Sunday, May 02, 2010

Joni Mitchell is Right About Dylan

I never listened much to Joni Mitchell growing up, but her music was everywhere in the 60's and 70's. In high school, I was listening to the radio late one Friday night while working on a story for English class, my notebooks and papers scattered all around me on the living room floor a favorite program came on that played a whole rock album at a time with interviews with the artist in between cuts. That's how I learned about my favorite bands on FM rock radio while doing homework: Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, The Moody Blues, Heart, Santana, etc... That particular night, I finally heard Joni Mitchell talk about her music and craft. I was impressed with her crystal clear Soprano and how she described coming up with her signature style--singing in the shower and letting the water hit her throat to make it undulate in an interesting pattern. I tried it later that night, it wasn't easy.

Right now, she's causing some controversy about her old friend Bob Dylan by calling him a phony, in so many words. In context of the interview, it sounds like she was getting rather irritated with the reporter making several comparisons between her and Bob, resulting in a testy response. She was making it clear that they had nothing in common, especially when it came to creativity and originality.

I agree with her. It was disrespectful because not often does the public give Joni Mitchell recognition for being as unique a musician/songwriter as she is. Not to the extent that Dylan is recognized and honored. Dylan strings along several phrases that he hears, reads and/or makes up on his own, to come up with something new from something old. It's interesting, but I'm not always convinced that what I'm hearing is really from his heart. Joni actually tells a story within a song that is visionary, poetic and from her emotions. She believes what she is singing, while Dylan works hard at making others believe that he believes.

Her music has always been complex, but as she has gotten older, they resonate even more with the intricate problems of intimacy and emotions. She became wiser and surer, but her life has not gotten easier. Maturity is coming to that place of knowing what to accept and what not to accept, of understanding where the true issues lie. Joni's work brings us deeper into the root of those things. Dylan, as much as I love his music, just wants to party on or vent, whichever of the two emotions is more pertinant. I have more of a connection with Joni Mitchell than Bob Dylan, but I prefer Dylan. He knows his audience needs music to vent or dance to, while Joni wants make an exploration and discovery.

As a freshman in college, when there was a shortage of dorm rooms, I had been thrown in with a senior for a roommate. I was 17 and she was 10 years older. I wouldn't exactly recommend it but one of the positives from that year was that she had quite the Joni Mitchell record collection and a really nice stereo. I had heard everything from Joni's work in the 60's, but her albums afterward I didn't hear much except for that radio program when I heard Don Juan's Reckless Daughter around 1977 or 1978. I especially liked "Jericho" for some reason.



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