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Joni Mitchell: Blue moves

by Hans Ebert


Us outwardly strong men who want to be seen as being in control always get weak in the knees when especially in the presence of independent creative women.

At least when it comes to myself, they’re mainly and have almost always been those game changers involved in some aspect of music and who wear their hearts on their sleeves backed with the courage of their convictions.

I was reminded of this reading David Crosby’s memories about his relationship with Joni Mitchell and how their breakup made him cry. He wasn’t the only only one. So apparently did Jackson Browne, James Taylor and Graham Nash when her journey with them had reached that final destination.

It’s always been a journey with her- a musical Joni Journey. And no matter when or where you settle down with this record- “Blue”- that came out in 1971, there’s always something new to take away from it.

This most definitely is not a work of art of someone who might be glibly described as a feminist. It’s probably the most feminine feminist piece of music there is and about opening up and showing her scars plus the resilience to keep moving even if it means breaking away from what was love and which still might be.

As a pretty selfish and often self centred man, the songs on “Blue” are always a wake up call with a gentle but purposeful slap in the face. It hurts, but the big hurt is happening in the heart and head.

It was recently the 50th Anniversary of the release of her “Blue” record and that album cover is firmly etched in my head.

It was a simple photograph of the lady with the high cheekbones and a record that remains one long beautifully painful love song.

“Blue” remains relevant because love in all its many manifestations is relevant. It’s what drives many of us- that need for romance and to be or to feel in love.

Marriage doesn’t come into it. One guesses it’s about the thrill of the chase and never having to be caught. In the end, it’s about embracing one’s freedom and using the time to discover the creativity in your life. It is for me, anyway.

This Joni Mitchell record was a lesson in understanding and respecting women and realising to never take anyone you’re with for granted.

How that there are two people in every relationship and when a third is allowed in for no matter how short a time, trust walks out the door along with everything else.

“Blue” is a flag bearer for the independence of women in the game of love and how much control they have as to whether they should stay or go without first working out options and ensuring that there are financial safety nets in place before they do. That’s just manipulation or waiting for something better to come along.

Talking about her breaking up with him, Graham Nash mentions receiving a telegram from his longtime lover. She mentioned how when one squeezes sand in their hand, it runs through one’s fingers. Nash understood what Joni Mitchell was saying and that was it.

Musically, this fourth album saw the artist starting to move towards the jazz that appeared on her “Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter”, my magnificent obsession with “Hejira” and her working with the brilliant bass guitarist Jaco Pastorious.

In many ways, like Brian Wilson’s “Pet Sounds”, “Blue” was Joni Mitchell working with a clean slate and swimming against the tide of predictability. Brian Wilson did the same, but got tipped over in the process.

As for Joni Mitchell, on “Blue”, she brings in her dulcimer, experiments with her guitar tuning and writes melodies that follow her song stories.

It’s an incredible journey that forces you to examine yourself and come face to face with truth and honesty.

“Blue” is an extraordinary record from an extraordinary woman who happens to be an artist who happens to be a musician.

Joni Mitchell occupies a rarefied space in my life.

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