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The Long Goodbye: Joni Mitchell, Love Among the Ruins

You think you know, but you don’t know.

“I don’t know if I’ve learned anything yet! I did learn how to have a happy home, but I consider myself fortunate in that regard because I could’ve rolled right by it. Everybody has a superficial side and a deep side, but this culture doesn’t place much value on depth — we don’t have shamans or soothsayers, and depth isn’t encouraged or understood. Surrounded by this shallow, glossy society we develop a shallow side, too, and we become attracted to fluff. That’s reflected in the fact that this culture sets up an addiction to romance based on insecurity — the uncertainty of whether or not you’re truly united with the object of your obsession is the rush people get hooked on. I’ve seen this pattern so much in myself and my friends and some people never get off that line.

“But along with developing my superficial side, I always nurtured a deeper longing, so even when I was falling into the trap of that other kind of love, I was hip to what I was doing. I recently read an article in Esquire magazine called ‘The End of Sex,’ that said something that struck me as very true. It said: “If you want endless repetition, see a lot of different people. If you want infinite variety, stay with one.” What happens when you date is you run all your best moves and tell all your best stories.

“You can’t do that with a longtime mate because he knows all that old material. With a long relationship, things die then are rekindled, and that shared process of rebirth deepens the love. It’s hard work, though, and a lot of people run at the first sign of trouble. You’re with this person, and suddenly you look like an asshole to them or they look like an asshole to you — it’s unpleasant, but if you can get through it you get closer and you learn a way of loving that’s different from the neurotic love enshrined in movies. It’s warmer and has more padding to it.” — Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell – Both Sides Now 1969

Despite her prominence among the young musicians of the 1960s and 1970s, and her writing of “Woodstock” (where she was prevented from performing because her manager thought it was more advantageous to appear on The Dick Cavett Show), she did not align herself with the era’s protest movements or its cultural manifestations. She has said that the parents of the boomers were unhappy, and “out of it came this liberated, spoiled, selfish generation into the costume ball of free love, free sex, free music, free, free, free, free we’re so free. And Woodstock was the culmination of it.” But “I was not a part of that,” she explained in an interview. “I was not a part of the anti-war movement, either. I played in Fort Bragg. I went the Bob Hope route because I had uncles who died in the war, and I thought it was a shame to blame the boys who were drafted.” Even Bob Dylan, one of the most iconic musicians of the Baby Boom generation, has not escaped Mitchell’s generational critique: “I like a lot of Bob’s songs. Musically he’s not very gifted.”

“On May 29, 2015, it was confirmed that Mitchell had suffered a brain aneurysm and that while speech was difficult, she had been communicating with others. As of May 2015 Mitchell was expected to be moved to a rehabilitation facility, as her condition was still considered to be “very serious”.[72] About a month later close friend David Crosby said “nobody found her for a while” and “to my knowledge, she is not speaking yet.”[73] However, Mitchell’s conservator, Leslie Morris, later released a statement saying that “details that have emerged in the past few days are mostly speculative. The truth is that Joni is speaking, and she’s speaking well. She is not walking yet…”[74]

In July 2015, Mitchell was back at home, undergoing physical therapy and “making progress”, according to her lawyer Rebecca J. Thyne.[75] In October 2015, Mitchell’s friend, singer Judy Collins, reported that she was taking part in rehabilitation every day and was walking, talking and painting” — — La Wik

Joni Mitchell – Both Sides Now 2000

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Dr. Jay April 8, 2018, 9:54 AM

    I’m waiting for the guys at http://maggiesfarm.anotherdotcom.com/ to respond . . .

  • Patvann April 8, 2018, 11:42 AM

    I ignorantly placed her with all the other 60’s twits, and useful idiots.

    I was wrong.

  • bob sykes April 8, 2018, 12:20 PM

    So how many of the 60’s generation were in the Movement, free love, communes, protests? I bet is was less than 1%. But they got all the press.

    So how many college kids and faculty are progressive idiots? 1%?

  • ghostsniper April 8, 2018, 12:30 PM

    Popular people don’t have friends, they have “close” friends.

  • Bunny April 8, 2018, 12:33 PM

    For Sunday:
    “Although I speak in tongues
    Of men and angels
    I’m just sounding brass
    And tinkling cymbals without love”

  • Alan Potkin April 8, 2018, 3:21 PM

    It didn’t make it into the movie (lotsa good performances there didn’t, and some pretty mediocre fluff which didn’t actually happen at Winterland that night did), but one of the memorable moments of the Band’s Thanksgiving 1976 returning-from-live-gigs spectacular was her fellow Canuckistani Neil Young —wearing a T-shirt showing a couple in full-monty soixante-neuf, no less— repeatedly groping Joni Mitchell on stage. Neen there, done that (not the groping Joni part, though).

  • Alan Potkin April 8, 2018, 3:26 PM

    Sorry… No correct/edit function here (and the undisableable Nazi autocorrect changed “retiring” to “returning” and “been” to “neen”), but I was referring course, to Martin Scorese’s great film, The Last Waltz, a documentary —more or less— on the San Francisco Winterland concert of the same name. Joni was visibly mortified by Mister Helpless’s helplessness in the thrall of his obsessions.

  • Leslie April 8, 2018, 4:39 PM

    Lovely, Bunny.

  • vanderleun April 8, 2018, 5:17 PM

    Oh yes, bunny, yes indeed.

  • Joseph Krill April 8, 2018, 8:22 PM

    vanderleun, You may want to look up Pozo Seco Singers doing “Time” on youtube. Just a haunting tune to goes right to the soul of us oldies. Joe Krill

  • rabbit tobacco April 8, 2018, 8:34 PM

    on the one side truth towers like a cliff,on the other side love dangles by a thread/bittersweet /david crosby

  • Doug April 8, 2018, 9:54 PM

    Anyone from Fort Macleod, Alberta can’t be all that bad.

  • Tom Hyland April 8, 2018, 10:07 PM

    Joni was my idea of the most stellar woman that could ever be. She’s 12 years older than me but from the age of 13 when I first heard of her I fantasized of meeting her… actually thought maybe she’d like me. One beautiful sunny day in Santa Fe back in 1992… I was 33… Joni was walking down Marcy Street straight in my direction. It was like that moment you’ve heard about when you die… supposedly every memory you’ve ever had comes rushing before your eyes. Certainly every Joni memory I ever had exploded in my mind. As we passed I said, “Hi.” Joni said, “Hello.” I let her be. I didn’t want to invade. If I had begun to tell her of how much she meant, how I have her every album, how I know the words to every song… she would have been spraying me with mace as I was dragged down the sidewalk by her ankle. I let her be. For a couple of hours I was shaking my head and telling myself that wasn’t Joni. Could have been her twin sister but that wasn’t Joni. Nope… resume a normal breathing pattern and carry onward. Then the phone rang and it was my close pal Sara K who was a signer/songwriter herself. She screamed, “Tom.. I just drank a glass of wine with Joni Mitchell down at Club West.” Then I screamed.

  • H April 9, 2018, 3:48 AM

    She was never pretty.

    But My God that woman was beautiful and could sing!

  • Snakepit Kansas April 9, 2018, 4:11 AM

    Tom Hyland for the win!

  • Ten April 9, 2018, 4:37 AM

    I’m waiting for the guys at http://maggiesfarm.anotherdotcom.com/ to respond . . .

    Heh. The life-is-so-hard Dylanist lifestylers?

  • vanderleun April 9, 2018, 8:03 AM

    Great tale, Tom.

  • Anonymous White Male April 10, 2018, 8:16 AM

    Grandma! I thought you died 10 years ago.

  • Teri Pittman April 10, 2018, 11:47 AM

    One of the big problems with the Boomer generation was the notion that friends would stick by you when you didn’t have a family. The truth is, they don’t. Joni Mitchell might have made it to the hospital sooner, if she’d been married to someone that cared about her. Or if she’d chosen to raise her daughter back in the day. Young people don’t like to consider what it’s like to be old and alone, then go about making choices that put them in that situation when they do get old.

  • Rob De Witt April 10, 2018, 8:53 PM


    Well I know it’s not so long ago
    You were only twenty-one.
    But time moves only one way,
    And you won’t always be young.

    And if you don’t think, when you get old,
    You can be alone and blue,
    Let me tell you my friend:
    You’ve got some thinking to do.

    And if you don’t think an old man
    Could be alone and blue,
    Let me tell you my friend,
    He’s just like you

    Peter Wernick of Hot Rize

  • Ken Mitchell April 11, 2018, 7:12 PM

    Patvann April 8, 2018, 11:42 AM wrote: “I ignorantly placed her with all the other 60’s twits, and useful idiots. I was wrong.”

    The thing that really impressed me was that while she criticized the “hawks” in the Viet Nam war days, she also condemned the communists who murdered so many people after the war. None of the other “anti-war” people ever did.

  • Steve Massa April 12, 2018, 7:43 PM

    Loved Joni’s music even before ever hearing her (i.e. Tom Rush’s cover of Joni’s song “The Circle Game”). Listen to her music often . . . hope she is doing well . . . glad to hear she may be well enough to paint. Truly one of the most talented singer/songwriters of my generation. God Bless You Joni!