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  • Abbie Schmidt

A Little Ode to Joni Mitchell

Something so special about Joni Mitchell’s music that first drew me in was the way she spoke into reality the complex feelings I've had and not been able to articulate. There is comfort, a sort of shared humanity, in the way she writes. In Hejira, she echoes motifs of melancholy throughout her verses, beginning with “There's comfort in melancholy, When there's no need to explain, It's just as natural as the weather, In this moody sky today”. There is something far more earnest about melancholy than deep sadness, it is thoughtful and painfully authentic. She continues with her nihilism and contrasts it with the loving experiences that throw her into a state of dissonance and questioning: “We're only particles of change I know I know, Orbiting around the sun, But how can I have that point of view, When I'm always bound and tied to someone?” Joni’s backstory makes her music far more meaningful. She struggled with Polio ever since childhood, which gave her a physical disability in her hands, making it difficult to play certain chords on the guitar. So, innovatively, she changed the tuning of her guitar so certain chord shapes would be easier to play. Her non-standard tunings changed the music scene ever since. After my roommate Ellie taught me how to play guitar, I always gravitated towards Joni’s music because her non-standard tunings made her tabs easier to play for a new guitarist like me. I guess what I’m trying to say with all this is that artists like Joni, who wrote unabashedly about real feelings, were the catalysts for the type of personal songwriting that we have come to expect in music. They laid the groundwork for a culture of lyricism in which we audience members feel constantly embraced by music that, somehow, seems to understand us.


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