Sunday, February 27, 2011

Composed A Memoir

Motivation for Reading:
I became a Rosanne Cash fan the day I listened to this interview on NPR where Rosanne talks about the songs she wrote for her album Black Cadillac. When I heard she had written Composed: A Memoir I knew I had to read it.

What this book is not:
If you are looking for a tell-all memoir in which Rosanne Cash spills the dirt on the Cash family or her fellow musicians this is not the book for you.

What this book is:
The book, which began as a series of essays Rosanne wrote after she temporarily lost her voice to polyps, is an inspiring look into Rosanne’s transformation into the artist and person she is today.

My Thoughts:
Despite being the daughter of a music icon, Rosanne seems ordinary and down to earth. While reading I felt as if I was having coffee with a friend. She describes her girlhood foibles, her crushes, and her insecurities. I could relate to her vulnerability. She writes of coming to terms with her appearance and her thoughts on having it all.

On her decision to quit acting school:
I recognized that I could not bring myself to go on auditions, and the idea of drawing so much attention to my physical appearance, a significant part of getting a job, was absolutely horrifying. I was already obsessed with the worry I had the wrong kind of nose to be a great actress. After comparing my ski-slope nose with that of every actress I could think of I found that not a single one shared my exact shape, which I interpreted as a fundamental indication of my acting ability. (Pg. 66)
On having it all:
After I had my first baby, Caitlin Rivers Crowell I felt a constant slow burn of panic; I just didn’t know how to manage it all. Was I really supposed to quit being a musician now and be a mother? Is that what the anxiety was trying to tell me - that I had to give up something? I didn’t want to end my career, but how did a person do both? (Pg. 88)
Although her essays on her childhood, her marriages, her children and the death of her loved ones are interesting my favorite is her essay on the dream that inspired her artistic growth:

It began with a dream:
Carl Jung said that a person might have five “big” dreams in her life – dreams that promote a shift in consciousness.

She had read an interview with Linda Ronstadt in which Linda said that in committing to artistic growth, you had to "refine your skills to support your instincts."

Shortly after reading this interview Rosanne had a dream where she was at a party sitting on a sofa with Linda and an elderly man.

The man turned his head slowly from Linda to me and looked me up and down with obvious disdain and an undisguised lack of interest. "We don't respect dilettantes" he spat out. From the moment I changed the way I approached songwriting, I changed how I sang, I changed my work ethic, and I changed my life. (Pg. 112)
She signed up for voice training.

Instead of toying with ideas I examined them, and tested the authenticity of my instincts musically. I stretched my attention span consciously. I read books on writing by Natalie Goldberg and Carolyn Heilbrun and began to self-edit and refine more and went deeper into every process involved with writing and musicianship.

I started painting so I could learn about the absence of words and sound and why I needed them and what I actually wanted to say with them. (Pg. 113)
The interview on NPR that I mentioned above was not my first encounter with Rosanne Cash. I had seen her perform earlier in her career on Austin City Limits; I had been curious to see if she looked and sounded like her father. I have to admit I wasn’t overly impressed. Her voice was pretty, but didn’t have the range and depth of her later music. Last night, I watched a more recent Rosanne Cash performance also on Austin City Limits where she performs songs from her album The List. After this viewing I must say Rosanne Cash has truly been transformed.

Rosanne was only 55 when she completed Composed: A Memoir. Imagine how much more is in store for Rosanne and how many more hurdles she may have to endure. She has recently announced on twitter @rosannecash that throat polyps have reappeared and once again doctors have restricted her from using her voice.

In closing, this book is a great selection for my Making Women Count Project. Rosanne is a strong woman willing to do the work required to transform her life into the best it can be.  She provides us with the inspiration to compile a road map for our own journey.

She offers hope for us all:
Maybe some of the other burdens I had carried from the past into my adult life had also been based on equally false assumptions, and maybe I could review some of them now, find a fatal flaw in my logic, revise my prospects for the future, make my way through my personal mazes and put away some of my regrets and obsessions. It was never too late to undo who you had become. (Pg. 157)

See also:
TJ's Top Songs Discovered in 2010

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