My Women’s Rushmore – Folk Royalty That is Joni Mitchell

I was a late bloomer. Musically speaking, that is.  When it comes to appreciating Joni Mitchell, to be more precise.  There was a time when I thought her singing was closer to caterwauling.  I know, I know. What the hell am I talking about?  What can I say?  I knew no better. Or maybe, just maybe, I can say that my taste in music has evolved over time and that which I could not fully appreciate then, my life’s experience has enabled me to, now.  Whatever it was, Joni’s place in my musical roster is firmly established.

My second-favourite movie is “Love, Actually”.  One of the characters, Karen, played by Emma Thompson, loves Joni. To her husband’s (Alan Rickman) disdainful comment: “I can’t believe you still listen to Joni Mitchel”, Karen responds:  “I love her, and true love lasts a life time.  Joni Mitchell is the one who taught your cold English wife how to love.”  I would say my love for Joni started just before this movie came out in 2003.

The radio station I listen to (yes, I still listen to the radio), CBC Music, has a little thing every weekday morning called “Under the Covers”, which, as the title implies, means they play a cover of a song.  Just this past week (I love serendipity, don’t you?) The Joni Mitchell song “Circle Game” was being covered by Buffy St. Marie. That was fine and dandy but what the DJ, Saroja Coelho shared is what grabbed my attention.  Until Joni saw Buffy in concert in 1964, she was singing other people’s songs.  Buffy taught her that women can write songs, too.  Intelligent songs. Songs that mean something.  That very day, she wrote her first song, “Day After Day” and was off and running.  Joni gave a tape of her songs to Buffy who carried it around with her on tour, playing it for everyone.  As Buffy says:

“Most of the people I played Joni’s tape for – friends and musicians – loved her music, but not the business boys. They were into Peter, Paul & Mary vanilla folk songs, and Joni and I were both originals… and Canadian (not so cool at the time). I played her tape for Joel Dean, my agent at Chartoff-Winkler Agency, and got a “no thanks”. But a younger guy in the same agency agreed to go see Joni play at a Greenwich Village coffee house. That was Elliot Roberts. He and Joni built a great career together and I’ve always loved him for that.”

Joni Mitchell has had her share of accolades:  nine Grammy awards, inducted in the Juno Hall of Fame (Canadian Music) and in 1997 she became the first Canadian woman named to the US Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She also received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002 – the first Canadian to earn this recognition. Not too shabby, I say.

And she’s been an influence to the likes of Bob Dylan, Suzanne Vega, Alanis Morissette,  and Prince. I mean come on, Prince? Doing a cover?  “Drink a Case of You” is a lovely version by him.

My second favourite song of hers is her later version of “Both Sides Now”.  Her voice is deeper and richer (smoke-altered) and she brings it down a notch – gives me goosebumps.  For those of you who prefer the original, you can click here.  For the others, here you go.

All of Joni’s songs tell a story.  Her album “Blue” was so personal that Kris Kristofferson, when she played it for him, said:   “God, Joan, save something of yourself.” He might have had a point because, as she said, while recording this album, they had to lock the doors to the studio because she was in a state of mind that today would be called a mental breakdown.

 “It begins with a sense of isolation and of not knowing anything, which is accompanied by a tremendous panic. Then clairvoyant qualities begin to come in, and you and the world become transparent, so if you’re approached by a person, all their secrets are not closeted.”

When one creates such an album, it cannot help but become a classic and, in this case is called a “bastion of artistic expression”.

None of Joni’s music is meaningless. She mixes her voice (which has shifted from mezzo-soprano to contralto over time) with her superb guitar or piano playing to create music that ranges from folk to jazz to pop to rock to classical. Her songs reflect social and environmental ideals as well as her feelings about romance, confusion, disillusionment, and joy.

And, since Christmas is next week (what?), I had to bring in Joni last, because my favourite song of hers is sort of a Christmas one, which just so happens to belong on that wonderful album that is Blue

Joni Mitchell definitely deserves her place on MY Rushmore.

Do please go visit Marc over at Sorryless to see who he put as his fourth member of HIS Rushmore.  I know one thing for sure. You won’t come away untouched by his beautiful writing.

 

 

 

 

Woodstock For Real – Wait, What?

This is the way to hear music, I think, surrounded by rolling hills and farmlands, under a big sky.

– Michael Lang (Co-creator of the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival)

As promised… here’s the next installment of our Woodstock Wander in Mid-July.  How can it be almost mid-August already?

Wednesday morning was THE day.  We were finally going to visit the site of THE Rock Concert of all time!  To say we were excited, is to put mildly.  Two Fifty-somethings all a-giggle, I tell ya…  By now we have watched countless videos about Woodstock, totally immersed ourselves into the whole experience as much as two born-too late-to-have-been-there peeps could be. (And if we had been there, would have been too young to remember and would have had beyond-cool (or crazy) parents… Just sayin’).  One hour, some 60-ish miles away.  I swear, we are still trying to wrap our heads around a Woodstock that never took place in Woodstock.  I think B’s wonderful intro post to our adventure says it best here.

But first, we needed sustenance.  I had brought my crêpe mix so of course I had to make those.  But then, I pimped ’em up.  We needed to fuel up, after all!  A little bacon, some Swiss cheese and a fried egg on top was sure to do the trick – add to that some Québec maple syrup and we had ourselves a breakfast of champions…

No matter how many videos we had watched – and we watched many there (not to mention tons more since our return), we were still amazed to drive through the winding country roads towards Bethel.  We tried to imagine all those thousands of cars simply left willy-nilly to block the road for three, almost four, days.  Insane.  Did you know that 37 rental cars were lost?  Thirty-seven!!  Just one of those little snippets of information discovered…

We finally get to our destination…

… and there are huge, I mean HUGE parking lots… now 😉  We chose a shady area to park the car and made our way to the main building.  How did I manage to NOT take a picture of the outside?  I dunno… So I have nabbed the one on the site…

I don’t know how to explain the myriad emotions this place evoked.  Maybe it was just us.  But I don’t think so.  Maybe we had created an expectation by reading about it, seeing movies, documentaries, listening to the music.  While neither one of us had this destination at the top of our bucket lists, we were still thrilled and awed that our desire to meet had directed us to this place.  Just how did the Universe sneakily direct us here?  Our love of music, culture and history might have had something to do with it.  Whatever it was that did bring us here, we felt we were on hallowed ground.  Or we gave it that descriptive.

Or maybe, just maybe, we each have a little Hippie in our Hearts.

We purchased our tickets and entered, looking forward to – we had no idea what!

“We were ready to rock out and we waited and waited and finally it was our turn … there were a half million people asleep. These people were out. It was sort of like a painting of a Dante scene, just bodies from hell, all intertwined and asleep, covered with mud.

And this is the moment I will never forget as long as I live: A quarter mile away in the darkness, on the other edge of this bowl, there was some guy flicking his Bic, and in the night I hear, ‘Don’t worry about it, John. We’re with you.’ I played the rest of the show for that guy.

—John Fogerty recalling Creedence Clearwater Revival’s 3:30 am start time at Woodstock”

There were so many things to see, notes to read, we could have stayed in there for hours on end.

It’s funny… I didn’t take the picture of the sign explaining the fence but felt this other sign said it all.  This concert was going to be way bigger than anyone could have anticipated (Imagine how parties have gotten out of hand with the advent of Facebook?  Could you even imagine?)  People were not going to let some fence stop them from getting in…  Might as well give in.  And they did!  In the name of peace.  And debt.

So many details, so many stories, so many things to see!

There is a small theatre within the museum that shows a 20-minute movie about the event.  So, of course, we watched it!

So many acts played in those three days, that spilled into part of the fourth.  Sha Na Na?  Really?  John B. Sebastian wasn’t even scheduled to play.  He was a “filler” and, according to Ira Brooker from “A Talent for Idleness” Sebastian was the ultimate hippie.  I dig, I dig.  And, I didn’t know him.  And now I do.

Time to go outside and see just where this party took place.

The grounds around the museum are beautiful and a stroll was in order.

Though he never made a sound, I could sense B was itching to get to the site itself and I quickly snapped a couple more pics before joining him.

I don’t know why I never realised how much of a hill it was!  You see the pictures and there are masses of people but somehow, I just never focused on the terrain itself.  This sign gives you such a perspective of the size when you are in front of the field.  I purposefully left just a smidge of said sign in the second pic showing the road (we felt it would be disrespectful to walk on the grass itself – at that time, anyway!) we took to get down to the bottom to show you a portion of it.

As we made our way down, we could see, right in the middle of the field, a huge Peace sign cut into the grass (like a crop circle 😉 )  Too bad they have been suffering from lack of rain because it is a tad difficult to see, no matter how much I enhanced it.

We, of course, went to the official memorial monument (which bizarrely is NOT where the stage was…)

The stage is left of and further down from the marker when looking up the hill.  It was confusing to us at first but then I could see the demarcation of the sort of square where the stage was.

Standing on the “stage”, looking up I could not imagine 500,000 people.  I’m sure the 600 acres Max Yasgur rented out spilled out beyond… Plus, I do not have a wide lens… but still.  It takes your breath away.

I’m a farmer. I don’t know how to speak to twenty people at one time, let alone a crowd like this. But I think you people have proven something to the world–not only to the Town of Bethel, or Sullivan County, or New York State; you’ve proven something to the world. This is the largest group of people ever assembled in one place. We have had no idea that there would be this size group, and because of that, you’ve had quite a few inconveniences as far as water, food, and so forth. Your producers have done a mammoth job to see that you’re taken care of… they’d enjoy a vote of thanks. But above that, the important thing that you’ve proven to the world is that a half a million kids–and I call you kids because I have children that are older than you–a half million young people can get together and have three days of fun and music and have nothing but fun and music, and I God Bless You for it!

— addressing the crowd at Woodstock on August 17, 1969
Peace and Love…

We made our way back to the car, our souvenirs in hand (of course I got a Tye-died shirt) with new memories created and oh-so happy we had made the trek.  We may have missed out on actually being part of the whole Woodstock experience 49 years earlier, but walking those grounds sure brought us closer to the feeling that we would have fit right in.

Joni Mitchell didn’t make it either, but all say she captured the feeling exactly.  I was torn between the video where Joni explains why she wasn’t there – with a little catch in her voice – or the one she did right after the concert… So I put both!

Part 1

Part 2

I Wish I Had A River….

Yessiree!  Another cold one out there folks and there is no sign of it letting up for a good week at least so we might as well deal with it as best we can and have fun while doing so.  To prove that point, here’s my neighbour, Aalia Adam, a reporter for Global News who decided to goof around with her cameraman!

Of course, I’m talking to you Northerners from Canada and North-Eastern from the States.  Today was my coldest one yet with Zeke -23°C (-9°F) with a wind chill of -31°C (-24°F).  See, he doesn’t give a rat’s ass if I have the chance of freezing my face off.  He’s got a really good fur coat and well, loves to play in the snow.  So really, what am I waiting for?  If Aalia can play with bubbles, I can play with Zeke!

Soooo after a nice warm breakfast of oatmeal with strawberries and bananas, I kissed hubby good-bye and set off for Parc de Brouages, discovered by accident on a walk a while ago.  It’s a good 2 km or so (totally guessing but probably even further) from home and Zeke was a pain in the ass, pulling on the leash.  He knows there is always going to be an off-leash period and till we get there he drives me nuts.

We finally make it there and it’s way more than I expect!  I knew it wasn’t a very big woods and I had noticed that there were trails but there is no way I was expecting a stream (too small to call it a river, I would think!) and a couple of bridges…  And this right behind an elementary school.  I pity the teachers and recess monitors!  There must surely be cases of children going outside the boundaries!

As it has been so cold, the snow is a lot more solid and there are less chances of sinking.  We walk along (or in Zeke’s case, bound from one section to another and back and forth….)

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As I was walking along, I just couldn’t help but hum my favourite Joni Mitchell tune, The River (yes, I know, it’s a Christmas tune but still, it seemed to apply here….)

We made our way back, coming across the same park as the previous day and I lay down in the snow, trying to get Zeke to be a good subject, and this is the best I could do!

I promise, I will lay off the Zeke and walking posts!  Can’t have my readers think I’m one-dimensional, eh?