Rickie Lee Jones shares about family, childhood, love in memoir, ‘Last Chance Texaco’

The singer opens up to “The View” about telling the stories of her family and life through her songs and why she decided to write a memoir about it all.
7:57 | 04/29/21

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Transcript for Rickie Lee Jones shares about family, childhood, love in memoir, ‘Last Chance Texaco’
chuck E's in love That was "Chuck E's in love," one of the many classics by groundbreaking, two-time grammy-winning singer/song writer Rickie Lee Jones who is taking you along for the mind-blowing journey that is her life in the new memoir "Last chance texaco: Chronicles of an American troubadour." Please welcome Rickie Lee Jones. Good morning, Rickie Lee Jones. Welcome back. So cool to be here. You've lived one heck of a - life. Among the cast of characters in this book are bank robbers, vaudevillians, drug mules, one pimp with a heart of gold -- I could keep going. You say that this is really a story of your family. I mean it sounds like the story of so many of our families. Tell us a little bit about your family. These are the folks that raised you. My grandfather was a vaudevillian named peg leg Jones. From him stems so many amazing monikers and characters. He was a vaudevillian who danced with one leg. Did the soft shoe. He played the ukulele and he taught his sons Richard and my father and Bobby to sing and play as well. Then my mother unfortunately grew up in orphanages in southern Ohio. There's a story in the book about my grandmother trying to escape with my mother and running through the corn fields to escape the social worker who kept pursuing her like the devil himself. So the songs I wrote in the early days came directly from these stories and, when I first started the book, I used song titles to tell the stories of family. I just felt that their stories were so magnificent that they were worth telling and rather than just a memoir about fame about the Concord jet -- which is also cool. If you put it in the context of family, then a life has value more than the disposableness of fame. Rickie, from an early age you lived mostly on the road and often on the run. At just 14 years old you hitch hiked across America. You lived in a cave. You escaped a commune. You write about these strange urges to put yourself at risk. Why did you continuously put yourself in situations like that? I've been talking to a shrink for 20 years. We haven't gotten around to that part yet. I could be wrong, but I think shrinks say people who put themselves at risks have been harmed or molested as young people. I don't know what the larger broad strokes are, why human beings do that because we reckon it's much more horrific for girls who put themselves at risk. Some of us just want to live a fantastic life. Some of us go ahead and take the step to put themselves in danger in order to do that. Unfortunately I did that at a young age. I thought I was so grown up, and I wasn't. I wasn't. One of my favorite parts of your memoir is you grew up in Phoenix like I did. You also open up about your famous romance with Tom waits. You say together you fed a craving so sharp that we wanted to become each other, but your relationship fell apart after you revealed to him that you were using heroin. You've been clean for decades now, yet you say your break-up with Tom was still one of the hardest parts of this book to revisit. Can you tell us why? I think it remained an open wound all my life. It was unresolved. We never spoke to each other again. Yet, we were knitted together in the culture. People loved the idea of us and so it just didn't heal when I went to write the book in the early versions of telling these stories there was a lot of anger and a lot of tears. I kept writing it and writing it until -- in the process of writing it I forgave me and him. The book began to write me, began to change me. So it's a phenomenon, I guess, if you write a memoir and tell everything. You have the chance to become the better version of yourself by the end of the book. This year marks the -- I have to say it -- the 40th anniversary of the acclaimed album -- 40 years. My mouth wouldn't do it. You know, one of the songs on this album it just literally changed my perspective and really changed my life because it was a story that had unfolded in my own neighborhood. It's a story about a man killed by police really as things are starting to maybe blossom for him. Are you surprised that we're still really sort of humming this same tune that prompted this story today? We're still humming this tune. Exactly the same tune. The difference is that at least we're talking about the fact that we're humming the same tune. I think black lives matter has already trickled into the culture and begun to affect how people see their neighbor and see themselves. You know, you can relate to anybody if you just try or you can refuse if you prefer that, but through tragedy -- let's say your dog died. I can relate to the tears you're crying. Sudden loss. I can relate to you. There's a way into anybody else's life. That's the only way to heal all these fences we put up is just to remember everybody lives the same damn life, cries the same tears, laughs with the same joy. We're always counting with ways we're different and we create all these structures to cement the ways we're different. It doesn't serve us in the end. It just doesn't. No. No. Listen, I just want to thank you for your artistry. I love the memoir and I love you as an artist. I wanted an opportunity to tell you that. I have to tell people that "Last chance texaco: Chronicles of an American troubadour" is available now. Rickie Lee is reading the audible version of it. Get the book. I'm telling people get the book. It's really, really great. Good to see you, Rickie Lee

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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