Saturday, July 25, 2009

Kid Blue

Some people were born to sing.

Melissa made a beeline for the record crates and started thumbing through my albums, nodding in appreciation at some, shaking her head with disbelief at others, and then pausing and pulling a record out and holding it up to her face.

"People tell me all the time that I look just like her." I looked from Melissa to the picture on Louise Goffin's first album (Kid Blue). I couldn't see the resemblance, but said nothing.

"And I sing like her, too. Everyone tells me I have the voice of an angel. Or a bird who soars over the mountaintops." My roommates and I exchanged glances. Doubting her. And trying to remember whose friend Melissa was and how she wound up at our apartment.

Melissa didn't sing that night. But a few weeks later, I was at her apartment, looking through her records. Which were awful. "I just have the Bay City Rollers to be ironic," she said. I counted 9 albums of irony, but there may have been more.

And a few days after that, she dropped by with a deck of tarot cards and asked if we could listen to Kid Blue while she read my cards. "Some people were just born to sing," she said, then carefully dealt the cards and studied them. Finally, she smiled. "The cards say you're going to sleep with me," she said. "And the cards are never wrong." (Link for Gmail subscribers.)

If ever there was someone born to sing, it's Louise Goffin. The daughter of legendary songwriters Gerry Goffin and Carole King, was raised around rock royalty, got her first record deal at age 16, and opened for Jackson Browne when she was 17. She had a voice that could reach into your chest and grab you by the heart and never let go. The song "Kid Blue" should've been a hit... and her cover of the Shangri-La's "Remember (Walking in the Sand)" made the Aerosmith version seem like... well, the Bay City Rollers.

When Goffin's album came out, she was 19 and the critics harped on how her record wasn't as good as Carole King's Tapestry (which featured backing vocals by James Taylor and Joni Mitchell and was produced after King had nearly a decade as a hit songwriter under her belt). After a couple of other albums in the 1980s, Goffin's priorities shifted (as indicated by the photo to the right, borrowed from Goffin's MySpace page) and she got married and started a family. After 13 years away, Goffin signed with Dreamworks records and released Sometimes a Circle in 2002, which was smooth, confident, and totally out of touch with what most fans wanted.

Goffin and Carole King re-recorded King's "Where You Lead," which served as the theme for The Gilmore Girls, a TV show set in the type of music-obsessed world where someone like Louise Goffin could have been a big star. (Link for Gmail subscribers.)

And Melissa? Today I know that sometimes the tarot cards are wrong (even if they weren't that night). I do remember the shock of waking from a nightmare of animals being tortured and finding Melissa singing to me. Her voice was beyond awful. If she sang like a bird, it wasn't a bird soaring over mountaintops, but a bird howling with existential agony after crashing into a craggy peak.

Yes, some people are born to sing... but Melissa (despite her unwavering and completely misplaced confidence) was not one of those people. (I never told her -- I guess it wasn't in the cards.)

Bonus: Here's a recent Louise Goffin song called "Pink Champagne." If there were any justice in this world, this song would have been a huge radio hit. (Then again, if there were any justice in the world, there would be a lot more great radio to listen to.)


Anonymous said...

Louise Goffin's obvious talent is overshadowed by her obvious imitation of Gilda Radner doing Candy Slice. I couldn't help laughing, but not in a mean way.

Alex said...

Yeah, I noticed the resemblance to Candy Slice, too!