Jenny Boyd

Searching For The Source

Jenny Boyd
Author Jenny Boyd with former brother-in-law George Harrison. Photo by Pattie Boyd.
Dr. Jenny Boyd is founder and director of Spring Workshops, “organizing psychotherapeutic groups for people in need of personal development.” She is also the “Jennifer” who inspired Donovan’s “Jennifer Juniper.”

Like her sister Pattie, Jenny became a model in swinging-’60s London. Pattie married and divorced both Beatle George Harrison and Eric Clapton; Jenny married and divorced Mick Fleetwood twice, then married and divorced another great drummer, the late Ian Wallace.

Though she now lives in London, she gathered interviews with 40 subjects while living in Los Angeles, as part of her Ph.D dissertation on musicians and the process of creativity. These culminated in 1992’s Musicians In Tune, expanded with 35 more interviews and republished in 2014 as It’s Not Only Rock ’N’ Roll: Iconic Musicians Reveal The Source of Their Creativity.

The interviewees include Clapton, Harrison, Fleetwood, Wallace, Keith Richards, Ringo Starr, Steve Winwood, Willie Dixon, Warren Zevon, Albert Lee, Stevie Nicks, Stephen Stills, Richard Thompson, Randy Newman, Don Henley, Hank B. Marvin, John Mayall, and Joni Mitchell. “There were some magical things, and everybody was so open, because a lot of them knew me or they knew that I’d been in the music world for many years through my husbands,” Boyd allows. “It really was amazing. But while the book originally came out in America and Japan, it never came out in England until 20 years later. I re-edited it and gave it a new title and cover, and it came out in the States for the second time as well. It just shows that the message is timeless – and now there’s a whole other generation of kids that are getting it.”

One factor adding to the book’s credibility is that she interviewed artists from a variety of genres – encompassing classical (Ravi Shankar), jazz (Branford Marsalis), rap (Queen Latifah), and blues (B.B. King) – and tapped some just outside the spotlight (like sideman/producer Bernie Larsen) as well as rock superstars like Peter Gabriel.

Of the changes made to the ’92 version, Boyd says, “I took out stuff about me. Whereas it was originally a Ph.D in psychology, and I would allude to the fact that I never felt creative, I tried to write about these musicians.” Also, 11 of the original interviewees had passed away, so the current edition is dedicated to Harrison’s memory.

Likewise, the quotes run quite a gamut. “Keith Richards was so out of his head, as he often is… but articulate,” Boyd recalled. “Great answers. But years later, Olivia Harrison asked if she could hear the interview with George, and she e-mailed me to say it was so amazing to listen to. There were a couple of stories that he told me that she knew about but couldn’t find.”

Boyd delves into some normally touchy areas, such as the effect drugs and alcohol have on the creative process, but gets extremely candid answers. Eric Clapton, for instance, states, “Drink allowed me to be very self-piteous and opened up that whole kind of sorrowful musical side of myself. Unfortunately, after that, the booze becomes more important than the doors it’s opening, so that’s the trap.”

The book also discusses the unconscious and collective unconscious sides of creativity – what some would regard as the spiritual side of making music. The section that addresses what psychologist Abraham Maslow termed “peak experiences” (the uniting of unconscious experience with conscious while writing, playing an instrument, or singing) is more commonly called being “in the zone.” Sports or music fans or players are familiar with those times when you realize you’re going beyond any abilities you knew you had. In Keith Richards’ words, “With a sense of amazement, you look down at your hands and say, ‘This isn’t me playing’.”

Boyd writes, “The only inkling I had was while watching Eric Clapton. I had this feeling that he’d touched the hem of God’s garment while playing, that through his music he had a direct connection with something very spiritual.”

Jazz flautist Paul Horn told Boyd, “When you improvise, you’re totally in the moment. There’s no time to think about it, it has to transcend the intellect; you just have to ‘be’.”

Interestingly, as common as these peak experiences are to the musicians Boyd interviewed, Clapton states that, after reading her book, he was “amazed at how many people have shared an experience I thought was so rare.”


This article originally appeared in VG‘s March 2015 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.