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Jorma Kaukonen: Been So Long - My Life & Music

Doug Collette By

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Even as Jorma speaks to how his craft and career evolved into, then through this period, he is quick to point out-and far more than once-how his personal life remained static, including but not limited to, his marriage and his substance abuse ("mentally modified" he describes the latter state of mind). Kaukonen downplays the volatile nature of the former relationship to some degree (remarks about its violent exchanges are usually offhanded), but he is also careful, perhaps overly so, to point out how speed-skating, the somewhat offbeat pursuit in which he and his spouse share an interest, gives the couple a mutual interest that prolongs their marriage. Training and competition overseas, however, is a financial burden only recording and tour will allay, so the musician always returns to his first love, as much for practical as creative purposes.

And, as the man points out so explicitly (and somewhat redundantly) late in the book, music has always provided a focal point of stability within whatever whirlwind of personal and/or professional activities were in play at any given time. It's thus seems only natural that, in the end, Been So Long follows a course much like the automobile trips and motorcycle excursions Jorma has often undertaken and continues to relish so much to this day: the routes are sometimes circuitous, but ultimately constitute forward progress. Even when unexpected parenthood threatens to intrude upon the establishment of the Fur Peach Ranch, the nurturing of the performing and teaching combine became and has remained a veritable eye of a hurricane for him.

Within these three hundred-some pages, Jorma Kaukonen is occasionally reflective to a fault, perhaps in overcompensation for his self-professed insularity during his youth (and beyond). But quite clearly, Been So Long is simultaneously a means to an end and an end in itself: his intent is to reveal himself to himself first, and only then to the reader. It then makes a certain amount of sense that, in their respective foreward and afterward, former and present-day bandmates Grace Slick and Jack Casady would not claim to know this man intimately, but rather seem to admire him and his tale from a distance, with healthy and affectionate detachment.

If that is a rarity for such autobiographies (like the absence of any ghostwriter or co-author), it is far less of one than that which proceeds from the conclusion of My Life & Music. Jorma Kaukonen would seem to have as much to look forward to as look back on, which makes the reading of Been So Long a decidedly uplifting experience, second only to hearing the man's music, as included here on the five-track sampler of live cuts, but hardly limited to it.

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