carly thinks and feels symbolically, while I think and feel literally," Hart says. Still, that abstract revelation didn't solve things. In 1997 Carly and Jim moved into an arrangement they would occupy for the next eight years: they would stay married, remaining "madly in love," talking many times a day like best friends, keeping the future of their relationship open - but mostly living separately.
Carly recorded another album of classic torch songs (Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year, Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye," and more) with one original composition, Film Noir. Steeped in emotion over the limbo state of her marriage, she put her heart into the songs; Film Noir is her favorite of her albums. Then again, perhaps all that emotion was her body warning her mind that, after her mother's death and Jackie's death and the separation from Jim, and even bigger blow was coming.
page 524 - Carly Simon battles breast cancer
In October 1997, Carly Simon felt a lump in her breast; she went in for a mammogram. Breast cancer awareness was on every woman's radar screen now; you knew your chance was one in eight. Especially if you had, as Carly had, thirty-five years earlier, taken those high-dosage Enovid birth control pills. "We all felt, 'Is this mammography the one?'" says Mia Farrow. Carly was scheduled for a biopsy.
Jim Hart (who now had a public relations job in Manhattan) had been ready to dash out to the airport for a business trip when his secretary stopped him and said, "Carly's on the phone, hysterical." The tumor was malignant. "In the initial shock of diagnosis, I banged my head against the table and said, 'No! No! No! You're wrong!' to the doctor on the phone," Carly says. Later she emailed Mia: "The anvil has fallen."
Once the shock wore off, "I just gathered my forces together," Carly says. "It felt like little people coming out inside me - a phalanx, a Roman army, saying, 'We're going to do what we need to do to make you well! Of course, you're going to beat this!" "She was remarkable, she was amazing - there was no self-pity; she just said, 'Let's go!'" Jim says, adding, "Woman are amazing."
The mastectomy was scheduled for November 12. After the surgery Carly started chemotherapy - her hair did not fall out. But after the chemo, Carly entered a depression deeper than any she had ever known. She says, "The one thing anyone knows who has been through a hefty bout of melancholia is that you think it will never end and, therefore, you can't use up your dance card with your friends. You get good at avoidance and denial and the fake smile." Only with intimates, like Jim, could she be herself.
One day, after an appointment with Dr. Norton, Carly met Ellen for a drink at the Carlyle Hotel. She was planning on getting breast reconstruction (she eventually did), her depression had lifted, and she felt buoyant and hopeful. As if on cue, who should enter the bar but Mr. "You're So Vain" himself: Warren Beatty! "Oh, how wonderful that you're in town [from the Vineyard]," the charming lothario said. "Why are you here?" Carly told him: for an appointment with her oncologist. "And she felt the warmth in his voice disappear," Ellen says. Beatty quickly exited. Trish had been right - cancer involved pruning people from your life on the basis of character.
On the other hand, James Taylor had come through. One night, when Carly was midway through her chemo, he'd visited her in her New York apartment. As he was leaving, she said, "If you ever think of me, just give me a call. Even if we're just silent on the phone together, that would be so nice." Carly remembers that he replied, "If I called you every time I thought of you, there would be little time for anything else."
Carly Simon was now motherless, a breast cancer survivor, and past fifty-five. Jim was living apart from her, and James Taylor would soon marry his third wife, Kim Smedvig. She moved a drum machine into Sally's old bedroom at the Vineyard house, and, working from nine p.m. until dawn, she self-recorded an album of songs that came from the heart, The Bedroom Tapes, which was released on Arista in May of 2000.
She wrote and sang about her deep depression and about her fear that she was viewed as a has-been, with her big hits and glamorous men all in the past. The centerpiece of the album was the song Scar, about the lessons that breast cancer had taught her. Though she didn't name him, Warren Beatty's recoiling at the news of her cancer was a "gift in disguise," she sang, implicitly revealing how much more usefully brambled her journey was than his emotionally cosseted one ("that poor little puppy, so scared of misfortune and always on guard"). Women of her generation had had the more challenging journey - and that had paid off in wisdom.
page 526 - Carly Simon's river flows
In 2005 Carly Simon recorded her fourth album of standards, Moonlight Serenade. It became a huge adult contemporary hit (debuting at # 7 on Billboard's Top 200 chart). Many older artists - Rod Stewart and Linda Ronstadt, among them - recorded standards. But for Carly alone they were not a warmed-to novelty, but rather a plumb line to her childhood.
She followed up that success in February 2007 with Into White, which also invoked the past, its title song written by her old friend Cat Stevens. The most arresting track consists of Carly, Ben, and Sally singing a slow, spectral version of James Taylor's achingly beautiful You Can Close Your Eyes, which he had written for Joni Mitchell. James had been a drugged-out, absent father during Sally's and Ben's childhoods, and that fact had anguished Carly. Now, like so many second-chance older dads, the decades-straight-and-sober James Taylor was earnestly arranging play dates for his and wife Kim's young twin sons. A woman did have to have the placidity of a river to put up with life's stream of ironies.
In early 2007, Carly Simon and Jim Hart finally divorced. Ending her second marriage, to a man she deeply loved, was crushing. Still, in time, as ever, a new man emerged in her life. Richard Koehler is different from the others: not a musician, not a writer. Rather, he is a (handsome, blond) laparoscopic surgeon and former combat Marine, some years Carly's junior. Additionally, Sally Taylor and her husband, Dean Bragonier, moved onto Carly's Vineyard compound, where Ben Taylor, too, lives. In early autumn 2007, while Carly was recording a new album of almost all-new songs, This Kind Of Love - Sally gave birth to a son, Bodhi. Thus Carly is now a grandmother, as are Carole and Joni. And so the river flows, the circle game repeats, the rutted road gets easier to walk down.
And that is how it is for all three of these women - all three of these girls like us - who were born into one female culture and changed it - year by year, song by song, risk by risk - so sweepingly and daringly.
Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon and the Journey of a Generation was published in April 2008.