Saturday, October 3, 2009

Title Tracks: Hejira

Joni Mitchell: Hejira


Joni Mitchell: Hejira (the Travelogue version)


I helped start up and have maintained a monthly book discussion group, with seven amazing women friends... and last month marked the beginning of our ninth year together - at our recent gathering, one of our members brought up the following quote: "When you read a classic, you do not see more in the book than you did before; you see more in you than there was before." Clifton Fadiman.

I, of course, immediately related it to music in my life - there are some songs that, upon release, I just don't *get* and discover that, decades later, I can eventually relate. I realize that the glitch is not with them, it's with me - the wisdom has always been there, but it's taken time for me to grow into it... or to benefit from the always-been-there lesson...

Such was absolutely the case with the title track to Hejira, the album Joni released in 1976 (I had just graduated from college) - I was enamored with Confessional Singer-Songwriter Joni, and had tolerated The Hissing of Summer Lawns, thinking it was an experimental blip on her musical radar screen. Imagine my shock when she went even farther afield from the girl-and-her-guitar scenario - I tried to relate to the words... but that d*mn thrumming bass of Jaco Pastorius kept getting in the way (blasphemy, I know!). I continued to buy each of her albums as they were released... but I was not happy - where was the Joni I knew and loved?

Fast forward to 2002, when she put out Travelogue, a two-disc reworking of many of her standards, with orchestral backing - twenty-five years later, the song finally elicited the Proverbial Light Bulb Moment. I don't know if it was her deeper, aging, world-weary voice... or the swelling string section... or the fact that I was married/had children/experienced the melancholy of feeling lonely within the context of a relationship... or a combination of the three - all I *do* know is that the barrier vaporized and I finally *heard* the song with the intention in which it was written...

"You know it never has been easy
Whether you do or you do not resign
Whether you travel the breadth of extremities
Or stick to some straighter line..."

Thanks, Joni, for allowing me a second chance... and for being a wise and patient traveling companion all these many years - the musical journey continues...

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