11 July 2014

Joni

Joni today - at seventy
One of the best albums I ever owned was "Blue" by Joni Mitchell. In fact I owned it three times over - as a vinyl disc, as a tape cassette and as a CD. And I saw Joni in concert when she was twenty five. She was more than the archetypal singer-songwriter for there was a unique and tender poignancy about her lyrics. She was a poet or maybe a poetess.

One of the tracks on "Blue" is a typically oblique song called "Little Green". Here's how the song begins:-

Joni in 1970
Born with the moon in Cancer
Choose her a name she will answer to
Call her green and the winters cannot fade her
Call her green for the children who've made her
Little green, be a gypsy dancer

He went to California
Hearing that everything's warmer there
So you write him a letter and say "Her eyes are blue"
He sends you a poem and she's lost to you
Little green he's a non-conformer

Just a little green
Like the colour when the spring is born
There'll be crocuses to bring to school tomorrow
Just a little green
Like the nights when the Northern lights perform
There'll be icicles and birthday clothes

And sometimes there'll be sorrow

Only yesterday, thanks to a BBC Radio 4 programme, I discovered that this song was about a child that Joni gave up for adoption when she was nineteen and a destitute art student. She discovered she had become pregnant by her Calgary boyfriend. She said, "...he left me three months pregnant in an attic room with no money and winter coming on and only a fireplace for heat. The spindles of the banister were gap-toothed fuel for last winter's occupants.". That little girl - Kelly Dale Anderson - later to be renamed Kilauren Gibb - remained a secret throughout Joni's years of musical success but it seems that in the late nineties she finally re-established contact with this long lost daughter. And when they met in 1997, both women found their lives enriched as if discovering vital missing jigsaw pieces.

Joni Mitchell is seventy now. She has health issues - some are probably psychosomatic - and she is something of a recluse living in the Los Angeles hills in what has been described as a "Joni Mitchell museum". Always a gifted, original visual artist, she is surrounded by her art work into which she now applies most of her creative energy. Intellectually she lives on the edge, a highly strung chain smoker and combative too. It cannot be easy being Joni's daughter. It cannot be easy being the genius who is Joni Mitchell.

17 comments:

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    1. I agree. Not sure how much you may have heard Joni Mitchell previously as you are so young Carol!

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    2. Of course I have heard of Joni Mitchell ~ but I don't have anything of hers in my collection.

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  2. I saw her too. A bit breathy and gaspy for me. Nice arse if I think I recall right.
    Yellow Taxi was okay.

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    1. "Nice arse". I am sure that Joni would be pleased to be remembered in that way. What did you think of Freddy Mercury's arse?

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    2. Wonderful but not as good as Joni's.

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  3. I seem to recall that Joni wrote her songs in a key that other singers could not easily master. It wasn't clear if she did that on purpose so they couldn't sing her songs. I always preferred songs and singers, like her, whose work was a simple voice with a simple background...in the days before everything was electronically enhanced.

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    1. Jan - One of the reasons for her strange guitar tunings was the fact that her left hand was weak because of childhood polio. She became an expert in compensating for this slight disability by creative re-tuning.

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  4. Finding out about Joni in the 80s, when I was first getting into music in a Big Way, I bought Blue and Hejira - still got them - excellent stuff, but I haven't played them for ages. Thanks for reminding me about Joni and her music!

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    1. Brian - At Glastonbury this year that young singer songwriter Ed Sheeran was asked which musical act would be his dream headliner and he said Joni Mitchell.

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  5. I love the "Blue" album, too, Yorky. And as soon as I saw the title of this post of yours, it was that album that came immediately to my mind. I have the CD and it is just wonderful. I must play it later today; I've not played it for a while....thanks for reminding me of it. It's a very haunting album.

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    1. Did you know about the story behind "Little Green" Lee?

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    2. Yes, I did, Yorky...sad story.

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  6. After listening to that I'd better go and explore Spotify.

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  7. Joni at 70 seems to be channeling Lady Macbeth - "Is this a dagger which I see before me???"

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    1. But boy, could that woman sing!

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  8. Saw joni when she toured down here in the early 1980's and also loved her album blue

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