Girls Like Us : Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon--And the Journey of a Generation
A groundbreaking and irresistible biography of three of America's most important musical artists -- Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and Carly Simon -- charts their lives as women at a magical moment in time.
Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and Carly Simon remain among the most enduring and important women in popular music. Each woman is distinct. Carole King is the product of outer-borough, middle-class New York City; Joni Mitchell is a granddaughter of Canadian farmers; and Carly Simon is a child of the Manhattan intellectual upper crust. They collectively represent, in their lives and their songs, a great swath of American girls who came of age in the late 1960s. Their stories trace the arc of the now mythic sixties generation -- female version -- but in a bracingly specific and deeply recalled way, far from cliché. The history of the women of that generation has never been written -- until now, through their resonant lives and emblematic songs.
Filled with the voices of many dozens of these women's intimates, who are speaking in these pages for the first time, this alternating biography reads like a novel -- except it's all true, and the heroines are famous and beloved. Sheila Weller captures the character of each woman and gives a balanced portrayal enriched by a wealth of new information.
Girls Like Us is an epic treatment of midcentury women who dared to break tradition and become what none had been before them -- confessors in song, rock superstars, and adventurers of heart and soul.
Three different songsters and how they rocked. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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April 06, 2008
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Excerpt from Girls Like Us by Sheila Weller
three women, three moments, one journey
spring 1956: naming herself*
One day after school, fourteen-year-old Carole Klein sat on the edge of her bed in a room wallpapered with pictures of movie stars and the singers who played Alan Freed's rock 'n' roll shows at the Brooklyn Paramount. She was poised to make a decision of grand importance.
Camille Cacciatore, also fourteen, was there to help her. The girls had done many creative things in this tiny room: composed plays, written songs, and practiced signing their names with fl orid capital C's and curlicuing final e's -- readying themselves for stardom. But today's enterprise was larger. Camille inched Carole's desk chair over to the bed so both could read the small print on the tissue-thin pages of the cardboard-bound volume resting on the bedspread between them. Carole was going to find herself a new last name, and she was going to find it the best way she knew how: in the Brooklyn phone book.
Camille Cacciatore envied her best friend. "Cacciatore is much worse than Klein! I wanna change my name, too!" Camille had wailed -- gratuitously, since both girls knew Camille's father would blow his stack if his daughter came home with a new appellation. Mr. Cacciatore, a transit authority draftsman, was stricter than Mr. Klein, a New York City fireman who, having retired on disability, now sold insurance.
Not that Sidney Klein still lived with Carole and her schoolteacher mother, Eugenia, whom everyone called Genie, in the downstairs apartment of the small two-story brick house at 2466 East Twenty-fourth Street, between Avenues X and Y, in Sheepshead Bay. Carole's parents had recently divorced -- a virtual first in the neighborhood -- but Sidney came around frequently, and Carole's friends suspected that her parents still loved each other.
So Carole alone could change her name, just as Carole alone was allowed to attend those magical Alan Freed shows (Camille's parents disapproved of "that jungle music"), often making the pilgrimage to the Paramount both weekend nights to soak up the plaintive doo-wop of the Platters, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, and Queens's very own Cleftones, as well as the dazzling piano banging of Jerry Lee Lewis. Freed had coined the term "rock 'n' roll" three years earlier, when, as a white Ohio deejay affecting a Negro style and calling himself Moondog, he was spinning discs after midnight for a black audience that grew to include a swelling tide of white teenagers starved for the powerful honesty of "race music." Now, in his Brooklyn mecca, Freed drew hordes of fans -- and fans destined to be heirs. Carole was among the latter.
The two girls hunched over the phone book and paged past the front matter -- the sketch of the long-distance operator, in her tight perm and headset, ready to connect a Brooklynite to Detroit or St. Louis or even San Francisco; the Warning! that it was a misdemeanor to fail to relinquish a party line in an emergency. They fl attened the book at page 694: where the J section turned into the K section. Carole wanted a name that sounded like Klein: K, one syllable. "We were very systematic," Camille recalls. Line by line, column by column, they looked and considered and eliminated.
Kahn...Kalb...Kamp...: Somewhere between Kearns Funeral Home and Krasilovsky Trucking, there had to be the perfect name (or, failing that, an okay one that didn't sound ethnic) to transport the young tunesmith to her longed-for destiny.
Best friends for two years now, Carole and Camille had walked the four blocks to Shellbank Junior High every day. Now they made the longer trek to James Madison High School, where the sons and daughters of lower-middle-class Jews (Italian families like Camille's were a distinct minority) roiled with creative energy. So did the kids from Madison's rival, Lincoln High, and those from another nearby high school, Erasmus Hall. The cramped houses from which these students tumbled each morning were the fi fty-years-later counterparts of the tenements of the Lower East Side, where hardworking parents had sacrificed to give their offspring the tools to make culture -- musical culture, especially. In fact, so alike were the two generations that, today, Camille Cacciatore Savitz's most lasting impression of the interiors of those small houses -- "Every house had a piano! To not have a piano...it was like not having a bed in those houses!" she marvels -- uncannily echoing what a Lower East Side settlement-house worker wrote in a 1906 report: "There is not a house, no matter how poor it be, where there is not...a piano or a violin, and where the hope of the whole family is not pinned on one of the younger set as a future genius."