We all should dream of having a life a tenth as intriguing as the jacket of Kim Gordon’s memoir Girl In A Band. We as a post-Kardashian kulture have really let ourselves down by no longer demanding our icons possess the one quality truly deserving of iconography – leading a really interesting life.
In an era where many “famous” people can be summed up in a word or less, Gordon’s accurately credited bio reads: artist, musician, producer, fashion designer, writer and actress. A flip to the backside of her book reveals praise from fellow feminists at the top of their respective artistic fields – Amy Poehler, Sofia Coppola, Carrie Brownstein and Maggie Nelson. She is a woman who simultaneously succeeded in six highly competitive and creatively challenging fields, achieved the perfect level of “New York” fame (a paparazzi-free life that still scores you all the great invites and a seat in the first three rows at Fashion Week), while managing to rear a healthy and productive member of society and stay married longer than rock stars are stereotypically suppose to live.
Many reviews of the book have noted “Kim Gordon knows a lot of famous people,” and it’s true. You could say she’s one of those spirits who was destined to be a cultural touchstone – someone who found themselves in the right place at the right time in late ’60s Los Angeles, the the late ’70s and early ’80s New York art and music scenes, and later as the “godmother” of ’90s alternative culture – or maybe it’s just because a lot of famous people want to know Kim Gordon.
You can say of her what can not be said of many: one of her weeks could beat one of Lou Fucking Reed’s mythic years. Mere chapters of Gordon’s story in Girl In A Band – her childhood which saw her living in upstate New York, California, Hawaii, and China before settling in to teendom in the Bohemia of Manson-era Los Angeles, her relationship with her mentally unstable brother, her time as an assistant and fixture in the New York art world, her experiences as a female musician and mom (“dripping breast milk during a video shoot is not very rock!” she notes) could be page-turning memoirs in their own right, even if she had never made mention of the split with her now ex-husband and band mate Thurston Moore.
As much as Doc Martins, Grunge and Riot Grrrl, Generation X was defined by our parent’s divorces. For many, the 27 year union between Moore and Gordon was the closest thing to a healthy relationship model we had. Every aspect of their union projected the idea that you could be successful making your own rules in art and life and when they split, people mourned as if it had happened to them – but some took solace in the notion that it’s natural that a nearly three decades long relationship, something almost unheard of in the music business, had run its course. When it was revealed infidelity was at the root of the split, many Sonic Youth fans felt a personal sting of betrayal, even Gordon herself bemoaned it as being the most old school, conventional of reasons. Gordon and Moore have dealt with the situation ahem…“quite differently,” and public perception of both of them has been forever altered by it; Moore’s seemingly flippant attitude (he publicly described his affair as “very romantic” to one interviewer) has seen him vilified, while Gordon has been praised, perhaps because she quickly grasped the concept women who successfully navigate divorce realize – there are times when your life will be defined by how you choose to respond to a truly horrible situation. You can let the agony take over and eat you from the inside out, wallowing in its embrace till it swallows you whole, or you can move forward slowly, even if it’s millimeters at a time, pulling yourself up by the bra straps and doing what you have to do (like getting up on stage and playing to tens of thousands people mere feet from the person who has betrayed you), all the while remembering you are not defined by your marriage. As anyone who has eradicated themselves from a long term relationship can attest; you can’t stop other people from marrying themselves to a certain idea about your relationship. But as the iconic Gordon flawlessly proves, you can constantly evolve both personally and professionally by being someone who knows who you are, without being married to any ideas about yourself.
Hear Kim Gordon talk about Girl In A Band with Bruce Pavitt at The Neptune, Monday, March 2nd.
Admission: $10.00 or $38.00 with a book