Joni Jam Rocks the Summer of ’22

In late July, Joni Mitchell performed at the Newport Folk Festival, her first appearance in nine years due to illness. She was brought there by singer Brandi Carlile and accompanied by a large group of musicians and singers. Her voice is enriched by her years of experience. This extraordinary event was recorded and is viewable on YouTube. Joni is one of the best songwriters we’ve had in the past century. Her lyrics speak to us at our most vulnerable, embarrassed, despairing, but hopeful in spite of what we’ve been through.

“Both Sides Now” is a musical classic and a lovely poem.

Two of my favorites over the years are “The Last Time I Saw Richard” and “Amelia.”

The Last Time I Saw Richard (lyrics)

The last time I saw Richard was Detroit in ’68
And he told me all romantics meet the same fate someday
Cynical and drunk and boring someone in some dark café
You laugh he said you think you’re immune
Go look at your eyes they’re full of moon
You like roses and kisses and pretty men to tell you
All those pretty lies pretty lies
When you gonna realize they’re only pretty lies
Only pretty lies just pretty lies

He put a quarter in the Wurlitzer and he pushed
Three buttons and the thing began to whirr
And a bar maid came by in fishnet stockings and a bow tie
And she said, “Drink up now it’s getting on time to close”
“Richard, you haven’t really changed,” I said
It’s just that now you’re romanticizing some pain that’s in your head
You got tombs in your eyes but the songs you punched are dreaming
Listen, they sing of love so sweet, love so sweet
When you gonna get yourself back on your feet?
Oh and love can be so sweet Love so sweet

Richard got married to a figure skater
And he bought her a dishwasher and a coffee percolator
And he drinks at home now most nights with the TV on
And all the house lights left up bright
I’m gonna blow this damn candle out
I don’t want nobody comin’ over to my table
I got nothing to talk to anybody about
All good dreamers pass this way some day
Hidin’ behind bottles in dark cafés dark cafés
Only a dark cocoon before I get my gorgeous wings and fly away
Only a phase these dark café days
Copyright June 1971 Joni Mitchell

Other favorites of mine are "River" on her Blue album, and "Just Like This Train" on her Court and Spark album. An amazing version of "Just Like This Train" with her signature slap/scat jazz guitar style was recorded on the Dave Letterman show. She plays it at Newport as well, having had to relearn how to play the guitar after a brain aneurysm. One video of "Amelia" has her playing guitar while she sings and then walking away to let guitarist Pat Metheny finish it beautifully.

“Amelia” lyrics

I was driving across the burning desert
When I spotted six jet planes
Leaving six white vapor trails across the bleak terrain
Like the hexagram of the heavens
Like the strings of my guitar
Amelia, it was just a false alarm

The drone of flying engines
Is a song so wild and blue
It scrambles time and seasons if it gets through to you
Then your life becomes a travelogue
Full of picture post card charms
Amelia, it was just a false alarm

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
And where some have found their paradise
Others just come to harm
Amelia, it was just a false alarm

I wish that he was here tonight
It’s so hard to obey
His sad request of me to kindly stay away
So this is how I hide the hurt
As the road leads cursed and charmed
I tell Amelia it was just a false alarm

A ghost of aviation
She was swallowed by the sky
Or by the sea like me she had a dream to fly
Like Icarus ascending
On beautiful foolish arms
Amelia, it was just a false alarm

Maybe I’ve never really loved
I guess that is the truth
I’ve spent my whole life in clouds at icy altitudes
And looking down on everything
I crashed into his arms
Amelia, it was just a false alarm

I pulled into the Cactus Tree Motel
To shower off the dust
And I slept on strange pillows of my wanderlust
I dreamed of 747s
Over geometric farms
Dreams Amelia, dreams and false alarms


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