Fire and Rain: the Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, James Taylor and the lost story of 1970

From  Ellen Druda
Author:  David Browne
Fire and Rain: the Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, James Taylor and the lost story of 1970
1970 was a pivotal year for me too, so I was really looking forward to enjoying this behind –the-scenes look at some of my favorite musicians from that time.   Browne does a good job of interweaving the groups’ careers and personal lives, how they intersected and splintered, and rose and fell.  Despite my affection for the subject matter and time period, I found the writing a bit dry. Not much fire and rain, but an interesting read if you remember the year.

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To Selena, With Love

From Jackie Cantwell
Author:  Chris Perez
To Selena, With Love
Chris wants you to know that he is more than “the widower of the Queen of Tejano music ,Selena Quintanilla Perez.” Chris was the guitarist for Selena’s band. This is a loving tribute to the Latin music superstar who was gunned down by her fan club president in 1995. Selena won Grammy awards and was poised to be a crossover artist in the same way as Gloria Estefan when she died. But her fans loved her not just because of her music. She gave so much of herself in each concert. She spent lots of time signing autographs after her concerts and made a special effort to reach out to her young fans and those who were sick or disadvantaged. She also adopted animals, including several dogs. Chris tells of her adventurous and daredevil side, where she learned how to ride a motorcycle, went bungee jumping, and loved to drive her cars fast.  She also loved celebrating Christmas and the simpler things like cooking and cleaning the house.  As a child of divorce, Chris never thought much of marriage. But Selena broke down his defenses and taught him how to love.  She had the most exuberant spirit and loved to try new things. He says her laughter was contagious. Chris’s first love was rock and roll and heavy metal music, which he has returned to since Selena’s death. This book is a rare glimpse into the life of a multi-faceted performer.

Just Kids

From Ellen Druda
author: Smith, Patti
 Just Kids
Patti Smith’s evocative memoir recounts her early days in New York City and her relationship with artist Robert Mapplethorpe. This National Book Award winning work is an accessible, easy read, yet full of imagery that stirs the imagination.  From her childhood in New Jersey, we follow her across the river to a bohemian city life in the psychedelic 60’s, mingling with soon- to- be famous painters, writers, and musicians.  This book will especially appeal to baby-boomers and music fans.

A parrot in the pepper tree

From Jackie Cantwell
author: Stewart, Chris
 A parrot in the pepper tree
This is book two of the Driving over lemons trilogy. Now Chris and Ana are
the parents of a daughter named Chloe. Getting her to school every day is
an adventure in itself as they try different forms of transportation to
cross the river.  We follow the budding romance between Domingo, his
multi-talented neighbor, and a Dutch sculptress.  The author takes time to
smell the roses; sometimes he ditches his farm chores and goes on day-long
hikes. Picture the scene as he and Ana take a 6-hour, 5000 foot climb to
see a field of blue gentian flowers under a deep blue sky.  I enjoyed the
chapters where he reminisces about his past. We find out exactly how he
came to be a member of the band Genesis and how later he became a drummer for Sir Robert Fossett’s circus in Britain.  Read with astonishment as Chris drives over a frozen sea in Sweden to shear sheep on remote farms. Chris tries to learn flamenco guitar in Seville as a young man and is
still a novice when he goes to guitar school in Granada some twenty-plus
years later.  We fear for Chris’s safety when he interferes with a
friend’s domestic dispute, and the husband vows to come after him.  You’ll
laugh as Chris falls for the sales pitch of an “ecological engineer” who
builds him a swimming pool that is supposedly in harmony with nature.
Chris learns to love Ana’s green parrot, who steals all the cutlery and
attacks anyone who tries to use the bathroom.  For an update on where
everyone is now, read the interview with Chris at the end.  If you want to
read the third installment, The Almond Blossom Appreciation Society,
you’ll have to buy it from the UK, as it is not published in the U.S.

Little girl blue: the life of Karen Carpenter

From Jackie Cantwell
author: Schmidt, Randy L.
Little girl blue: the life of Karen Carpenter
 This is an extremely well-written and well-researched biography of Karen
Carpenter, the singer of The Carpenters.  Full disclosure: I grew up on
her music and to this day, when I hear her voice, I’m completely
transported to another place and time.  Mr. Schmidt delved into the early
days of the group, with her brother, Richard.  A biography of Karen is
also a biography of Richard, so inextricably were their professional and
personal lives entwined.  Richard was immensely talented in music as a
child, so his mother Agnes nurtured that, and even relocated the family to
California to expand his opportunities.  As it turns out, Karen was
talented as well, in drums and as a singer.  Karen and Richard both
attended California State University at Long Beach, which contributed to
their early success.   Laymen will learn a lot about the music business.
Readers will learn how Richard was adept as an arranger, composer and
pianist and how he was always on the lookout for songwriting talent.
Sadly, both brother and sister had turmoil in their personal lives.  I
knew that Karen died from anorexia and laxative abuse, but she also abused two other substances as well.  Highly recommended for a complete picture of a supremely gifted musician.

Juliet, Naked

From Ellen Druda
author: Hornby, Nick
Juliet, Naked
This is a romance on two levels: fan and famous, and man and woman.  Duncan runs a website for an obscure, reclusive musician named Tucker Crowe.  Duncan loves Tucker. Duncan’s girlfriend Annie posts a review of Tucker’s “Juliet, Naked” cd on Duncan’s website.  Tucker responds to Annie’s review, and circumstances bring him to England to meet Annie.  Now Annie loves Tucker. The problem is, Tucker doesn’t love anyone except his son Jackson.  The story is amusing and contemporary, and the audio book is multi-voiced to give it more layers and authenticity. Hornby revisits his favorite themes of love, loss, and loneliness, but the witty dialog and endearing characters make this an enjoyable and easy experience.