She’s been called one of the single most influential female songwriters in history and its clear the artistry and music of JONi MiTCHELL has influenced people across the globe ever since beginning her career in early 1960’s. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve heard artists spout off about how they remember the first time they knew they wanted to make music – how it often had something to do with picking up JONi’s 1971 album BLUE. From PRiNCE and MADONNA to LED ZEPPLiN and STEViE NiCKS, JONi is clearly an artist who had an enormous power on people, from a lyrical point of view.
Myself included. I remember picking up BLUE at a garage sale one summer and playing it repeatedly on a turn-table alone in my room. Both my bedroom and BLUE were my sanctuary. I’m certain this was a common occurrence for many teens who listened to JONi. There was so much to love out of that one album. The famous, murky portrait the folk singer on the cover of her fourth album was captured by TiM CONSiDiNE, a photographer who took pictures of many other performers of the era, including MAMA CASS and JOAN BAEZ. I believe I stared at that cover for hours on end. Why? It intrigued me. I was mesmerized that a musician, songwriter and painter such as JONi, could have started in a Prairie province of Canada yet achieved such success. Hair blowing in the wind and wearing her caftan dresses, JONi defined that late-sixties Laurel Canyon ‘look’ that for a stifled and ugly small-town kid meant the world. It meant that I too could picture leaving it all behind and instead get up on the stages of some dark coffee house, and pour my own heart out in song. It meant that I could possibly escape the cold bitter Prairie winters someday – and possibly see the world with my own flowing hair and caftan dresses. Those were the kind of escapism s I needed and JONi’S BLUE set the perfect stage for my teenage dreams.
The confessional-style of songwriting JONi exhibited on BLUE allowed listeners to focus on MiTCHELL’s voice and emotions. BLUE offers a balance of simplistic melodies set to rhythmic acoustics; others to her rolling piano accompaniment. Either way she beautifully offers her depressed assessments of the world around her as counterpoint to exuberant expressions of romantic love. Take ALL i WANT, BLUE’s introduction to JONi’s world:
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 juke box dive
Do you want – do you want – do you want to dance with me baby
Do you want to take a chance
On maybe finding some sweet romance with me baby
Well, come on
Being only 15 or so at the time, I had NO idea what it was like to be strong, or to laugh along, let alone belong to the living. I felt very much alone, which is again many a teenager’s dilemma. I had no idea but I did know that I DiD want to FEEL alive and experience the chance of sweet romance. This is how a kid can listen to a record over and over; when you find yourself alone like many do, you often search for a Paradise and fortunately for me I had PARADiSE ROAD with BLUE.
The album itself was both a critical and commercial success, peaking in the top 20 in the Billboard Album Charts in September and also hitting the British Top 3 in 1971.
For more on JONi MiTCHELL check out : http://jonimitchell.com/