We haven't had a Joni Mitchell conversation for ages, and I really feel we should because didn't we all get a fright.
Joni found unconscious at her home and rushed into hospital and intensive care a few weeks ago. I can't find any updates beyond the early ones, that she was improving, so I'm working on the principle that no news is good news and hoping all is well.
Suddenly Joni fans everywhere were realising we really didn't know what we'd got 'til it might have gone and there have been some great appreciation pieces in the press. All of us hugely impressed that Dave Crosby (the real one of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young fame) was following Linda Grant's every utterance on Twitter after her splendid piece in the Guardian.
Last I heard Linda's piece had exceeded average hits by several hundred thousand and not surprisingly; if I could identify with every word so could Joni fans around the world...
But what if you started to listen to someone when you were 17, someone who was one of the greatest of their generation and of the century, who articulated that particular moment when opposing longings for love and for artistic self-expression are waging war in you? And nearly 50 years later, you are still a fan, and the person whose music means everything to you is hospitalised and in danger and you’re holding your breath; you’re ready to be heartbroken.
The LP Blue did the rounds of our sixth form common room thanks to some generous soul who didn't mind lending out something as fragile as a vinyl, thus exposing it to the mercy of every ancient blunt stylus out there. I got fed up having to give it back so I bought my own copy in the end, a day's wages from my Saturday job waitressing at Honeybun's cafe in Carshalton High Street, and plenty more purchases have followed down the years. A few years ago I invested in every Joni CD I didn't own so now have them all (I think) plus various tributes, and live concerts, and the more recently remastered four CD set Love Has Many Faces. It was a mortgage but I couldn't not have it, though it's taking some time for me to undo the song order I know and love...Carey, Blue, California, This Flight Tonight, River, A Case of You. There's a certainty and a sense of affirmation about the familiarity of the old playing order sometimes.
This week I have been listening to a Joni CD per evening and I will slowly listen my way through them all. So far Mingus, Miles of Aisles, Hejira and as I am typing this Songs of a Prairie Girl, a collection for Saskatchewan's Centennial celebrations in 2005. This is one I might have forgotten about, because there in the middle was an unexpected River and what's not to love about River no matter the displacement from Blue...
I wish I had a river
I could skate away on
I wish I had a river so long
I would teach my feet to fly...
I think I might have wanted to be Joni when I was seventeen, and possibly deluded myself I was as I attempted to strum the chords out on my guitar whilst persuading my short frizzy hopeless hair to be long and straight and ignoring my lack of bone structure.
Now I don't think I'm alone in my fan-dom on here so please do share your memories of where and when you first knew it too, and your favourites oh Joni fans.
And if you could keep just the one album which would it be...
And while you have a think here's a really lovely version of All I Want, Joni playing live in a concert for the BBC, and now I know, apparently that's an Appalachian Dulcimer I've been listening to all these years.