Will You Take Me As I Am: Joni Mitchell's Blue Period

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Free Press, Apr 7, 2009 - Music - 256 pages
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Joni Mitchell is one of the most celebrated artists of the last half century, and her landmark 1971 album, Blue, is one of her most beloved and revered works. Generations of people have come of age listening to the album, inspired by the way it clarified their own difficult emotions. Critics and musicians admire the idiosyncratic virtuosity of its compositions. Will You Take Me As I Am -- the first book about Joni Mitchell to include original interviews with her -- looks at Blue to explore the development of an extraordinary artist, the history of songwriting, and much more.

In extensive conversations with Mitchell, Michelle Mercer heard firsthand about Joni's internal and external journeys as she composed the largely autobiographical albums of what Mercer calls her Blue Period, which lasted through the mid-1970s. Incorporating biography, memoir, reportage, criticism, and interviews into an illuminating narrative, Mercer moves beyond the "making of an album" genre to arrive at a new form of music writing.

In 1970, Mitchell was living with Graham Nash in Laurel Canyon and had made a name for herself as a so-called folk singer notable for her soaring voice and skillful compositions. Soon, though, feeling hemmed in, she fled to the hippie cave community of Matala, Greece. Here and on further travels, her compositions were freshly inspired by the lands and people she encountered as well as by her own radically changing interior landscape. After returning home to record Blue, Mitchell retreated to British Columbia, eventually reemerging as the leader of a successful jazz-rock group and turning outward in her songwriting toward social commentary. Finally, a stint with Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue and a pivotal meeting with the Tibetan lama ChÖgyam Trungpa prompted Mitchell's return to personal songwriting, which resulted in her 1976 masterpiece album, Hejira.

Mercer interlaces this fascinating account of Mitchell's Blue Period with meditations on topics related to her work, including the impact of landscape on music, the value of autobiographical songwriting for artist and listener, and the literary history of confessionalism. Mercer also provides rich analyses of Mitchell's creative achievements: her innovative manner of marrying lyrics to melody; her inventive, highly expressive chords that achieve her signature blend of wonder and melancholy; how she pioneered personal songwriting and, along with Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, brought a new literacy to the popular song. Fans will appreciate the previously unpublished photos and a coda of Mitchell's unedited commentary on the places, books, music, pastimes, and philosophies she holds dear.

This utterly original book offers a unique portrait of a great musician and her remarkable work, as well as new perspectives on the art of songwriting itself.

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Will You Take Me As I Am: Joni Mitchell's Blue Period

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The proliferation of musical biography in the rock era has made available anecdotal facts to such an extent that a way has been paved for more inspired and specific study, such as this deft ... Read full review

Contents

Introduction
1
In the Manner of the Ancients
15
Eyes on the Land and the Shy
49
Copyright

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About the author (2009)

Michelle Mercer, a regular contributor to National Public Radio in the US, is the author of the critically aclaimed biography Footprints: The Life and Work of Wayne Shorter (J P Tarcher). Her articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Village Voice, Down Beat, and numerous other publications. She lives in Colorado in the US. Visit http://michellemercer.com/index.cfm

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