Book Reviews

Living Like A Runaway: A Memoir (Dey Street Books)

living like a runaway

Living Like A Runaway: A Memoir
Lita Ford
Dey Street Books

Lita Ford’s career as a musician began when Kim Fowley approached her to participate in his visionary new group of “a rock and roll band of hard rock jailbait.”  Though raised in a traditional household, her parents were supportive of their teenage daughter, and she passed his audition. That band, The Runaways, would indeed be successful in the ways that Fowley envisioned. The band was short-lived, though,but such was its influence that Lita Ford’s roots never go unmentioned. Livin’ Like A Runaway, her autobiography, captures just how “runaway” her life has been.

Ford broke the mould of heavy metal; she was the first woman to break as a heavy metal artist, thanks to her natural beauty and her superior guitar playing. But this was no novelty; she had a lifestyle that mirrored the hard-living reputation of the boys of the metal scene. It’s that lifestyle that dominates the majority of Ford’s tale—at times, it’s a litany of sexual escapades, drug-related antics, all while being both a sex symbol and a feminism-minded positive force. Thus, she has no hesitation in talking about her sexual conquests in a frank, unapologetic, and often funny manner. After all, the “boys” get away with it all the time, why can’t a rock and roll woman do the same?

But there’s a painful side to the lifestyle, and the fun times are often shadowed by darker times ahead. From internal fighting, financial and managerial hassles, and the back-stabbing nature of the music industry, the horror stories are there as well. The Runaways would end with an unspoken animosity, an alienation between her and Joan Jett proving to be particularly painful to her. One feels positively sad when, in the early 1990s, she abruptly ends her career, thanks to a handful of professional disappointments and the changing musical landscape. 

That retirement wasn’t necessarily by choice; it was due in large part to her husband—who is never mentioned by name in Living Like A Runaway—who chose to live a vagabond lifestyle. Ford initially went along with, as she had tired of the music business, and after the death of her parents—both of whom were strong forces for good in her life, often spoken of quite lovingly throughout the book—she seemed to be rudderless, and was ready to get away from it all. It would turn into a blessing, though, with the birth of her two sons, and raising her children gave her a happiness among the ever-growing social isolation of her husband, who would move the family to an uninhabited Caribbean isle, far removed from society.

It got worse. We’re not privy to what exactly happened in the marriage—a disclaimer inserted into the text informs the reader that she would not talk about what went on—but one can figure that psychological abuse is the order of the day. It would cumulate in her husband turning her two sons against her, making them not want to see her or contact her at all. Tears are hard to hold back when one reads of the pain she was and is going through at the loss of her sons. Even with the extremely vague details, one gets the picture of a woman who has lived through a decade and a half of pure emotional hell.

But even with the sadness and the bad times detailed in Living Like A Runaway, one never gets the sense of Lita Ford as being anything less than a fighter—in her case, perseverance and resilience isn’t an option, it’s a way of life

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