San Diego Union Tribune, Wednesday, September 1, 1993

Pop Beat

Book tunes into what drives modern musicians | Reverence for craft is common element

by George Varga

Jenny Boyd

Jenny Boyd had several advantages when she began writing "Musicians In Tune" (Simon & Schuster/Fireside), a book in which 75 prominent musicians discuss the creative process.

A prominent fashion model in London in the mid-1960s, Boyd began dating future Fleetwood Mac drummer Mick Fleetwood in 1959 when they were both 16, and married him in 1970. Undeterred by her longstanding relationship with Fleetwood, Scottish folk-rocker Donovan wrote a song inspired by Boyd in 1967, "Jennifer, Junniper."

The next year she journeyed to India with her sister, Patti, Patti's husband George Harrison, and the other three Beatles and their wives to study transcendental meditation with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Boyd then joined George and Patti for a three-week concert tour of India with sitar master Ravi Shankar.

Yet, while Harrison, Shankar and now former husband Fleetwood are all quoted at length in her book, it was her sister Patti's second husband, Eric Clapton, singer-songwriter Jackson Browne and Boyd's own period of psychotherapy that inspired her to write.

Boyd found herself wondering if Clapton's drinking and drug-use had been caused by a fear he had of being such a gifted musician. She also thought she detected a new sense of spirituality in singer-songwriter Browne (for whom her current husband Ian Wallace was the drummer) since he had stopped drinking and using drugs.

"When I started interviewing musicians for my book, I saw another side, a spiritual side, where I think they all have a sense of destiny and a sense of their creativity being linked to a greater power," said Boyd, who initially wrote the book for her Ph.D. dissertation.

She talked to an impressive variety of musicians, including Clapton, Ice-T, Bonnie Raitt, David Crosby, Koko Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Queen Latifah, Branford Marsalis, John Lee Hooker and Sinead O'Connor. The latter candidly tells Boyd: "I smoke dope quite a lot . . . not when I'm on stage . . . but when I'm actually writing."

Many of the musicians interviewed in the book admit to having used (or, in a few cases, still using) drugs. She believes this phenomenon stems from the halcyon days of the late 1960s, although drugs were used by some musicians well before the advent of rock.

"For musicians in the '60s, smoking pot was part of a new awareness," Boyd, 49, said. "And I think a lot of musicians, creative people, are incredibly shy and introverted. Drinking or (using) pot was a way of finding it easier to converse and communicate, and having a couple of beers was a way of loosening up to go on stage.

"Also, the euphoric feeling they had after a gig was so intense that they wanted something to keep them going, whether cocaine, drink or whatever."

Not coincidentally, a significant number of the veteran musicians she spoke to are now drug-free.

"A lot of people I interviewed were in recovery," said Boyd, who recently moved back to London from Los Angeles. "I interviewed a newly sober Bonnie Raitt, and she was very frightened whether she'd be able to create (music sober). That was before her (hit comeback album) `Nick Of Time.'

"David Crosby found that not long after he stopped (using drugs), song after song after song came out; before that he hadn't written anything for years. Then there are people, like Peter Gabriel, that believe you have to be as pure as possible to create.

"I think a lot of people take drugs and alcohol and use it as a way of building their low self-esteem. That can go on for years, and I found in my case that you build up a whole persona that's empty inside -- a frightened little child."

Their past drug-use notwithstanding, many of the artists Boyd interviewed spoke in reverent tones about music and the creative process. A number also emphasized how pivotal the support (or non-support) of parents can be in encouraging or discouraging youngsters to follow their creative muse.

"B.B. King and (ex-Fleetwood Mac member) Lindsey Buckingham were both encouraged to play music as kids," she said. "In the case of (former San Diego singer-songwriter) Stephen Bishop, who had a stepfather who hated rock 'n' roll, he would actually go and hide so his stepfather couldn't hear the music. And when he heard his stepfather coming up the stairs, it was a challenge to see if he could he finish (writing) a song before his stepfather came crashing in. That only proved how strong his drive was to create, and he said that drive came out of loneliness.

"What surprised me was every single musician -- whether it was playing on stage or writing -- had a feeling of time standing still, that they were channels to higher powers. And most of them had never spoken, and had not even consciously thought, about it before. Everybody opened up."

The candor of the musicians makes her book worth reading, as opposed to her well-intentioned but jumbled bouts of New Age philosophizing and Jungian psychobabble.

"I learned that musicians have a tremendous sense of humility toward their art," she said. "It's a reverence for creating, and I find that very heartwarming and encouraging."

Thanks to Les for posting this to the Ledge and to Anusha for formatting and sending it to us.