detta was my idol. I wanted to sing like her. Then I listened to Joan Baez, and it didn't seem possible that I could ever sound like her. Then I heard Judy Collins. I was a senior in high school. When you think you're a singer yourself, the people who influence you are the people you sound like, people you can imitate, and Judy Collins I thought I could sound like.
It's still unbelievable to me that I had success doing this. I heard a song of mine on the radio the other day followed by the Paul McCartney tune "Yesterday." The DJ called both songs "classics." I find it so amazing I'm even on the airwaves, and I'm not being humble. I have a very good memory, and I remember what it was like to wish for that or to imagine myself as a star. I had a pipe dream, and then I had reality, the reality being that I wanted a middle-class life like my mother had. I wanted to be around great artists and great writers, and then be a great hostess. So today when I hear a record of mine on the radio, it's just incredible.
James taught me a lot about how to behave after achieving some success. He got it before I did, so I just followed what he did and went along with him. If James bowed his head down rushing through a crowd, I did it, too. I learned a lot from him in the way he dealt with things. James is extremely generous. He doesn't like to say no to anybody, which sort of confirmed my instinct to do the same. So very often we were at the mercy of people who wanted to do things. Even though James has an image of being aloof and cool, he is really very kindhearted. He could be a pushover.
I felt that any success I had on my own was a fluke. I didn't say, "Well, how come I'm not being treated like Neil Young?"
I think we change our opinions of ourselves so often. What the outside world thinks is only a small part of our image. With some people, public persona is the only thing that matters. I do fool around with that to a certain degree, but a lot of it is unconscious. I can manipulate like Boy George or Madonna, but I don't change my hairstyle or my costume very much. I think people have a feeling of who I really am.
Maybe another persona comes across because of the artwork on my albums. My personality in front of a camera is quite playful. When I get in front of a camera, video camera or still, that's when the ham in me comes out. My father was a good photographer. When he took pictures of me, it was a way for me to get across because the other girls in the family had a much easier time getting his attention. I felt I had to be a clown. I was always a clown in front of my father's camera. I was always very on. It was a habit formed early. So now, when I'm in front of a lens, I get turned on in the same way I used to with my father.
I think that's why my album covers are sometimes talked about as much as the albums. Even though I feel the freedom to play in front of the camera, people are not seeing the outtakes. I've done many album photos that have nothing to do with sex, nothing to do with sensuality. Art directors always choose the ones that do have something to do with sex, and those weren't always necessarily my choices. I would give them a wide variety of images, and the sexy ones got the most number of votes. I had veto power, but I thought most of the pictures were fun, too. I don't think there was ever one album cover that was lewd, rude, or crude.
The songs that I write come from so many places. Largely from problems I'm trying to solve. If I'm having emotional problems -- and it's usually an emotional problem, often having to do with a crisis of the heart -- it motivates me to try to figure out how I can get that into a lyric or a melody.
Sometimes it comes from stimulation from the outside. A number of times it's come from a magazine article or a TV show, or a movie or conversation about a particular subject. I recently read an article on Jerry Brown, and it made me write something just one second after I read it. I wrote a song called "The Summit" about an ideal summit meeting. So something from the outside can affect me. I wrote "A Legend in His Own Time" after reading an article on Hank Williams.
"Loving You Is the Right Thing to Do" came from a line in The Last Picture Show. It can come out of a phrase I hear. I heard something in that dreadful movie Falling in Love, with Meryl Streep and Robert DeNiro. A line Meryl used was "Everything else seems wrong." I thought that was a nice title for a song. "Everything else seems wrong, everything but you." Song titles themselves can really be an idea for the developing of an idea.
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