All I Want
My appreciation for Joni Mitchell built gradually over a long period of time--which I think says something about her as an artist. Her music and words were not something I could wrap my mind around all at once. It sometimes took repeated listens to appreciate her sound, her voice, her words and the intensity of openly exposed emotion. I feel ill-equipped to write a piece about Joni Mitchell and her music, so I suppose I am limited to my own experience.
Some Joni Mitchell-related memories (maybe in a bit of a chronological order):
- At my mother's urging, I picked up a copy of Joni Mitchell's Complete Poems and Lyrics in the basement Annex of Barnes & Noble in Burlington. This is a strange start because I did not know any of Joni Mitchell's songs at the time (save for Sarah McLachlan's cover of "Blue" and the remix of "Big Yellow Taxi" that was on the first Friends soundtrack). At the time (I was 17) the only thing I wanted to buy was Jenefer Shute's Life Size (anorexia! deprivation! depression!), which I found for a dollar in a discount bin. In retrospect I like to think that my mom chose the Joni Mitchell as a more positve and enriching influence, but it could just be that I was a self-styled poet at the time.
- Two media-related moments: hearing "Back to the Garden" in an episode of Six Feet Under (Patricia Clarkson's character puts it on a mix tape) and the re-recording of "Both Sides Now" in Love, Actually.
- Clouds, Blue, and Court and Spark and the months leading up to my graduation from McGill. A kind of incubation period (I think I'm quoting Martha Wainwright there). So much black (the unknown bottom of a gaping abyss) and blank indecision ("looking for something, what can it be?"). Joni Mitchell came in as bits of song-lyrics scrawled down the margin in the pages of my notebook.
I want to be strong I want to laugh along
I want to belong to the living
Alive, alive, I want to get up and jive
I want to wreck my stockings in some jukebox dive
from "All I Want" given a page of its own--written in bold and framed with highlighter curlicues.
Certain songs stay with you through every life shift--this is one of mine. To quote Joni: "blue songs are like tattoos." I think what I always liked about this song is that it is not completely blue. There is a sadness there, but also a sense of emerging from it. And that is what I clung to then and go back to now.