Joni, “Amelia” and me

Joni Mitchell Pic: Paul C Babin

Joni Mitchell
Pic: Paul C Babin

What one song celebrates Joni Mitchell’s genius?

At her 75th birthday party this week, it was – inevitably perhaps – “Big Yellow Taxi“, which closed out the night.

For me, it could be “A Case Of You”, “Woodstock”, “River”, “Don’t Interrupt The Sorrow” or “The Circle Game” (though I’d have to favor Tom Rush’s cover of the last song). In fact, it could any song from her albums “Blue”, “The Hissing Of Summer Lawns” or “Hejira”.

But there’s one Mitchell composition I continually return to, perhaps because its lyrics of travel and uncertainty and learned life experience resonate deeply with me, as does its wistful melody.

The song is “Amelia” (which I’ve written about previously). Lyrically, it’s an odd combination of travelogue, tribute and existential questioning, which contains one of my favorite lines in popular song:

People will tell you where they’ve gone
They’ll tell you where to go
But till you get there yourself you never really know

Musically, it’s in the “Joni tuning” of CGCEGC, with chord slides which create a yearning, searching feeling. But trying to dissect the song weakens the experience of listening to its full six minutes, and immersing oneself in its feelings of desire and disconnection, commitment and hope.

Diane Krall sang it at the birthday party at L.A.’s Music Center this week, and I’ve no doubt she made a fine job of it. But there’s nothing like the original. Thanks Joni.

_____

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