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Archive for the ‘Joni Mitchell’ Category

“A painter first, and a musician second.”  This is how Joni has described herself, but what a musician!  SheJoni Mitchell 2 has also said that her music  was meant at first to pay her way through art school and to buy cigarettes.  Her voice has lowered over the years, possibly from smoking, although she might say it was from age.  Her incredible vocal range has narrowed, but she still dazzles in torch singing and jazz.

My first awareness of Joni’s music was in 1971 while lobster fishing as a teenager with my father.  That summer, the coolest song that ever came over that boring old AM radio station (I think Dad kept it on only so he wouldn’t miss Paul Harvey News) began with the lyrics, “The wind is in from Africa; last night I couldn’t sleep” and it turned out to be Joni’s song “Carey”.  I re-discovered it a few years ago with her “Blue” CD, and recently I’ve burned a copy and listen in the car.  It’s new every time I hear it.

Joni Mitchell - olderLobstering on my own now, I’ve since made a fan out of at least one crew member, a friend from Switzerland—there was a folk program that used to come on every week (different radio station, and sadly no more Paul Harvey) and the host would open each time with a Joni Mitchell song.  I’d shove the poor guy out of my way and scramble for the volume knob and crank it up.  He got the hint and bought me her “Travelogue” CD for Christmas, just released that year and featuring her artwork and music about the September 11 tragedy.

Joni Mitchell painting - window

Self-portrait

Joni’s  lyrics really grab my attention.  She writes about life—joys and sorrows, broken relationships, and having fun (“Come on down to the Mermaid Café and I will buy you a bottle of wine, and we’ll laugh and toast to nothing and smash our empty glasses down”).  Growing up conservative, the smashing of wine glasses didn’t make sense, but by now I can appreciate the act in the song at least (still, who is supposed to clean that up?).  Like good literature, she says more with fewer words, painting a picture in the mind (if not on canvas), whether writing about giving her baby up for adoption (“Little Green”) or breaking up with a man, possibly Leonard Cohen (“Oh, you’re in my blood like holy wine; you taste so bitter and so sweet.  Oh, I could drink a case of you darling, and I would still be on my feet”), or worrying about a friend mixed up in the occult (“I think of rain, I think of roses blue; I think of Rose, my heart begins to tremble, to see the place she’s lately gotten to, gotten to, gotten to”).

I’m less conservative now, or perhaps more so; and I see grace in more places than I used to because God’s in charge of it and he’s not as stingy as we are.  Joni’s music points me to the joy and caring and truth that only comes from grace, whether she is aware of it or not.  Oh, there are other musicians that do that for me too, some of Joni Mitchell - at easelthem unfit to mention (some might think) in a conversation about grace; but this is Joni’s three-score and ten and I thank God she’s made it this far.

The video was recorded in 1970.  She describes her role in Woodstock the year before:  she didn’t make it there,  but wrote this song that Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young made famous.

  

 

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Time for a birthday party now that the election foolishness is over.

Joni Mitchell sings “Raised on Robbery” in this on-stage performance, probably about 1979.

The song was released on her Court and Spark album in 1974.

Happy birthday, Joni!  Ageless and timeless.  Come and sing at the Islesford Neighborhood House sometime.  I’ll save out some lobsters.

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No, not my wife’s birthday, but I’ve forgotten that before too. 

Today is Joni Mitchell’s special day.  Who knows how many she’s had of them, and who really cares?   

I’ve invited her to sing for us an old favorite, Big Yellow Taxi, live on stage 1970.  For an acoustic version of Carey  from last year’s birthday (and a self-portrait with feline friend), click here.

And here’s another self-portrait from Joni’s Dreamland album, 2004.  She’s holding the flowers I picked for her. 

 

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self-portrait from Both Sides Now

In the “any excuse for Joni Mitchell” category, Canada Day will do nicely.  

Here are the lyrics to “A Case of You” followed by a black-and-white slide show of my favorite Canadian singing this classic from her “Blue” album.

It’s not clear whom she wrote this song about, who it was that got into her blood like holy wine.  Graham Nash?  Leonard Cohen?

O Joni;  so bitter and so sweet. 

A Case of You

by Joni Mitchell

Just before our love got lost you said
“I am as constant as a northern star”
And I said “Constantly in the darkness
Where’s that at?
If you want me I’ll be in the bar”

On the back of a cartoon coaster
In the blue TV screen light
I drew a map of Canada
Oh Canada
With your face sketched on it twice
Oh you’re in my blood like holy wine
You taste so bitter and so sweet

Oh I could drink a case of you darling
Still I’d be on my feet
oh I would still be on my feet

Oh I am a lonely painter
I live in a box of paints
I’m frightened by the devil
And I’m drawn to those ones that ain’t afraid

I remember that time you told me you said
“Love is touching souls”
Surely you touched mine
‘Cause part of you pours out of me
In these lines from time to time
Oh, you’re in my blood like holy wine
You taste so bitter and so sweet

Oh I could drink a case of you darling
And I would still be on my feet
I would still be on my feet

I met a woman
She had a mouth like yours
She knew your life
She knew your devils and your deeds
And she said
“Go to him, stay with him if you can
But be prepared to bleed”

Oh but you are in my blood
You’re my holy wine
You’re so bitter, bitter and so sweet

Oh, I could drink a case of you darling
Still I’d be on my feet
I would still be on my feet

© 1970; Joni Mitchell 

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If you’ve had enough of the commercialism already, and with Christmas yet a week away, be assured that you’re not the only one.  Try to keep your cool.  Keep it simple.  Sing traditional carols with family and friends.  Eat some chocolate, pour whipped cream with cinnamon into your fair-trade coffee, and read the nativity stories in Matthew and Luke.  In short, insist upon your sanity.

And stay away from the malls. 

To further our “any excuse to play Joni Mitchell” commitment, her song “River” flows along every year at this time to help put Christmas into perspective for those of us who really do have sensitive antennae against the desecration of the holiday.

I’ll include this post in the categories of “poetry” and “literature” too.  I often point out, when talking about writing in a workshop or in conversation, that Joni demonstrates the proverb “Show, don’t tell,” when describing her feelings.  Instead of saying, “I get depressed around the holidays,” she paints a picture:

It’s comin’ on Christmas,

They’re cuttin’ down trees.

They’re puttin’ up reindeer,

Singin’ songs of Joy and Peace.

Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on.”

Me and Joni are gonna lace up our spiritual skates.  Join us!  Boycott the frenzy, overturn the tables in the Temple and try to save Christmas for yourself before it’s too late.  Others may follow.

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Well, really, we never need an excuse to hear Joni.  But today is her birthday and this is as good as any.  How old?  Not sayin’.  She’s timeless.    

So, join the party and “Come on down to the Mermaid Café and I will buy you a bottle of wine; And we’ll laugh and toast to nothing and smash our empty glasses down.”

Here is an acoustic performance of “Carey” from 1983.  Simple and uncluttered, just as she might sing if she came here to the Neighborhood House.

One can dream.

To the right: a self-portrait from her “Taming the Tiger” album.

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My wife thinks Johnny Cash can’t sing.

She’s wrong of course; but it don’t matter:  Joni Mitchell can.

Joni was a guest on The Johnny Cash Show in 1969 and sang “The Long Black Veil” with The Man in Black himself.  The song is mildly spooky; it’s about lovers who meet in secret, on cold dark nights in the graveyard.  She’s alive; he’s dead.  He was hanged for a crime he didn’t commit; and she visits his grave not only in grief but in guilt, because their affair led to her lover’s hanging. 

Don’t be scared.

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