Set in the pre-hippie summer of 1963 when Kennedy was president, the Civil Rights movement was in full swing, and the Beatles had not yet made it to America, I’m Glad I Did is an uptempo coming of age story complete with an entertaining slice of history that doesn’t avoid the serious issues of the day. Teenage JJ Green is determined to become a Carole King-like songwriter by getting a job at the famous Brill Building, but her father and Jackie Kennedy look-alike mother want her to follow in their footsteps and become a lawyer instead.
When JJ is offered a position as a music producer’s assistant, with payment being feedback on her songs, JJ’s parents reluctantly agree to a trial, but she will only be allowed to continue in the music field if one of the songs she’s written is recorded by the end of the summer. (No pressure!) Race relations, the early 60’s music scene, the payola scandal, murder and--of course--teenage romance all play a part in the story.
This is Cynthia Weil’s first novel, but she’s been writing songs long enough for Bob Dylan to consider her a master in the field. (Dylan mentioned her in his memoir Chronicles, and songs co-written by Weil with her husband Barry Mann include “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling”, “Blame it on the Bossa Nova”, “Somewhere Out There”, and “We Got to Get Out of This Place” among many others.) While the tone is lively and humorous, one of the predominant themes is justice--which when capitalized as Justice is actually JJ’s first name. (Did I mention her parents are lawyers?). Weil’s real life experiences and inside knowledge give her story the ring of authenticity. A fun time trip.