I’ve always loved to learn. I think it’s incredibly important to realize that after school, after an institution or a teacher is pushing you to learn, most people just stop. I’m guilty of it. I find movie reviews really hard to read, because at one point in my life that’s what I had hoped to do. But in other ways, I’m always learning. Non fiction books, auto biographies, memoirs and biographies are my favorite books to read. Nevermind that they are usually about cooking and food. I recently read these two memoirs and they touched me in two completely different ways. I adored them.
To state the obvious, we know Roger Ebert is a great writer. After all, that is what he’s famous for. I found myself drawn into his funny childhood, his formative teenaged years, his arrogance in his college years, his amazement at his early adult life. My favorite part had to be when he was describing his London. The London he revisited at least once a year. The nooks and crannies that he loved there. I actually found the “movie stuff” to be less interesting that the “real stuff”. How he met his wife. How he felt about his surgeries. Those were all real things that matter. In comparison, I could care less about John Wayne or Martin Scorsese. It was a wonderful read where I laughed out loud and of course, cried.
Grace Coddington was right. I didn’t really know much about her until The September Issue (the documentary) came out. She seemed grumpy, stuck up, and not at all someone I imaged that Anna Wintour would like to have around. But I’d heard enough about her memoir, Grace, to know it was worth picking up for a quick read. Her memoirs are factual and she’s not one for embellishment, but her dreary childhood in Wales and her many tumultuous marriages make for a fascinating read. Mostly because I didn’t understand any of it at all, I could never do any of these things. But she manages to pull you in and keep you at an arms length at the same time. There’s something very cool about that.
Also, I absolutely adore documentaries. I love the quiet insight into other people’s lives. A documentary can move me to tears and make me laugh all within the same scene. Oh how I could go on! I love that they teach me something I know little to nothing about. Ironically enough, music documentaries are one genre of documentary I can’t seem to quit, because I’m fairly certain I’m tone deaf. I played the violin for 10 years and still couldn’t pinpoint a perfect F sharp. I recently watched two documentaries that I would recommend.
20 Feet from Stardom takes a look at the lives and careers of background singers. There are countless famous people interviewed of course, but it’s really the actual singing that takes your breath away. There’s a scene where Lisa Fisher sings and hums and makes noises I imagine only angels can make. I got goosebumps. I teared up. It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever heard. There’s another scene where Merry Clayton describes the night she sang with the Rolling Stones as back up for Gimme Shelter. I’ll never hear that song in the same way again. I would highly recommend watching this movie if you appreciate great vocalists.
Muscle Shoals was a fascinating story about the famous Muscle Shoals recording studio in Alabama and the founder, Rick Hall, and his devastating life. Aretha Franklin, The Rolling Stones, Etta James, Lynyrd Skynyrd and so many more found a very different sound in that recording studio and if you go back to their album recorded in those studios, you can HEAR it. It’s incredible. It’s soulful. It’s funky. It’s southern. It’s deeper. Have a listen.