People, Sheila Weller did some work for this book. Serious work. I never thought I’d learn this much about one female musician, let alone three. And now I feel like an expert on the psyches of Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and Carly Simon.
Girls Like Us goes deeper and, for lack of a better term, juicier, than I expected. It gives the nitty, gritty, gossipy, semi-long-winded details of every aspect of the peaks of the careers of these women——wow, that was a horribly-constructed, prepositional phrase-laden sentence, sorry——and to be honest, by the end of the book I was pretty sick of hearing about it. Each relationship that King, Mitchell, and Simon was in was so meaningful and powerful, and Weller definitely buttered them up for the sake of page-turning prose. I’m not judging any of the women, though. It’s just that it got exhausting to read about how profound these relationships seemed to be, only for them to end quickly and appear trivial once King moved on from Gerry to the Ricks, or Joni moved from Graham Nash to James Taylor, or Carly moved from Taylor to Jim Hart. I suppose we should all be thankful for these almost disposable romances, because they helped produce the mastery that was “I Feel The Earth Move” and “Help Me” and “You’re So Vain” and so many others that it’s kind of ridiculous. Seriously, look it up. You’ll be astounded at how many of the world’s favorite songs were conceived by these three.
I won’t say much else about this book, only because I think its topic is either one you’ll dive right into, or one you won’t care about, and that’s fine. It’s not for everyone. But I do want to highlight what I think was one of Weller’s best lines. She left a lot of the writing to the extensive interviews she did, and thus most of the text was quotes, but occasionally she’d turn an impressive phrase, which was a reflection of how much influence Carole, Joni, and Carly’s poetry had really affected her. About Carole’s one-time boyfriend Rick (I forget which one), she said (p. 397), “This side of Carole’s troubled man was one her friends did not see, but then, love is as much a locked box of esoteric intimacy that dissolves when it meets air as listening to a song is.” Deep, friends.
I’ll leave you with this video of James Taylor and Carly Simon singing their adorable duet of “Mockingbird,” and hope that if you don’t read this book, you at least YouTube a few videos and appreciate the talent and contributions of these ladies. I know I took them for granted, and I intend never to do so again.