When I was 12, I was riddled with angst and the overwhelming feeling that no one could possibly vocalize the cocktail of emotions that powered my preteen existence. My dad sensed that — was it the pouting, the always-closed bedroom door? — and came to me with a remedy.
“I think you’re ready for Joni Mitchell now,” he said one day, and he burned “Blue” on a CD for me. The first song, “All I Want,” is still my favorite Joni. There’s something about her plaintive voice curling around “traveling, traveling, traveling” that fills me with a sense of hopefulness, even now.
We all have that song, don’t we? The one that changed everything and still has the power to lift us, remind us of a moment; the one that makes us hum, whistle, sing. “Here She Comes Now” is a celebration of the power of song. More specifically, it is an homage to female musicians — Sinead O’Connor, Mary J. Blige, June Carter Cash among them — who have given voice to emotions we sometimes can’t understand or articulate on our own. The book, edited by producer Marc Weingarten and New York Times writer Jeff Gordinier, brings together the works of 22 writers, most of them women and most of whom you’ll recognize from the pages of popular magazines, memoirs and novels.
Susan Choi (“A Person of Interest”) describes her inaugural Stevie Nicks experience: It was “as if some lost part of myself had returned.” Marisa Silver (“Mary Coin”) writes about her late-in-life discovery of folk singer Judee Sill, “when I’d supposedly laid on enough body armor to guard against being kidnapped by obsession and untoward feeling, when I supposedly knew myself well enough not to be looking for answers to what ailed me in a pop song.” Kate Christensen (“The Great Man”) traces Tina Turner’s path from scandal to success and explores how that renaissance inspired her own. Taffy Brodesser-Akner muses on Taylor Swift’s famously dishy lyrics and the sweet, sweet thrill of a public dig at an ex — and how her own discovery of being not so nice was pretty powerful.
Each piece captures one life lived intensely inside one record that just gets you — a record from Dolly or Bjork or Miley. The book is a soundtrack of female power.
So, music lovers and those of you who just love voices recalling the difficult and the sweet and the melodic, curl up on a couch and open Spotify while you read. What you’ll feel more than anything is inspired to take a cue from these writers’ notebooks and make your own list of the women in music who taught you how to feel and see and understand. I’m looking at you, Joni.
Edited by Jeff Gordinier and Marc Weingarten
Rare Bird. 276 pp. $24