If ever there was a book aimed at a target audience, Fire and Rain: The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, James Taylor, CSNY, and the Lost Story of 1970 by David Browne is the book, and I am the part of the audience. In fact, I am probably the bullseye. The book recounts the lives of the musicians named in the subtitle during a year that was pivotal for all of them. The Beatles broke up for good, as did Simon and Garfunkel for all practical purposes. Crosby, Still, Nash, and Young broke apart for the first time eighteen months after forming, and James Taylor with hardly any effort at all showed the rest the way of the solo artist. In telling his story, Browne tells about the making and selling of four albums: Let It Be, Bridge Over Troubled Water, Sweet Baby James, and Deja Vu. I still have all four in vinyl!
I'm not so sure the story was lost in any way. I was not one to read Rolling Stone or listen to radio late into the night. Still, I knew the basic facts even in the early 1970s, though there were many backstage and offstage details that I did not know. Browne's achievement is brings all the information together into a story that shows how eleven different personalities suffered some very similar problems and outcomes. Too much money, recreational drugs, artistic egos, jealousy over women (Joni Mitchell, Rita Cooldidge), jealousy over song credits on albums, and even more drugs play heavily in the plot. Each man (they are all male) has his finer points and grave faults, and Browne portrays no one as evil. If you want to maintain shining knight images of these musical icons, this is not your book, but if you want a deep understanding and get some clues to meanings and importance of songs, Fire and Rain is a good reading choice.
Luckily for me, I have all the music on CD and my iTouch, too. I have plenty to listen to while rehabilitating my knee.
Browne, David. Fire and Rain: The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, James Taylor, CSNY, and the Lost Story of 1970. Da Capo Press, 2011. ISBN 9780306818509.