JONI MITCHELL – BLUE
Released: June 22, 1971 – 45 years ago
Mitchell’s fourth studio release is melancholy, sparse, bittersweet, and quietly beautiful. Characterized by raw, absolutely stunning lyrics, it is considered by many “the” quintessential confessional singer-songwriter album. A true watershed release, it stands as one of the most influential and compelling folk-pop releases of the 20th century.
The Classic Pick is a weekly feature at 4 p.m. Monday-Friday on The Home Stretch, sponsored by the Good Oak Bar and curated by Kris Kerry. Each Monday at 4 p.m. Kris stops by KXCI’s studio to give us insight on this classic album at 91.3 FM and KXCI.org.
Joni Mitchell (Roberta Joan Mitchell) was born November 7, 1943 in Canada (age 72). She began singing in small nightclubs in western Canada and then busking in the streets and playing nightclubs in Toronto in the early 1960s. In 1965 she moved to the southern California and soon signed with Reprise Records, releasing her debut album Song To A Seagull in 1968.
Known for here wide-ranging vocals and complex, guitar and piano compositions that grew even more complex through her career, Mitchell grew from a folk traditionalist to exploring jazz, r&b, classical, non-western influences later in her career.
The creative impetus for Blue was the combination of a tough breakup with her longtime boyfriend Graham Nash and the start of an intense relationship with James Taylor in 1970 and early 1971. In between these relationships, Mitchell spent a significant time vacationing through Europe. During this time she wrote several of the songs that appear on Blue.
While the single “Carey” reached #93 on the Billboard Hot 100 single chart, Blue was more successful as an album, reaching #15 on the Billboard 200 and #3 on the UK Album Chart.
Critically acclaimed from its release, Blue has since come to be regarded as one of the greatest albums of all time. Blue is ranked at #30 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time – the highest placement for any female artist. In 2000, The New York Times selected Blue as one of the 25 albums that represent a “pinnacle” in 20th century popular music. The album also ranks highly on all-time lists for Pitchfork, Q Magazine, Time, and several other publications.
Blue was recorded at A&M Studios in LA, now known as Henson Recording Studios (bought by Jim Henson’s family and named after him in 2000). During it’s time as A&M Studios, a number of famous acts also recorded here, including: Styx, The Carpenters, Moody Blues, Oingo Boingo, Soundgarden, and Van Halen among others.
A&M Studios was located adjacent to the Charlie Chaplin sound stage (now the Henson Soundstage). This is the studio where the 1985 hit “We Are The World” was recording. This video included a number of recording stars, including Michael Jackson, Kenny Rogers, Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen, and Bob Dylan. Also, this is the same studio where Soul Train was taped from 1981-85, The Police’s video for “Every Breath You Take,” and Ray Parker Jr.’s “Ghostbusters” video were filmed.
Mitchell was the sole producer on the vast majority of her albums, including Blue and her other 70s releases. Self-produced records in the early 1970s were unusual, particularly for a major label artist – even more unusual for women in the early 70s.
Mitchell is also a visual artist, designing all of her own album artwork throughout here career.
While some of Mitchell’s most popular songs were written on piano, almost every song she composed on the guitar uses a variety of open, non-standard tunings. In 2003 Rolling Stone named her as the 72nd greatest guitarist of all time. The highest female appearing on this list, she is known for her intricate and unusual picking/strumming style, and has written songs in over 50 different tunings.
Mitchell has received nine Grammy Awards during her career, the first in 1969 and the most recent in 2016. She also received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002.
In 2002 she became only the third Canadian recording artist to be appointed The Order of Canada, Canada’s highest civilian honor (Leonard Cohen and Gordon Lightfoot are the other two).
In 1995, Mitchell received Billboard’s Century Award (only 15 have these have been awarded), and in 1997 she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.