Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Woman of Heart and Mind

As a teacher, I would hand out dittos (well, not dittos, I'm not that old), photocopies of lyrics, and the class would analyze them line by line. In the last couple of posts on FaceBook, I offered up my diatribe about Kate Bush songs without providing the lyrics, which makes it more of a sermon than a forum. Instead, today, this post brings it home with the poet laureate of American realism, Joni Mitchell. I left L.A. in 1984 but like Joni, "I couldn’t let go of L.A., city of the fallen angels."

50 years ago with her album Ladies of the Canyon, Joni established herself as a singer-songwriter and recording artist. Her first two albums, while noteworthy, of course, didn’t hint at her brilliance. Joni would follow up Ladies of the Canyon with her masterpiece, Blue, and then with For the Roses, the most underrated LP in her canon. For the Roses is Joni Mitchell at her most poetic, every song a homerun hinting at the jazz of Joni’s future with a band unmatched, particularly Tom Scott and Wilton Felder, and the guitars of Stephen Stills (“Blonde in the Bleachers") and James Burton (“Cold Blue Steel”). And while both “Let the Wind Carry Me” and “Judgment of the Moon and the Stars” are epic, lyrically I’m drawn to the suite that begins with “Blonde in the Bleachers” and follows up with a song that, though written from a woman’s intuitive perspective, hits the same nerve for those men trying to listen, “Woman of Heart and Mind.” Instead of sermonizing, here are the lyrics:
I am a woman of heart and mind
With time on her hands
No child to raise
You come to me like a little boy
And I give you my scorn and my praise
You think I'm like your mother
Or another lover or your sister
Or the queen of your dreams
Or just another silly girl
When love makes a fool of me
After the rush when you come back down
You're always disappointed
Nothing seems to keep you high
Drive your bargains
Push your papers
Win your medals
Fuck your strangers
Don't it leave you on the empty side?
I'm looking for affection and respect
A little passion
And you want stimulation, nothing more
That's what I think
But you know I'll try to be there for you
When your spirits start to sink
All this talk about holiness now
It must be the start of the latest style
Is it all books and words
Or do you really feel it?
Do you really laugh?
Do you really care?
Do you really smile
When you smile?
You criticize and you flatter
You imitate the best
And the rest you memorize
You know the times you impress me most
Are the times when you don't try
When you don't even try

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