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Joni Mitchell: “California” and “Me and My Uncle”

The instrument Joni Mitchell is playing in the top clip, California, is a dulcimer. I couldn’t resist posting Me and My Uncle. The song, which was a Grateful Dead standard, seems like an odd choice for Mitchell. But she pulls it off. The clip, from 1965, shows what a great guitarist she is.

Well put by David Bennun at 1843, which is part of The Economist: “[Joni Mitchell] made wonderful records and she reconfigured the boundaries of her chosen music as she did it. And she was the inadvertent godmother to generations of female singer-songwriters—many of whom, as is the way with these things, homed in on and mimicked her confessional introspection, while lacking the imagination and talent that licensed her to express it. That’s no fault of hers, of course. That’s simply how artistic influence works.” Click here or on the image for more on “Blue,” which Ultimate Classic Rock (and others) says is Mitchell’s best album. Here it is at iTunes.
I only post two songs, but if you have time for a third please check out Mitchell, Cass Elliot and Mary Travers each taking a verse of I Shall Be Released. Listen to the odd orchestration. It’s fine, but doesn’t seem to quite fit.

Here is the beginning of Mitchell’s profile at Wikipedia:

Joni Mitchell, CC (born Roberta Joan Anderson; November 7, 1943) is a Canadian musician, singer songwriter, and painter.[1] Mitchell began singing in small nightclubs in Saskatchewan and Western Canada and then busking in the streets and dives of Toronto. In 1965 she moved to the United States and, touring constantly, began to be recognized when her original songs (“Urge for Going,” “Chelsea Morning,” “Both Sides, Now,” “The Circle Game”) were covered by notable folk singers, allowing her to sign with Reprise Records and record her own debut album in 1968.[2] Settling in Southern California, Mitchell and her popular songs like “Big Yellow Taxi” and “Woodstock” helped define an era and a generation. Her more starkly personal 1971 recording Blue has been called one of the best albums ever made.[3] Musically restless, Mitchell switched labels and began moving toward jazz rhythms by way of lush pop textures on 1974’s Court and Spark, her best-selling LP, featuring her radio hits “Help Me” and “Free Man in Paris.”[4]

Mitchell has had an amazing career. Even now, it is difficult to assign her to a genre. Ultimate Classic Rock’s Michael Gallucci picks what he feels are her ten top songs.

Ultimate Classic Rock and 1843 Magazine are cited in the blue box.

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Reading Music

The stories of the great bands and musicians are fascinating. Musicians as a group are brilliant, but often troubled. The combination of creativity and drama makes for great reading.

Here are some books to check out.

Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.


What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.


The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.