Joni Mitchell is 70

I’m pretty sure I heard the CSNY version of ‘Woodstock’ first, but I prefer this more plaintive version by Joni Mitchell

Back when the Okie and I were married, I had the date of August 22, 1974, circled on our calendar for three months. We were going to see Joni Mitchell at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.

Comes the day, and Uthaclena and his girlfriend at the time were sitting in the front of the car, and the Okie and I rode in the back. The Okie took this opportunity to berate me for virtually everything I ever did wrong in our two years of marriage to that point, including things we had previously discussed and I THOUGHT had been long resolved. All the way from New Paltz to Saratoga Springs, some 105 miles and close to two hours away, to the SPAC parking lot, to our seats, when I figured it would finally stop; it did not, even as Tom Scott and the L.A. Express began to play.

Finally, I walked away and found a vacant seat in the theater. I had to move a couple of times because there were people wandering around with flashlights making sure the lawn-seat folks didn’t sneak into the amphitheater.

I went back to our seats at intermission, and she was crying greatly because they were going to boot her out of the concert. Someone had said she was sitting in his seat, and I had BOTH of our tickets; the staff had misread the other guy’s ticket, and the situation was resolved.

We listened to the rest of the concert and then returned home in stony silence.

She moved to Philadelphia a couple of months later, and at some point in the next year, one of us filed for divorce, while we exchanged rancorous correspondence.

Funny thing, though; over the next few years, we managed a truce, then pleasant conversations on the phone or by mail over the next few years.

In 1981, I went to visit her in Philadelphia. We talked, had a nice time. By coincidence, there was a concert nearby and we attended. It was, of course, Joni Mitchell.
Lyrics, plus snippets of all of her songs can be found at

Favorite songs -album on which it first appeared:

20. Shadows and Light – The Hissing of Summer Lawns
A moody song, even more so on the live album named for this tune.

19. Come In From The Cold [LISTEN] – Night Ride Home
“Back in 1957
We had to dance a foot apart”

18. Ray’s Dad’s Cadillac [LISTEN] – Night Ride Home
I may like this for the pair of possessives in the title.

17. Woman Of Heart And Mind [LISTEN] – For the Roses
The contrast of the music and some of the lyrics makes it very effective.

16. Trouble Child [LISTEN] – Court and Spark
Nice bass line, plus I like the way it segues into Twisted

15. All I Want [LISTEN]– Blue
“I am on a lonely road and I am traveling
Traveling, traveling, traveling”
And I definitely got that sensation.

14. Free Man in Paris [LISTEN] – Court and Spark
“I felt unfettered and alive”
That’s how it made me feel.

13. You Turn Me On, I’m a Radio [LISTEN] – For the Roses
The radio references I found quite clever, such as:
“If there’s no good reception for me
Then tune me out, ’cause honey
Who needs the static”

12. Raised on a Robbery [LISTEN] – Court and Spark
Atypical for Joni, this rocks.

11. Help Me [LISTEN] – Court and Spark
And in a coda to the main story above, my rebound relationship after the Okie, I made an unfortunate reference to this song. The relationship lasted six weeks and I wasn’t in another for nearly three years.

10. The Jungle Line [LISTEN] – The Hissing of Summer Lawns
I first heard this album at the house of my friend Jon and his girlfriend at the time, Sue. She was a huge Joni fan but wasn’t sure she liked this particular album. I said, “Well, then, give it to me.” I liked it, especially this song. She ended up keeping it.

9. Blue [LISTEN] – Blue
My late friend Donna George’s nickname for herself was Blue.

8. Court and Spark [LISTEN] – Court and Spark
I often go back and forth trying to decide whether Court and Spark [LISTEN], or Blue is my favorite Joni album.

7. Woodstock [LISTEN] – Ladies of the Canyon
I’m pretty sure I heard CSNY’s take first, but I prefer this more plaintive version.

6. The Circle Game [LISTEN] – Ladies of the Canyon
This is an early song that became a hit for Tom Rush, but I always preferred Joni’s.

5. Twisted [LISTEN]– Court and Spark
This is that Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross song from 1962 that was such a hoot when done by Joni, plus Cheech and Chong.
“So why should I feel sorry
If they just couldn’t understand
The idiomatic logic
That went on in my head”

4. Big Yellow Taxi [LISTEN] – Ladies of the Canyon
“They paved paradise
Put up a parking lot.”
Still true, unfortunately.
Love the giggle when she ends the song.

3. The Same Situation [LISTEN] – Court and Spark
Always thought this was one of the most devastating lyrics ever:
“You’ve had lots of lovely women
Now you turn your gaze to me
Weighing the beauty and the imperfection
To see if I’m worthy”

2. A Case of You [LISTEN] – Blue
“Oh I could drink a case of you darling
And I would still be on my feet
I would still be on my feet.”
I love the guitar here.

1. River [LISTEN]– Blue
One of Donna George’s favorite songs. She was a huge music fan, so I was truly mystified one day when she said she had never heard the ‘Jingle Bells’ motif in this song until I mentioned it in passing.
Watch: Joni Mitchell in a Rare, Career-Spanning Interview from June 2013 (105 minutes)