By Shawn Colvin
William Morrow, 240 pages, $25.99
Starting with Bob Dylan, the 60s and 70s saw a proliferation of singer-songwriters and artists who wrote all or most of the material that they performed and recorded. An extraordinary number of these artist-writers were women. Joni Mitchell, Carole King and Carly Simon were followed by Shawn Colvin, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Suzanne Vega, Tori Amos, Melissa Etheridge, Tracy Chapman and others. Biographies and autobiographies of many of these artists have appeared in the last few years.
Shawn grew up in South Dakota, with brief forays to London, Ontario and Carbondale Illinois. She describes her outsider childhood in great depth and fascinating details. Music was her savior, and yet as is the case with many of the artists mentioned above, her musical career led her to alcoholism and a continual inability to have satisfactory relationships with men. An almost lifelong battle with depression continues to these days.
She is all-too-prone to self-deprecation and we learn many particulars about Colvin’s psychological difficulties and personal inadequacies. Her songs and the glimpses of her twelve year old daughter offer the reader the hope that the book, like the songs, will provide a partial way out of her incessant loneliness.