Joni Mitchell is 63 today. On the quite ludicrously tiny off-chance that she reads this blog, ‘happy birthday Joni – thanks for Hejira, and endless other amazing albums. You changed my music life!’
I first heard Hejira as ‘contraband’ – I was playing in a New Orleans jazz band in Berwick on Tweed in my teens, Sunday nights round the pubs, and the trumpeter and leader Pete Roughead was a proper old-school purist – any jazz after about 1930 was modern, Dixie was populist, only proper New Orleans stuff was allowed (I was only allowed to play bass because the double bassist was ill, and was still introduced as being on ‘double bass’, cos Pete couldn’t bring himself to say anything else…)
Anyway, one of the trombonists, Sandy, wasn’t quite so narrow in his listening tastes, and started my surreptitious musical education by slipping me a C90 cassette under the table at a gig with his own best of Weather Report’s Jaco years on one side, and Hejira on the other. And while I really enjoyed the Weather Report stuff. It was Hejira that changed the way I thought about music. Everything I ever wanted music to be was on that record. Honest, freewheeling, mellow, heartfelt, superbly played, funny… It is still to this day my desert island disc. If you twisted my arm up my back and told me I was only allowed to keep one album, that’s it, for sure.
Joni’s done other great albums – Hissing Of Summer Lawns is great, the early folky ones are gorgeous, and the 90s stuff, especially Night Ride Home is some of the greatest music of the last 15 years (and ‘Travelogue’ is vital listening for anyone with a heartbeat), but it’s still Hejira that gets me every time.
So happy birthday Joni – I completely understand your stated reasons for not doing music anymore, but part of me still wishes you’d change your mind. Happy painting… xby