12—Girls Like Us; Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon—and the Journey of a Generation by Sheila Weller

As a teen, I wasn't particularly into music. Being filled with teenage angst my favorite tunes were Patches, Teen Angel, and Running Bear which I owned and listened to over and over, and over again. Another favorite was Chuck Willis' What Am I Living For (angst was my middle name). These songs turned me on not because of love I had lost, but because I never had love to begin with.

Although Carole King had written (or co-written) an enormous number of doo wop tunes of the '50s and early '60s, I had never heard of her or Joni Mitchell or Carly Simon, till sometime after I entered college in 1967 after a four year stint in the Navy. (Friends in the Navy introduced me to the Beach Boys and the Righteous Brothers but the music didn't register with me till much later in life). And music didn't really speak to my life experience until 1972 when Billy Paul's "Me and Mrs. Jones" hit the airwaves (but that's a story for another time).

Born in 1945, I am of the generation of these three women Carole, Joni, and Carly.

I first heard of Carole King when Tapestry came out in 1971. I loved the music but didn't buy the album. In fact, I don't remember buying any music while in college. In the summer of 1970, while working as a bartender at Cedar Point in Ohio, I became good friends with Sara Mastellone who gave me a copy of Joni Mitchell's Ladies of the Canyon, and that was my first introduction to her. I don't remember when I first noticed Carly Simon but it wasn't till I was married that the song entered my ken.

With my musical background in mind let's now turn to "Girls Like Us." I've been going at this book for about a month. I don't read non-fiction quickly and this was harder than usual for me to read because it was difficult to keep all the names and relationships straight. The book is organized by time periods and by singer within each time. And there are several instances when people in one singer's sphere appears in another singer's life but in a different time period. And there are so many people referenced and so many similarities in the lives of the three women it was just difficult for me to keep everything straight.

Weller's chronicling of these women's lives is also a chronicle of the lives of all of us who came of age in the 50s, 60s and early 70s. It's interesting and heady reading. The book would have been more interesting for me if I were familiar with the bodies of work of Carole, Joni, and Carly. But as a history of the time it's terrific. And for all you People Magazine readers it lets you know who was sleeping with whom and when.

© Surveyor of the Passing Scene