Brill Building Historical Fiction

I'm Glad I Did book

I’m Glad I Did by Cynthia Weil

The Brill Building is a place where songwriting magic happened. Dozens of professional musicians worked there to churn out some of the most popular songs from the 1950s and 1960s. The author of this book was one of those prolific songwriters. Her work is even recognized by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

In her debut novel, she takes us back to the summer of 1963. JJ is a teenager and looking forward to making a path for herself. Her family expects her to follow in their footsteps and work in the legal arena, but she yearns to write songs. She gets a summer job at the Brill Building for a songwriting company and reluctantly tells her family. She makes a deal that if she can get a song recorded and on the radio by the end of summer that she can follow her musical dreams. If not, she will become a lawyer as they had planned for her.

I liked the concept and hoped I could learn a little bit more about this historic place of songwriting gold. This was historical fiction that I could sink my teeth in to.

Unfortunately, Weil didn’t commit to telling a story about songwriting and the machinery involved. She wanted to touch on civil rights issues and some of the corrupt practices that ran rampant when it came to credit for musical works. These are important issues, and I’m glad they were covered. They fit right in with the story world she helped create here.

However, the book falls apart about half way through. It moves from a great story about working hard in a factory of songwriters to establish a personal voice and show some integrity in the music business, to a Nancy-Drew-type murder mystery. I was so turned off by this twist, that I immediately closed the book in anger and didn’t get back to it for days.

I could see where it was going, for the most part too. It’s a shame that Weil didn’t stick to the music business story. I have a distaste for amateur detective fiction and think this novel would have been better without that subplot.

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