In MORE ROOM IN A BROKEN HEART, author Stephen Davis tells the life story of the iconic singer-songwriter Carly Simon. Best known for her solo hits and her duets with former husband James Taylor, she made her debut on the national music scene at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, where the then-hit TV show, “Hootenanny,” was being filmed. This was a nationally televised program that showcased entertainers of the day. Carly and her older sister, Lucy, had recorded an album that sold some copies, but it hadn’t propelled them to national stardom. They performed two songs from their album that evening: “Turn! Turn! Turn!” by Pete Seeger and “Winkin’, Blinkin,’ and Nod” by Lucy herself. Their performances were stellar, and the girls became known around the country as the Simon Sisters.
"MORE ROOM IN A BROKEN HEART is in-depth and, for the most part, well-written.... I enjoyed reading the book and learning so much about this talented musician."
Carly didn’t want to perform with Lucy. Even though she loved to sing, especially harmonizing with her sister, she suffered from terrible, sometimes debilitating stage fright. Lucy persuaded her to do the show, and she reluctantly agreed. Carly was surprised and frightened when that performance opened up a whole new world for her. Up until that point, she had sung only for family and friends or at local nightclubs. Being propelled to the level of national recognition was almost too much for her. She much preferred (and still prefers) just writing songs for other people, or writing and recording them for herself, over live performances.
Davis became a fan of Carly before he had a chance to meet her. He knew her brother, Peter, but wasn’t aware that his sister was Carly Simon. Eventually they became friends, but he doesn’t try to sugarcoat her story. He writes about Carly’s privileged but troubled childhood, her hopes and fears, her bouts of depression, fits of anxiety, panic attacks, stage fright, stuttering, numerous love affairs, her marriage to --- and subsequent divorce from --- James Taylor, her hit songs and her flops, surviving breast cancer, and even an abortion she had. Her own words are used often throughout the text, as are those of her family members, friends and professional acquaintances.
I have been a Carly Simon fan since my high school days in the ’70s, but other than the fact that she had been married to James Taylor for a number of years, I really didn’t know much about her life at all. I didn’t realize that her father is Dick Simon, the co-founder of the publishing giant Simon & Schuster. I wasn’t aware that Carly has two older sisters who are both musically talented, as well as a younger brother who became a professional photographer. And I didn’t know that she grew up in a privileged home, rubbing elbows with the rich and famous from the time she was born.
MORE ROOM IN A BROKEN HEART is in-depth and, for the most part, well-written. Davis has a tendency to switch from past to present tense in the storyline, which is a bit disconcerting. And with so much information to convey, the narrative is sometimes dry and laborious. But I suppose that’s to be expected in a biography of this nature. Despite these small setbacks, I enjoyed reading the book and learning so much about this talented musician.
Reviewed by Christine M. Irvin on January 26, 2012