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Rita Coolidge's Life Story Would Make A Great Country Song

Rita Coolidge is pictured in this undated photo.
Val Denn Agency
Rita Coolidge is pictured in this undated photo.
Rita Coolidge’s Life Story Would Make A Great Country Song
Rita Coolidge's Life Story Would Make A Great Country SongGUEST:Rita Coolidge, singer and author

On the front cover of her new memoir is the image of Rita Coolidge as a superstar of the 1970s. Long dark hair, shadowed eyes, hip hugger jeans, lots of beads, bangles, and turquoise. At the look that was uniquely her own also a strong smoky both -- voice on her singles. Inside the memoir Rita Coolidge tells us there is more to her than sound and image is a revealing look at her life, loves, and her deep ties to friends, family and music. Rita Coolidge welcome. Thank you so much Maureen it's great to be here. What What made you want to write this memoir now? When I perform I always tell stories behind the songs and sometimes I tell stories that don't have anything to do a store -- songs. I like to interact with the audience and be a little bit more entertaining than singing the former heads over and over. My drummer has been in my van for about 17 years he said you had to write this stuff. Eventually he wore me down and actually people started coming to me about doing a book. That became the most fascinating process ever because I had dealt with record companies and dealt with record company executives and all of those people and the steps that it goes to make a record. Doing a book is completely different. In this conversation that we have here we are going to be able to skim the surface of this book. There is an awful lot of information, a lot of stories in this book. You are just starting your career in the 1960s. That was one of the most creative times of rock and roll in the US. What do you remember the atmosphere in California being like when you arrive from Tennessee? When I arrived in Los Angeles, I remember driving down Sunset Boulevard and seeing the palm trees and how beautiful it was, the blue skies, it was sunny. The music I think reflected that. I college now the Golden age of rock 'n roll because it really was so golden and beautiful. The musicians interacted and hung out together. There was no competitive craft going on. People just embraced each other and love each other for their likenesses and their differences. Everybody was happy. It was right in the middle of [ Indiscernible ] and love is everywhere. Love, let's talk about love. You talk about your love affairs with famous musicians in this book. What occurred to me Rita is how did you manage to become more than the famous guys old lady. How did you become a star in your own right? I think that it just -- I really just never accepted that label, that handle. I felt it to be very degrading because when we talk about change in the 1960s is one women's liberation really began and came to the forefront. I was very much a part of that. If somebody called me their old lady I would say I'm not sure anything. I am with you. If you play your cards right and might be around four minutes but not with that handle. You take the time to tell readers, hey it's me;'s with one guy after another but it wasn't that way at all. I wonder why you will do needed to say that in this book. Because of people who would be viewing the book and a lot of them might be men. I think that they would -- still in this time -- look at it like I was jumping around for man-to-man which I wasn't. I was in some very deep relationships with these people and they lasted a long time. I want to talk about your relationship with Kris Kristofferson because it started in one of the most romantic ways imaginable. You fell in love with an airplane. Tell us about that. I got to LA I was on my way from Memphis. He was going to do a cover story for life magazine. When I got on the plane he saved me a seat, I sat down and we talked and locked hearts and melted into each other during that flight. It was like nothing that ever happened before or since. You came up with a name for a child? Not on the plane, we did before the night was over. He got often Memphis instead of going to Nashville and went out to the house where I was rehearsing with the Dixie Flyers. We kept talking and before we went to sleep that night we knew that we would Mary and we had named our child. Know you both went on to have joint musical career for a number of years. Was a difficult to maintain that balance. Another to go into in the book of lot of problems that developed but just the balance between the relationship with Kris Kristofferson and your musical relationship with him. Well, when we were in the studio I think that's life definitely carries over into the studio. I have the mindset that whatever is going on you leave it at the door. I tell my band that. I don't know what's going on with anybody tonight but you leave it at the hotel because were here to do a job. I think that I was more able to do that than Chris was. There were times when we were in the studio and he would just belt out and call me some ugly name. If you are in the studio and that happens just kind of echoes and reverberates. He learned a very powerful lesson in the studio about not calling me names are being ugly in the studio. We learned how to deal with that situation and honestly most of the time we felt such joy in making music together. Rita Coolidge you talk in your book, and your Melchor -- memoir Delta lady talk about the breakdown of your marriage with Kris Kristofferson in some pain. It happened to you in relationships, violent stuff that happened to you. Was a painful reliving this stuff by writing about it? The sad things and the struggles and what I would consider tragedies but -- is a process of getting past and moving on past these bad times. That's why they are in the book. It was hard to write about it but once having written about it I felt kind of a freedom that I had put it down on paper and it was so well now in my past. It doesn't come back to me like it used to because it's kind of a cleansing. It's all out there now. It's out there for everybody. [ Laughter ] What are you doing now? I am doing this book tour obviously. The book is out of week today. I'm doing booksignings and I was in Tallahassee Florida my old alma mater Florida State I went back last weekend and did a festival called word of the South. That was great fun time having a really good time on the heels of the release. I am also preparing to go to England on the 24th for a three-week tour over there. Between concerts I'm sure I will be doing some booksignings and staying about as busy as a woman can. [ Laughter ] You are a San Diego County residents. I am a local, I live in Fallbrook and I am so proud of it. I am so glad that you could come in today and talk with us. Lemmie tell everyone once again the new memoir is called the Delta lady and I have spent speaking with singer, songwriter Rita Coolidge. Thank you Marine it's been so much fun. You are listening to KPBS midday edition.

Rita Coolidge is pictured on the cover of her memoir, "Delta Lady."
Rita Coolidge is pictured on the cover of her memoir, "Delta Lady."

A two-time Grammy Award winner, singer Rita Coolidge gained fame in the 1970s and 1980s as a pop, rock and country singer, and now she’s out with a memoir.

In "Delta Lady," Coolidge writes about her upbringing in a loving, mostly Cherokee family in rural Tennessee. She also tells about her move to Memphis, performing in folk clubs in New York’s Greenwich Village and her eventual move to California.


“When I arrived in Los Angeles, I remember driving down Sunset Boulevard and seeing the palm trees,” Coolidge told KPBS Midday Edition on Tuesday. “I saw how beautiful it was, the blue sky, and it was sunny. And the music I think reflected [that]. I call it now the golden age of rock n' roll.”

On her journey, Coolidge always seemed to be in the right place at the right time, meeting, bonding and singing backup for Leon Russell, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Eric Clapton.

She eventually married singer and actor Kris Kristofferson, a union that eventually dissolved but, Coolidge said, was wonderful at times.

Besides the famous love affairs that Coolidge writes about in her book, the musician became a star in her own right.

“When we talk about change in the 1960s, it’s when women's liberation really began and came to the forefront. And I was very much a part of that,” Coolidge said. “So somebody calls me their old lady, I say, ‘I'm not your anything. I'm with you. You play your cards right I might be around for a minute but not with that handle.’”


But not all the times were good times.

One story she shares begins with the piano coda to Derek and the Dominos' "Layla," written by a drummer she was dating, Jim Gordon. Coolidge added a second piano progression, which Eric Clapton and his band recorded. Not only did Coolidge receive no credit, she said Gordon actually hit her, knocking her out cold.

“I think the sad things and the struggles, I wouldn't consider tragedies,” Coolidge said. “[It’s a process of] moving on past these bad times.”

A longtime San Diego County resident, Rita Coolidge continues to perform, always closing her shows with her biggest hit, "Your Love Has Lifted Me Higher."

“I’m a local,” Coolidge said. “I live in Fallbrook and I’m so proud of it.”