Friday, November 8, 2013

"Sweet Bird" Joni Mitchell


"I have always thought of myself as a painter derailed by circumstance."
          -Joni Mitchell, June 2000

At the Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon, Canada, 6.30.2000 (CP PHOTO/Glen Berger)


Yesterday was the 70th birthday of a special friend.  

 THEN:
Joni Mitchell, 1970.  Photograph: Henry Diltz/Corbis












                                                        AND NOW:
Joni Mitchell, 2013.  Rene Macura / AP Images for CP Images














Sure, our relationship has been somewhat lopsided: I've never had her over for dinner or bought her a present, but I don't think she minds.  Unbeknownst to her, Joni Mitchell has held a special place in my heart for many years-- she's celebrated my friendships and first love, eased my pain, inspired my songwriting years ago, and has indelibly painted my life's canvas with the rich colors of her music and poetry.

I first discovered Joni in a clearance bin at Sam Goody's in the White Plains mall.  I knew her by name, but that was all-- I didn't yet connect her with her more famous albums, Blue (1971) or Court and Spark (1974), nor her popular hits "Big Yellow Taxi," "Woodstock," "Help Me," or "Free Man in Paris." Mostly I was attracted to the album title, The Hissing of Summer Lawns (1975), intrigued by the cover artwork, and lured by the price.  (It was my own money after all, and as I recall, my very first album purchase.)

Once I gave it a listen, I was hooked.  Over the years I gradually increased my collection and found that for every mood and occasion, Joni was right there echoing my innermost thoughts and feelings.  For today's little ditty, I am sharing "Sweet Bird"-- track 9 off this amazing album: 


SWEET BIRD

Out on some borderline
Some mark of inbetween
I lay down golden--in time
And woke up vanishing

Sweet bird you are
Briefer than a falling star
All these vain promises on beauty jars
Somewhere with your wings on time
You must be laughing
Behind our eyes
Calendars of our lives
Circled with compromise
Sweet bird of time and change
You must be laughing
Up on your feathers laughing

Golden in time
Cities under the sand
Power, ideals and beauty
Fading in everyone's hands

Give me some time
I feel like I'm losing my mind
Out here on this horizon line
With the earth spinning
And the sky forever rushing
No one knows
They can never get that close
Guesses at most
Guesses based on what each set
     of time and change is touching
Guesses based on what each set
     of time and change is touching
Guesses based on what each set
     of time and change is touching.

(c) 1975 Joni Mitchell.  All rights reserved.



While she no longer has the voice of a songbird (likely due to a half-century of smoking), in my eyes Joni remains just as sweet.  And in her own words, "I learned a woman is never an old woman."  So there.

Gathered Light: The Poetry of Joni Mitchell's Songs, written and edited by Lisa and John Sornberger, is a collection that was published earlier this year.  It highlights forty years of Joni Mitchell's thought-provoking lyrics as well as original contributions by acclaimed writers, long-time friends, and creative collaborators, celebrating her poetic prowess and the powerful impact her words have had on their lives.  I guess I'm not the only one.


http://www.amazon.com/Gathered-Light-Poetry-Mitchells-Songs/dp/192751312X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1383876223&sr=8-1&keywords=Gathered+Light


Speaking of powerful words, today's Poetry Friday host is Diane at Random Noodling.  There's a whole lot more inspiration just around the bend.

20 comments:

  1. I've always liked Joni Mitchell! I didn't realize her poems/songs had been published in a collection. I will definitely look into it for the library. Have a great weekend!

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    1. Before yesterday, I didn't know about the collection either. I may have to buy myself an early Christmas present!

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  2. Thanks for the Joni fix! LOVE her. Didn't know about Gathered Light -- thanks for the heads up. Will definitely have to look for it.

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    1. It's comforting to know there are so many Joni fans out there. Good people, those Joni fans.

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  3. I 've adored Joni Mitchell so so long - and there isn't a single song I could say I love more than the rest. Although The Circle Game does come to mind a bit before all the others.

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    1. I feel similarly, Tara. I have so many favorites too!

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  4. I didn't know about Gathered Light, Michelle, so thank you. I've used a few of her songs with poetry groups, and The Circle Game when I read Tuck Everlasting with a group. Special woman, so much in my life.

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    1. Very cool that you've used her lyrics in your teaching! Sometimes I don't think songwriters get the credit they deserve. Special woman, indeed.

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  5. ah, just what I needed today - a little Joni! Thanks Michelle! and glad to know about that collection as well! Her lyrics are poems, after all; they should be in a collection.

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    1. Some Joni each day keeps the blues away... unless of course you're listening to BLUE. Maybe we'll save that album for a rainy day.

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  6. Love the photo of her from 2013 -- she has aged wonderfully well!

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    1. Yes, she has. I spent a long time sifting through photos, but I thought those two photos complemented each other well, linked by that unmistakable smile.

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  7. Some song lyrics look ridiculous when you write them down but this is a beautiful poem.

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    1. Yes, good stuff. I used to hang on some of her phrases like a lifeline.

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  8. Such a voice, such a talent! Thanks for sharing Joni with us today (and bringing back memories... :0) ) Glad to know about the book, and I enjoyed these pictures you've shared here, too.

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    1. I'm glad I could bring back some good memories for you, Robyn. Music works well for that, doesn't it?

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  9. I was in 8th grade. I sat in our living room with Joni's first album, Song to a Seagull and was astonished. Over and over I was astonished until I'd eaten the whole album, word by word, phrase by incredible poetic phrase. Joni taught me--and a whole generation--how words can trapeze, somersault and soothe. Thank you, Michelle--wonderful to share our love of this friend.

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    1. Sounds like we had similar Joni "awakenings." Thanks so much for sharing your story with me, April. :)

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  10. James Taylor is the same kind of friend to me!

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    1. Oh yes, he would definitely fall into that same category! My first concert in the early 80s was the No Nukes concert at Shea Stadium with James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt, and Jackson Browne. :)

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