book reviews, celebrities, mental health, music

Repost: Judy Collins shares her thoughts on Cravings…

And here’s a repost that was originally written May 13, 2017. It appears as/is.

I have loved Judy Collins’ beautiful music since I was about 18 years old.  She’s recorded so many beautiful songs over the years and inspired others as well.  Although I knew she’d had trouble with alcohol and eating disorders, I didn’t know the extent of her problems until I picked up her latest book, Cravings: How I Conquered Food.

Published on February 28, 2017, Cravings offers readers insight into what may have caused Judy Collins’ issues with booze and food.  Collins’ theories may also be helpful to other readers.  The book is also about Judy Collins’ life, so if you read it, it helps to also be interested in her life story.  I suspect a lot of younger people may not be fans of Judy Collins’ music, although I think they should be.  I should also mention that this is the first book I’ve read by Judy Collins, so I wasn’t perturbed to read about her life.  Others who have read her earlier memoirs might feel like parts of this book are reruns.

Here Judy sings “Someday Soon” with Stephen Stills, who famously penned “Suite Judy Blue Eyes” in her honor.

Collins writes that when she was growing up, she loved all things made of flour, sugar, wheat, and corn.  She was addicted to sugar and would eat sweet things constantly.  That sugar obsession later turned to unsightly pounds and a neverending compulsion to eat more.  She eventually went on to become bulimic and would binge and purge to the point of developing a vocal cord hemangioma.  It almost destroyed her voice.

And one of my favorite versions. I love the piano player on this. They made a wonderful live album from the Wildflower Festival.

As she got older, Collins took up drinking and smoking.  She became an alcoholic and, for many years, would even drink heavily before and after taking the stage.  Although she indulged in self-destructive behavior, Collins somehow knew that what she was doing was dangerous.  She sought help from doctors, most of whom told her she didn’t have a problem.

Eventually, Collins realized that there was a link between her cravings for sugar, flour, wheat, and corn and her addiction to alcohol.  She eliminated the problem foods from her diet and adopted what looks to me to be a paleo diet.  She says now her weight is stable and she know longer has such intense cravings for unhealthy foods or booze.  She also credits spending time in support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and employing the Grey Sheet Diet Plan for helping her to stop the insanity.

“Suite Judy Blue Eyes”

Aside from explaining her secrets to eating and drinking success, Collins writes about her son, Clark Taylor, who sadly died after committing suicide.  Collins herself attempted suicide, although she doesn’t delve too much into her experiences with suicidal ideation.  Before he passed, Clark fathered Judy Collins’ only grandchild, Hollis, who is now herself a mother.  I enjoyed reading about Judy’s family and can tell that she loves them very much.  She writes that not a day goes by that she doesn’t think about and miss her son.

I also enjoyed reading about Collins’ musical training.  Originally, she was trained as a pianist and she studied great and challenging classical works.  I never knew Judy Collins was once being groomed for the classical music world.  As she became a teenager, she was lured into folk music.  She picked up a guitar, learned how to play, and began to sing.  I was astonished to read that she once had a very limited vocal range.  Work with an excellent voice teacher eventually stretched her range to about three octaves, quite respectable for a singer.  I have always liked her voice for its ethereal quality.  I think my own style is kind of like hers.

Anyway… I thought Cravings was well-written and engaging.  It didn’t take forever to finish.  Because I haven’t read Collins’ other books, the material and new for me.  It’s also relevant for me personally on many levels.  I liked that she drew in interesting examples from history to backup her theories about diet, drinking, and health.  I learned something new in those passages.  And, given that Judy was born in 1939 and is still making albums and writing books, I figure she must be doing something right.  I recommend her book to those who are thinking about reading it.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

Standard
book reviews, celebrities, music

Repost: Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart write their life stories in Kicking & Dreaming…

I am reposting this May 2014 review I wrote of Ann and Nancy Wilson’s, book Kicking & Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul, and Rock & Roll. For some reason, I never shared it on my blogs, so technically it’s not a repost from them. It was originally published on PopRockNation, and appears here as/is.

I have admired Ann and Nancy Wilson, talented sisters from Seattle, for as long as I can remember. These two women are among the most respected women in rock & roll. They have enjoyed a career that has spanned over four decades and are longstanding members of a band that has had chart topping songs since the 1970s. Heart is one of a very few bands that has enjoyed that kind of success and Ann and Nancy Wilson were integral to making that success a reality.

Since I am myself a singer and I do love my rock & roll, it seemed natural that I’d want to read Kicking & Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul, and Rock & Roll. The book was published in 2012, but I just got around to reading it. This book was a lot of fun to read and made me like the Wilson sisters even more than I did before. Ghostwriter Charles R. Cross did a masterful job in making this book sound as if it came straight from the Wilson sisters. When I finished reading, I felt like I’d love to know them as friends.

Back in 2008, Ann Wilson released an album called Hope & Glory. It consisted of duets she did with a number of different famous singers like Elton John, Alison Krauss, Gretchen Wilson, and Wynonna. I remember thinking at the time that the album was very left wing and political, since the songs were mostly covers of anti-war songs. I am married to a man who is about to retire from the Army, so the subject of war is a personal one for me. I bought this album when it first came out and listened to it fairly regularly for a time. At the time, I had no knowledge of the Wilson sisters’ own history with the military. I didn’t know they were Marine brats.

Ann Wilson covers Neil Young’s “War of Man” with help from Alison Krauss.

Ann, Nancy, and Lynn Wilson were the three daughters of John (Dotes) and Lois Wilson, a Marine and his wife. As kids, they had the typical military brat upbringing, with constant moves stateside and abroad. They spent time in Asia, with a couple of years in Taiwan, then came back to California, where Ann had been born in 1950. Eventually, their father left the Marines and became a teacher. The family made a permanent home in Bellevue, Washington, where Ann and Nancy Wilson blossomed into talented musicians who would one day be world famous rock stars.

Kicking & Dreaming is a very engaging book. Each chapter starts with an amusing rundown of what the chapter is about… kind of like a synopsis one might read in a TV Guide. Each sister’s voice is identified before she spins an old story of growing up in the Pacific Northwest, then growing into a music career. The Wilson sisters were fortunate enough to attend schools that promoted the arts, and that helped lead them to learning their craft.

At the age of 12, Nancy Wilson was a good enough guitar player that she was teaching others how to play. Ann was becoming a notable singer, with a big voice that seemed custom made for singing rock & roll. She and Nancy cut their teeth on songs by Led Zeppelin and Elton John. In Heart’s early days, the band’s bread and butter was capably covering songs made famous by other people. They would sneak their original material into their set lists at high school proms and in clubs. Many of the earliest shows were in Canada, because one of Heart’s original members had been a Vietnam draft dodger and couldn’t be in the United States. Consequently, Heart was originally more of a Canadian act… and they even got to play Michael J. Fox’s prom!

Heart sings Magic Man, a song they explain in their book.

The Wilsons are both big fans of rock music, too. There are some charming stories in Kicking & Dreaming about Ann and Nancy growing up, going to concerts, and going on quests to see certain rock worthies in concert. In one chapter, Nancy relates the story of how she borrowed money to buy a ticket from a scalper to see Elton John in concert. The ticket turned out to be fake and she almost got arrested when she tried to use it. Undaunted, she scaled a fence and snuck into the venue to see Elton anyway… and many years later, he became a friend and was the very first person to hear their 2012 album, Fanatic, as they were producing it in a hotel room! Another anecdote is about how Nancy and a friend went on a fruitless quest to find Joni Mitchell’s farm in Canada. Ann and Nancy eventually did meet Joni years later. What struck me about the Wilsons is how grounded and normal they seem; here they are big stars themselves, yet they write of being starstruck when in the presence of people like Paul McCartney.

Kicking & Dreaming doesn’t shy away from the more painful topics, either. Ann and Nancy Wilson had to deal with sexism from music business executives and fellow rock stars alike. In one anecdote, the Wilson sisters write about touring with Lynyrd Skynyrd and, because they were women, being tasked to watch the young son of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s drummer, Artimus Pyle. Pyle basically dropped his kid off with Ann and Nancy and expected them to babysit while he went out on an “errand”. The boy ended up spending the night with the Wilson sisters. Artimus Pyle was later in the 1977 plane crash that killed several members of Lynyrd Skynyrd; he was seriously injured, but ultimately survived.

I also read about Ann Wilson’s struggles with obesity and alcoholism and the health problems that came from those issues. I read about both sisters’ quests for motherhood, which they both achieved, though not through giving birth themselves. They share details about their love affairs and friendships, some of which were with fellow famous people. It made for fascinating reading. I have a lot of empathy for both of them, even as I realize how lucky they are to be so talented and successful. Of course, being talented and successful is no barrier to personal demons and psychic pain; they have both dealt with their fair share. Fortunately, they are close to each other and their older sister, Lynn. They also have many lifelong friends, including Sue Ennis, a songwriter they met when they were just girls. Sue Ennis is a member of the Lovemongers, a band the Wilson sisters formed in the 1990s. She also teaches songwriting and music business classes at Shoreline Community College in Seattle, Washington.

An energetic Heart performance of “Straight On”.

I got a big kick out of the chapter in which Nancy Wilson writes about Sarah Palin’s political campaign ripping off Heart’s big hit, “Barracuda”. When Sarah Palin was a teenager, she played high school basketball and was so aggressive on the court that she was called “Sarah Barracuda”. Naturally, Heart’s big song seemed perfect for her campaign, except Heart never gave permission for her to use the song. No one in the band agreed with Palin’s Republican ideals. Moreover, the song, which was written in the 70s, is about the sleaziness of the music business. Nancy notes that it was kind of ironic that Sarah Palin’s camp would want to use it to promote Palin as a potential Vice President of the United States. In the long run, it turned out Palin’s use of “Barracuda” was lucky, since it got new people listening to it and wanting to know what the song meant.

“Barracuda” in 1977.

Kicking & Dreaming is a fantastic read for Heart fans or for anyone who just likes a rock & roll memoir. Ann and Nancy Wilson have dealt with all kinds of adversity throughout their long careers, yet they still seem like really cool women from Seattle who just want to rock and roll and are lucky enough to get paid to do it for millions of people. I highly recommend their book.

According to Nancy Wilson, Ann and Nancy got paid a lot of money to make this ad!

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

Standard
book reviews, celebrities, music

Repost: Kenny Rogers shares his life in a memoir…

Here’s another reposted book review. This one was written for Epinions on October 8, 2012. It appears here as/is, although Kenny died on March 20, 2020. I miss him. His music was a big part of my childhood. So was his acting.

The other day, I ran across a news article about country singer, actor, and photographer, Kenny Rogers.  The article was about his brand new book, Luck or Something Like It: A Memoir (2012), and his publisher’s demand that he remove a chapter about his experiences with plastic surgery.  Having grown up in the 1970s and 80s, and having a mother who loves his music, I was already pretty familiar with Kenny Rogers as a singer.  I had heard a little about his photography and business ventures with Kenny Roger’s Roasters, a chain restaurant he lent his name to, and I had seen him act in Six Pack and a couple of television movies.  And I had noticed the dramatic change in his appearance after he got his eyes done…  I knew I wanted to read his story, even if there wouldn’t be anything about who botched his surgery!

Kenny Rogers… a man of humble origins  

At the beginning of Luck or Something Like It, Kenny Rogers writes about his humble origins in Houston, Texas.  He’s one of many children, born in the middle of a big brood.  His father, who died in 1975, was an alcoholic who spent all his extra money on booze.  His mother was a practical woman who worked hard.  When Kenny was young, they lived in the San Felipe projects in Houston, but were later able to move to a better part of the city when the family’s finances improved. 

Kenny Rogers attended Jefferson Davis High School in Houston and eventually got into music as a means of getting girls.  He was also athletic and went out for sports teams, but it turned out he was better at making music than playing sports.  Oddly enough, Rogers didn’t seem to come from a particularly musical family, though he does write that his older sister, Geraldine, taught him how to sing harmony when they were in church.  Rogers writes that he was immediately hooked on harmony and it became a defining feature of his sound.  He loved being part of a band because of that sound.

Speaking of bands… 

Kenny Rogers has been in quite a few of them.  Perhaps his best known band was The First Edition, which was the band he was in when he became famous.  Rogers explains how he moved to Los Angeles and rubbed elbows with some very talented folks.  He learned how to play folk, jazz, and even a little psychedelic styled music.  He learned how to alter his image so he could fit in.  And he even writes briefly of auditioning Karen Carpenter for The First Edition when their lead singer decided touring wasn’t for her.

He also writes about his famous duet partners, particularly Dolly Parton and Dottie West.  He very graciously explains why he owes Dolly Parton a great debt, since their famous duet “Islands In The Stream”, helped keep his career going after he signed a deal with RCA that seemed destined to ruin him.

Speaking of songs

I really enjoyed reading about Kenny Rogers’ hits.  He takes the time to explain the stories behind some of his biggest songs, like “Lucille”, “Reuben James”, and “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town.” 

Married five times…

Kenny Rogers claims that he loves being married.  In fact, he loves it so much that he’s walked down the aisle five times.  Granted, his first wife was the result of a shotgun wedding.  Rogers seems to have gotten the hang of marriage, though, having now been married to his fifth wife, Wanda, for twenty years.  Besides being a prolific husband, Rogers has also fathered four sons and a daughter.  He writes a bit about his kids.  I was heartened to read about how he managed to heal his relationship with his eldest son, a product of his third marriage and the victim of parental alienation.

His photography

Kenny Rogers is well-known as a singer and an actor, but did you know he’s also a photographer?  Rogers writes about how he became interested in taking pictures and some of the projects he’s undertaken with his camera.

My thoughts

I really enjoyed reading about Kenny Rogers’ life.  He comes across as a nice person, suprisingly down to earth and candid about his successes and failures, and gracious to all who helped him get to where he is today.  I didn’t even miss the missing chapter about his plastic surgery. 

Kenny Rogers has been around for 74 years and had some amazing experiences.  I never got the sense he was bragging about his good fortune or whining about his misfortunes.  He just comes off as someone who came from humble origins and had a rare combination of drive, talent, and luck that propelled him to success.  His story is the kind that has the potential to give people hope.

He includes photos in both color and black and white.  Just as an aside… In case anyone is wondering, no, Kenny doesn’t include the roasted chicken recipe made famous in his restaurants.

Aww… his widow and sons still really miss him.

Overall

I would definitely recommend Luck or Something Like It to Kenny Rogers fans or even people who just enjoy a good life story.  I read this book on my iPad and am pleased to report that I had no issues with that method.  Even the pictures looked great.  Five stars.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

Standard
book reviews, music

Repost: My Life With Earth, Wind & Fire by Maurice White

And here’s another as/is repost of a book review I wrote in 2017…

Earth, Wind & Fire happens to be one of my all time favorite bands.  I never get tired of listening to their unique style.  The late Maurice White, who died in February last year after a lengthy battle with Parkinson’s Disease, was the genius behind Earth, Wind & Fire.  His life story, published in September 2016 and entitled My Life With Earth, Wind & Fire, was masterfully ghost written by Herb Powell, who manages to make White’s story sound as if it’s coming straight from the maestro’s mouth.

I just finished My Life With Earth, Wind & Fire yesterday, having worked on it for some time.  I don’t read books as quickly as I used to, although this one certainly held my attention.  The book starts at the humble beginnings of Maurice White’s life in Memphis.  He was born to his young mother, a woman he referred to as “Mother, Dear”; she left when he was a toddler and he was raised by a friend of the family, a woman he called “Mama”.  Meanwhile, Maurice’s mother was in Chicago and had married a podiatrist.  She had several more children, including the electrifying bass playing and whirling dervish dancer Verdine White, who was at that time going by his original surname, Adams. 

Maurice White was an awesome performer!

When Maurice was 18, he moved up to Chicago and reconciled with his mother, half siblings, and his stepfather, whom he called “Dad”.  White explains why Verdine changed his surname; particularly since White’s biological father was not really in the picture.  Another sibling, Fred Adams, was also a member of Earth, Wind & Fire.   

Although Maurice White was, like so many others of his generation, threatened by being drafted into military service, both he and his younger brother, Verdine, were able to convince Army officials that they had no business in the service.  Maurice would go on to form Earth, Wind & Fire and the band would evolve into one of the most dynamic and successful bands of the 1970s. 

One thing I really like about My Life With Earth, Wind & Fire is that the writing is intimate and candid.  I really got the sense I was listening to Maurice White talk about his life.  He dishes on everything to what it was like to lead a struggling band in the early 70s to his work with David Foster.  He writes a bit about the women in his life, although he never did place women above his music.  

One of EW&F’s biggest hits, courtesy of David Foster.

I got the sense that White was a born musician and his whole life was about making music.  I was also surprised by how clean White’s habits were.  More than once, he writes about how he avoided drugs, alcohol, and fatty foods.  Sadly, his good habits did not protect him from Parkinson’s Disease, although they probably helped him stay healthy longer than he otherwise might have.  He lived to be 74 years old, having endured Parkinson’s Disease for about 24 years.

I enjoyed reading about how White decided to name Earth, Wind & Fire.  The name is a reflection of White’s deep spiritual beliefs.  I also enjoyed the fact that this book outlines White’s entire life, from his earliest days in Memphis until his last days last year.  Ghost writer Herb Powell includes an illuminating afterword.  It wasn’t until I read it that I realized this book wasn’t written by White himself.  Powell did a really good job ghost writing this book and giving it White’s voice.

I think this book is a must read for anyone who loves Earth, Wind & Fire.  It’s very well-written and comprehensive.  I think it also presents White in a very positive light.  I was pretty inspired by White’s story.  Maybe when I’m over this cold, I’ll dabble a little more in music myself.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

Standard
condescending twatbags, fake news, music, politics, poor judgment, stupid people

A profane downloading frenzy I engaged in after reading about Mike Lindell, the My Pillow Guy…

Today’s post is full of profanity. Proceed with caution. Also, it’s true that yesterday was National Kool-Aid Day. Go figure!

I have a very strange sense of humor sometimes. I find the oddest things funny. Or, I will laugh uproariously for hours over something dumb. Sometimes dumb shit will make me do things that are kind of odd. Such was the case yesterday.

Several years ago, when I was still living in the house from hell, I made an iTunes list I call “Fuck you”. It basically consists of songs in my library that are profane. Not all of the songs in that playlist have the word “fuck” in the title, but an awful lot of them do. I probably felt compelled to make the playlist after being yelled at and blamed, once again, by our ex landlady. By the way, I see in my Facebook memories that it was seven years ago today that we decided to move into her hovel. This was what I had to say about that…

Notice how I put “delightful” in quotes. Even then, I had a feeling. This is a lesson to the wise– to listen to your gut. I knew it was an act even then– in spite of her efforts to put her best face forward.

Anyway, as I was reading about Mike Lindell’s legal problems, thanks to his decision to meddle in the elections, I was inspired to re-visit that playlist. I went on an iTunes downloading binge, buying songs entitled “Fuck that guy.” Because that’s what I had to say about Mike Lindell. Seriously? Fuck that guy. Fuck him!

Fuck that guy!

Mike Lindell is probably about to be sued for defamation by Dominion Voting Systems. Dominion has accused Mr. Lindell of spreading ridiculous lies and reckless untruths about the company and its voting machines. This week, a judge has agreed that Mr. Lindell has “made his claims knowing that they were false or with reckless disregard for the truth.

Lindell also promised that by yesterday, Joe Biden would voluntarily step aside and allow Trump to be reinstated after he proved that China interfered in the 2020 Presidential Election. Of course, not only did that not happen, but it wasn’t fucking true. Moreover, what Lindell was proposing, and stirring up the MAGA folks about, was a literal impossibility in the way our government is run. Even if Joe Biden stepped aside, that wouldn’t have necessarily meant Trump would be reinstated.

Mike Lindell isn’t a particularly good student of history, is he? He’s not the first person to predict “end times” by setting a specific date and time for the world to end or some other catastrophic and earth shattering event to occur. It’s never worked out that way for any other group or individual. They say something big will happen on such and such a date, and it never does. And then the person or group looks like an even bigger asshole than they already are. As you can see, Lindell’s predictions did NOT come to pass. How many people are shocked? I’m sure not.

I might be able to laugh about all of this, except that idiots like Mike Lindell stir up all the crackpots in America… the conspiracy theorists and conservative whackjobs who aren’t afraid to be violent to try to stir up trouble. And so, the people who have to deal with the masses, who get wound up over the absurd idea that Trump could be reinstated, spend the whole summer on edge, waiting for the shoe to drop. So seriously? Fuck that guy.

I ended up downloading five different songs called “Fuck That Guy”. They range in quality. I’m currently listening to an album called Wreckless Abandon by a band called The Dirty Knobs— turns out it’s Mike Campbell’s band. I had never heard of them before yesterday, and in fact, didn’t even listen to a sample of their music before I bought their album. So far, of all the “Fuck That Guy” songs I downloaded yesterday, I like theirs the best. I also like their album. It’s pretty good…

Where have they been all my life? Heh heh… well, actually, since this is Mike Campbell’s band, they’ve been around. Mike Campbell is best known as Tom Petty’s right hand man in the Heartbreakers. No wonder I like them!

The above song is pretty good, too… because it’s basically about COVID-19 deniers and fucking inconsiderate dickheads who have no regard for other people. Mike Lindell is definitely on the list of guys who need to go get fucked. And I find listening to this song very satisfying.

This is another one I downloaded. It’s not bad, but it kind of pales with Mike Campbell’s song.

I am so tired of obstructionists. I wish people would just cooperate. I’m tired of greedy, selfish, inconsiderate, and rude people who try to get over and are more interested in money and power than making things better for everybody. Mike Lindell is at the top of the list of people who need to get fucked. I don’t know anything about his pillows. I’ve heard they suck… but even if they were the greatest pillows available, I wouldn’t buy one. Because the man who makes them is someone who needs to fuck off and quit interfering with U.S. politics. He’s like a “dry drunk”… maybe he’s not using substances anymore, but he acts like he still is. Lindell’s symposium event was bizarre and stupid, and it seems to be more about selling products than proving election fraud. I’m confident that Dominion is going to clean Mike Lindell’s proverbial clock in court. And I look forward to watching it.

I don’t usually advertise albums, but this one is a good one. Should you choose to make a purchase through the above Amazon link, I will get a small commission from Amazon. Let’s hear it for drunken downloads, especially when they’re profane.

Standard