November 15, 2019

Mountain’s Corky Laing On His New Book ‘Letters To Sarah’

Corky Laing first came into international prominence as one-third of the band Mountain. Considered forefathers to heavy metal, “Mississippi Queen” is just one of the timeless Mountain anthems that classic rock radio continues to embrace in the 21st century. After leaving Mountain in the early 1970s, Laing continued to work with a “who’s who” of rock greats including John Lennon, Bo Diddley, Meat Loaf, Ian Hunter and The Velvet Underground’s John Cale.

Fast-forwarding to 2019, Laing – a French-Canadian Jew who calls Long Island, New York his home these days – has an excellent new book, “Letters To Sarah,” in stores. “Letters To Sarah” is unique, not just because of who penned it, but that it is literally a collection of letters which Laing had written over the years to his mother Sarah. He had no idea that his mother had kept these letters.

Book aside, Laing still keeps busy as a musician. He continues to gig alongside Mountain bandmate Leslie West on occasion, play with his band, and even premiered a rock opera (“Playing God — The Rock Opera”) with Finnish bioethics professors Tuija Takala and Matti Häyry a few years back. He also plans on doing some vinyl releases soon.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Corky Laing himself by phone, and below is an exclusive excerpt from that chat, while the full interview will be broadcast via a later edition of the Paltrocast With Darren Paltrowitz podcast.

Jewish Journal: Before this book was realized, I’ve read that you needed to be talked into doing such a personal project. I’m curious how long that took to talk you into it. Was it months or was it years?

Corky Laing: Four years… At that point, I stored on all my things at my mother’s and she passed away… Tuija [Takala] happened to be messing around, looking around, she found a box of letters. So that was the beginning of her saying, “Well, wait a second, this is like a timeline.” Because it’s 30 years of letters, which by the way that I did not know my mother would save them, you know? I wrote her all those nights and I didn’t know she was saving them.

She says, “Wait a second, we have an idea here. This could be instead of doing a typical rock n’ roll memoir where you’re snorting ants off the street with Ozzy Osbourne”… She’s a writer. She’s a professor. She has a doctorate. So she wanted to do something proper with the approach of the book.

JJ: It’s interesting to me that this is actually somebody else who collected your stuff. Now I’m curious if you, as a world-traveling person for pretty much 50 years if you yourself collect a lot or you’re more of a minimalist because you’re used to having to pack up and keep moving.

CL: I mean we get travel a lot, and in terms of paraphernalia and posters and all of that, I kept that… I wasn’t a pack-rat, but I did accumulate things. Leslie West said, “Where’s your museum?” I would pull out stuff that he couldn’t believe… I have stuff that I liked and I appreciated all the moments… I’ve got stones from the Berlin Wall. I save stuff like that. Just trying to save money didn’t work too well. (laughs)

More on Corky Laing can be found online.