Carnie Wilson's story is a journey from the darkness of a lifelong struggle with emotional rejection, compulsive eating, and morbid obesity into the light of health. In her new book, Gut Feelings: From Fear and Despair to Health and Hope, Wilson divulges how she regained control of a life that was spinning away. Read the excerpt below.
Chapter Three: Songs, Sex, and Smoke
My first love is music. It always has been. It's such a huge part of my being, and I've always known it. I remember feeling it when I was as young as four, certainly by the time I was six.
I knew I wanted to be a singer when I heard voices like Barbra Streisand and Karen Carpenter. My parents loved the Carpenters, and we played their records all the time at home. It didn't matter whether you liked that style of music or not. It was the magic in Karen's voice that was so soothing, and the lushness of the layered harmonies that were like soft clouds of sound.
My dad particularly loved the song "Be My Baby," by the Ronettes. He played it every single day — sometimes over and over — for as long as we lived together. Dad was blown away by Phil Spector's "wall of sound" production, and Ronnie Spector's voice had a yearning quality that knocked him out again and again. He couldn't get enough of "Be My Baby." To him, it's the greatest record ever made.
All kinds of music were always playing in the house, so Wendy and I were just constantly exposed to it. We had a big family room with an incredible stereo system, and my Mom and Dad had this huge wrought-iron shelving unit filled with albums. We used to go through the collection and just blast the music and dance and sing. It was something that gave us so much pleasure.
There was always someone visiting, and whoever came through that front door would have to watch us perform. They didn't have a choice. We'd bug them until they sat down, and then we'd sing our hearts out into hairbrushes or broomsticks with the big fireplace as our backdrop.
Sure, we did other things that little girls do-sports, putting on makeup, playing dress-up. But that was more when we were alone or with Mom. We'd be in her bathroom and put on her nail polish and makeup, and she would teach us about beauty.
But we spent most of our time singing to our favorite music. We had no idea we'd ever do it in front of thousands of people, but at the age of five, I made my stage debut with Wendy. It was the first of many times we sang back-up for the Beach Boys in concert.
All the Beach Boys took their kids on the road. We'd go to the gigs, sing onstage, hang out backstage, eat constantly, and have so much fun. Grandma Audree was often there with us, laughing and having a great time. There was nothing she liked better than to see her sons perform. It was a wonderful musical experience, and everyone supported each other in those days. It felt more like a family than it did at home.
But Dad didn't like going on the road. He didn't like to perform. He was in and out. But most of the time he stayed home.
I remember a huge thrill one night at the Forum in Los Angeles. It was the first time Mom ever let me wear high heels. They were actually wedges, but they were high, and I was feeling really cute.
Daddy was back on the road with the band, and there was a huge banner saying Brian's back. Welcome back, Brian. I was really proud of him, and it was a great feeling, because usually he wasn't on the stage. But that night he was there, and it was awesome.