Friday, July 19, 2013

ALBUM REVIEW: The Candid Stories Behind Joni Mitchell's "Blue", Part 3

by Garrett Sawyer

Here as I conclude the journey through the hills and valleys of Joni Mitchell's "Blue" we visit an old collapsed marriage and a doomed current love affair.

This Flight Tonight

This is the other song that Mitchell wrote for James Taylor. Taylor was filming "Two Lane Blacktop" in Tecumcari, New Mexico and Mitchell flew to be with him.

We don't like to think of our heroes and idols as having faults and dark sides but, like it or not, they do. Taylor had his ... and I'm not referring to his heroin addiction.

I'm speaking of the fact that Joni confided to those close to her that he was always judging her harshly, that his Dr. Jekyll was matched by a Mr. Hyde full of criticism.

The mixed feelings of love and hurt came out in this song where she's just visited her lover but regrets leaving him almost the moment the plane takes off. (Sample lyric: "You got the touch so gentle and sweet but you've got that look so critical. Now I can't talk to you baby. I get so weak").


Mitchell knew her own faults as well and she lists them in candid detail here. Among other things she made her "baby" cry, hard to handle, selfish, sad.

Not only that but she lost the best "baby" she ever had by making him say goodbye. (Sample lyric: "I wish I had a river so long. I would teach my feet to fly. Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on.)

A Case Of You

This song is proof that Joni Mitchell read Shakespeare.

The line "I am as constant as a Northern star" is directly lifted from Julius Caeser, III, 1: "But I am constant as the northern star, of whose true-fixed and resting quality there is no fellow in the firmament" where Caeser arrogantly refuses to restore the citizenship of a banished citizen.

Again, the bittersweet nature of her relationship with her lover is in full view, this time inspired (in part) by Leonard Cohen.

The "case" of the title is a cute little pun referring simultaneously to the course of an illness and to a quantity of wine bottles, that she could drink a "case" of her lover and still be standing. (Sample lyric: "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).

The Last Time I Saw Richard

The closing song on "Blue" possibly refers to her short-lived marriage to her first husband Chuck Mitchell. She acknowledged later that they had married for all the wrong reasons. They were also virtually penniless.

Shortly after they married Chuck, who knew about the baby Joni had given up for adoption only a month earlier, strongly suggested he didn't want to raise another man's child, adding to the distance between them.

Then one night, after a particularly volatile fight that ended with Chuck acknowledging he turned the future star over his knee and spanked her, Joni decided she'd had enough and enlisted a perfect stranger she met at a poker game to help her move half of their possessions out of their apartment.

When he found out Chuck changed the locks. Next stop for Joni: New York. (Sample lyric: "Only a dark cocoon before I get my gorgeous wings and fly away, only a phase, these dark cafe days").

As I've lamented on many an occasion, it's regrettable that such unpleasant memories are often translated into such outstanding art. The good news was that Joni Mitchell's "Blue" was as exquisite as its subject matter was painful.

If you like Joni Mitchell's "Blue" then you'll like a song inspired by the story of a young soldier who returned from Iraq. For a limited time only you can download that song for FREE by clicking HERE.

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