Sir Barken Hyena writes:
In the way of musical influences on le Barken, Joni Mitchell certainly looms large. At first, this seems a surprise. Why would a space and drug music addict like me have a good word for this weepy, introspective and very female chick singer-songwriter? Well, not all is as it appears.
Sure, she’s often lumped in with the likes of Carly Simon and Carole King, but that’s just pop music’s squinty-eyed vision. She’s nothing of the sort, and bears little resemblance to those lightweight talents, when properly understood. What we have here is a talent on the order of Miles or Picasso in their realms. I chose those two references carefully: for both exhibited the ability to reinvent themselves and stay relevant long past their sell-by dates, and yet retain their essence.
And so with Mitchell: from her debut as hippy flower child she never held back from her vision, whatever the commercial and artistic risks. At the height of her success and popularity she chucked it all by pursuing her own vision of a jazz-pop music revival. This earned the censure of Dave Marsh of Rolling Stone, who today needs an attribution, while Mitchell doesn’t.
The word that most comes to mind with Mitchell is “inventive,” followed by “restless”. Surely her future as a songwriter was assured after the success of “Clouds” as performed by Judy Collins, but that wasn’t it for her. Mitchell had questions in her mind, questions about what music could be, about, in the end, what she herself could become. And to make this vision real, she’s learned to make her art fire on all cylinders.
There are many excellent songwriters, excellent guitarists, excellent singers, excellent arrangers…Mitchell is all of them at once. She can breathe seductive lines of melody like incense smoke, spice her rhythms with unexpected and challenging syncopations, spin dark landscapes of unexpected new chords, and weave it all around her own unique poetic voice, one that rarely has recourse to stock phrases and cliches.
Mitchell is now in the hospital, with conflicting news of her condition. I hope she is well but in a sense she really can’t die. Far too many souls are walking around with her within for that.