They’re Playing Our Song: A Memoir, by Carole Bayer Sager
This book is certainly an interesting memoir, although I have to say that I didn’t know much about the author or her life before reading this book. It does not surprise me in the least that the author’s songs, which include some very popular numbers like Groovy Kind Of Love, On My Own, That’s What Friends Are For, and many other hits that you have heard quite a lot if you are a fan of soundtrack pop (Looking Through Your Eyes, I Stand Alone, Nobody Does It Better, The Prayer) or adult contemporary in general as I happen to be. The author is part of a small world of singer-songwriters who are vastly more famous as songwriters, and the singer is more of a Laura Nyro type who probably belongs in the RRHOF as a songwriter but has lived a far more successful life, even if it has left her with a few too many names as a result of her relationship drama during most of her life. I left this book with a certain degree of respect for the author and how it is that she was fortunate enough to find a good man who thought her worth staying with, which had not always been the case previously in her life, much to her shame and regret.
This book is almost 500 pages long and it tells a mostly straightforward narrative of hte life of the author from her childhood, especially her relationship with her mother, to the period of the 2000’s when she had more or less retired as a songwriter after more than four decades of writing hit songs for others, an incredible run. The author recounts her experiences writing songs, mostly in face-to-face co-writing sessions with collaborators, recording music, dealing with romantic drama with a great many people, and having some spectacularly unsuccessful relationships until she married the no-nonsense and loyal head of Warner Brothers. The author doesn’t seem to have been a particularly wild person, and if only modestly talented as a singer, and certainly far too modest about her attractiveness–she seems, like Shakira, to be rather insecure about having small breasts–she certainly could write very good songs and was able to bring out the best in the people she collaborated with, making her a longtime and valuable songwriter to bring in to help complete projects, including albums by Michael Jackson and Bob Dylan.
Indeed, this particular novel revolves around two poles. One of those poles is the author’s place in the world of music, where she developed her skill as a songwriter working along some of the greats of the Brill Building tradition of pop and then managed to make three albums in the 70’s that served as an introduction of her songs to others who thought (and were sometimes right in thinking) that they could sing her songs better and turn them into hits. She worked in the small world of the infernal mills of the songwriting industry where every writer wants to be a famous musician as well (not an unfamiliar picture to this writer, it must be admitted), and her account of collaborating with others and what it was like to be on American Idol as a guest judge when so many people didn’t know who she was because they don’t pay attention to songwriting credits showed a certain amount of humility and self-knowledge. This is a memoir that doesn’t really try to settle scores, but rather come to terms with a life of self-destructive relationship patterns that demonstrate the author as a relatable sort of woman, who just happens to be one of the all-time great songwriters as well.