Rock ’n’ roll MEM­O­RIES

Gra­ham Nash pens frank au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, but Linda Ron­stadt doesn’t kiss and tell

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - BOOKS -

NEW pop-rock mu­sic mem­oirs from Gra­ham Nash and Linda Ron­stadt ar­rive to cap­i­tal­ize on the Christ­mas book­buy­ing and gift­ing sea­son. Wild Tales by Nash is a stan­dard “sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll” tel­lall span­ning his half­cen­tury in mu­sic, from his Bri­tish Invasion roots with the Hol­lies to YouTube. Ron­stadt’s Sim­ple Dreams is a much more per­sonal re­flec­tion, of­fer­ing a pri­mar­ily mu­si­cal per­spec­tive on her mid­dle-class up­bring­ing in a mu­si­cal fam­ily in Tuc­son, Ariz., through to her decades of star­dom.

Co­in­ci­den­tally, both au­thors choose book ti­tles that reprise suc­cess­ful al­bum ti­tles from their ’70s star­dom. It was for both of them a mag­i­cal time when ev­ery­thing they did turned to gold.

It is the sub­ti­tle of Nash’s mem­oir, A Rock & Roll Life, that pro­vides a fit­ting de­scrip­tion of the way he re­mem­bers his role as a found­ing mem­ber of the Hol­lies in 1962 and as an in­te­gral voice in Crosby, Stills, Nash (& Young) in the late ’60s and early ’70s. He lays out a wild per­sonal jour­ney that in­cluded two mar­riages, a two-year af­fair with Cana­dian great Joni Mitchell when he first ar­rived in L.A., end­less “road sex,” var­i­ous love trysts, “an in­sane amount of drugs” and the ego-driven in­ter­per­sonal con­flict that ac­com­pa­nied rock su­per­star­dom. While all of th­ese an­tics were mind-blow­ing in that era, there’s very lit­tle that would qual­ify as shock­ing to­day — ex­cept for the fact that so much time­less mu­sic was cre­ated un­der the in­flu­ence of so many re­cre­ational drugs. Nash, now 71, is essen­tially a nos­tal­gia act at this point, but he has writ­ten more than 200 songs (in­clud­ing such won­ders as On a Carousel, Car­rie Anne, Teach Your Chil­dren, Our House and Mar­rakesh Ex­press) and made some of the most crit­i­cally ac­claimed clas­sic rock ever as part of CSN&Y. The sub­ti­tle of Ron­stadt’s au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, A Mu­si­cal Mem­oir, fore­shad­ows her dis­in­cli­na­tion to re­veal much truly per­sonal info. But Ron­stadt got around. She had ro­mances with high-pro­file suit­ors like Cal­i­for­nia gov­er­nor Jerry Brown, Star Wars’ film­maker Ge­orge Lu­cas, writer Pete Hamill and singer-song­writer J.D. Souther. She also doesn’t dish much back­stage dirt about, sex, drugs or her mu­sic con­tem­po­raries. The real story has ob­vi­ously been sub­jected to Reader’s Digest- style edit­ing. Ron­stadt, first heard in 1967 as the vo­cal­ist on the Stone Poneys’ folk-rock hit Dif­fer­ent Drum, quickly tran­si­tioned to a solo ca­reer as one of the most ta­lented voices in coun­try-rock. She rem­i­nisces about oneo of her early backup bands,b whose mem­bers went on to be­come the Ea­gles, and a cast of con­tem­po­raries that in­cluded Jack­son Browne, RandyR Newman, Em­my­lou Har­ris, Dolly Par­ton, Aaron Neville, NeilN Young and many morem in the South­ern Cal­i­for­nia scene. Ron­stadt be­came one of the most suc­cess­ful fe­male artists of all time with record sales top­ping 100 mil­lion, 12 Grammy Awards and count­less hits ( You’re NoN Good, Blue Bayou, Heart Like a Wheel and Heatwave among them). In ad­di­tion to boast­ing the voice of an an­gel and the looks of a beauty queen, Ron­stadt had a ter­rific ear for a hit and the uncanny abil­ity to un­cover songs by writ­ersw like Jim Webb, Low­ell Ge­orge, Souther, Kate and Anna McGar­rigle and War­ren Zevon. This was usu­ally be­fore the writ­ers had gained any per­sonal pro­file or suc­cess on their own. Ron­stadt, now 67, played the last con­cert of her ca­reer and re­tired in 2009 and, while the book never men­tions it, is now strug­gling with Parkin­son’s disease. Most baby-boom-era mu­si­cians are well past their true artis­tic and com­mer­cial best-be­fore dates. But th­ese chron­i­cles of the ’60s and ’70s, when mu­sic was the most po­tent and sig­nif­i­cant of the pop arts, pile higher ev­ery year. They are the in­evitable footnotes to what re­ally hap­pened. Both the Nash and Ron­stadt mem­oirs are easy, if not es­sen­tial, read­ing for mu­sic fans of that era. But your en­joy­ment of the sto­ry­telling, the anec­dotes and the be­hind-the-scenes glimpses of th­ese priv­i­leged lives will be re­dou­bled if you pull out and play your old al­bums loudly.

Ul­ti­mately, it’s not about the printed word. As Gra­ham Nash him­self says in both the open­ing and clos­ing lines of his book, “It al­ways comes down to the mu­sic.” Jim Mil­li­can is a Winnipeg free­lance writer and boomer mu­sic fa­natic.

Wild Tales A Rock & Roll Life By Gra­ham Nash Crown Archetype, 345 pages, $33

Sim­ple Dreams A Mu­si­cal Mem­oir By Linda Ron­stadt Si­mon & Schus­ter, 202 pages, $30

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.