Sunday, February 8, 2015

Singer-Songwriters and the "No Fault Divorce" Law

James Cushing, quoted in Harvey Kubernik's Turn Up the Radio!: Rock, Pop, and Roll in Los Angeles 1956-1972 (p. 232): "People say that the singer-songwriter genre happened because people were recovering from the sixties, but I think there's another reason - California adopted the 'no fault divorce' law in July 1970, and then the rest of the country followed suit. Before that time, it was really hard to get a divorce. You had to prove so many things, hire lawyers to get photographs, like Jake Gittes in Chinatown. Prior to 1970, the California Supreme Court ruled that, from now on, there will be exactly two reasons for divorce: incurable insanity or irreconcilable differences.

"This new law had enormous impact on everyone - the people who made the music, who listed to the music, who sold the music, their secretaries, their lawyers, and the listeners with their radios. All of a sudden, none of them had to worry about hiring a divorce detective. Now, if you got sick and tired of your spouse, you could get divorced right away. So it seemed that everybody got divorced.

"From an observer's viewpoint, divorce can be very liberating for both parties, but, according to psychologists, it's the equivalent of a death in the family, in terms of persona trauma. So everybody's newly liberated, but traumatized. In light of this situation, James Taylor singing 'You've Got a Friend' sounds really good. But Jim Morrison singing 'Break on Through' does not sound as good, because you've just broken on through to the other side of the conventional life, and now that you've broken on through, you're stuck with the fact that it's broken, and you broke it. I hope you like it broken, That's what you wanted. Oh, but you feel a strange nostalgia for the unbroken? You've got a friend."

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