Summertime is music festival season. It’s one of the first things I think of when I think of summer. So, the week must not go by without this song, Joni Mitchell’s tribute to the greatest music festival of them all. I was much too young to attend, but I could feel Woodstock’s effects in my house. My oldest brother was 14, and he was determined to go. But my parents had their way, and he stayed home. For four years after, he would remind them of this horrible thing they had done to him. Finally, in 1973, they let him go to Watkins Glen as an apology. It wasn’t the same, but it finally ended the subject in my house.
It seems that every few years there is a reassessment of what the Woodstock festival meant. This also happens to the song. As you will hear, the song can be done in a variety of styles, and it works. If you think about the stylistic variety of the artists who played at Woodstock, this makes perfect sense.
Credit Where Due Department: Susan and I often trade e-mails when either of us has an idea for a post involving Joni Mitchell. In this case, I had the original idea, but Susan provided the songs and the (non)- release information for the Stevie Wonder track, so this post is actually a collaborative effort. Thank you, Susan. I put it into its present form, so any mistakes are mine alone.
Star Maker Note: This week sort of accidentally became cover songs week. However, the last day will be devoted to original songs. This post, which has both, is our transition to All Originals Saturday.
Joni Mitchell: Woodstock
Of course, Joni Mitchell wrote Woodstock, and this is her original recording of it. The song is a beautiful ballad, with just Joni singing and playing the electric piano. It sound like nothing else Mitchell had done at the time, and there is no rhythm part. The song just floats, emphasizing its wistful qualities.
Crosby Stills Nash and Young: Woodstock
Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young got hold of the song, and completely transformed it. In their hands, it became a rock anthem, and a huge hit. For the longest time, I thought that they wrote it, and I was shocked at how Joni Mitchell had “ruined” it, when I first heard the version above. Live and learn.
Stevie Wonder: Woodstock
[Never officially released]
Joni Mitchell would record Woodstock again for her live album, Miles of Aisles. This time, she rearranged it for a full band. Stevie Wonder zeroed in on the bass line in that version, and turned the song into a funk workout. This version was supposed to be released on a Joni Mitchell tribute album called A Case of Joni. Eventually, that album became A Tribute to Joni Mitchell. Different songs were added, and a number of songs, including this one, were dropped.
Eva Cassidy: Woodstock
Eva Cassidy recorded the song for just voice and acoustic guitar, and Woodstock became a folk song. It works beautifully. If you knew a little about Joni Mitchell’s early sound, but had never heard her original, you might think that this is how it originally sounded.
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