Joni Mitchell: Blue Page 2

'I wasn't a big drinker', she told Myers, 'and after three glasses I woke up the next morning alone in Cary's cave. The stacked leather heels of my city boots had broken off, apparently from climbing a mountain the night before. I had no recollection'. Happily, it wasn't an encounter to regret – Mitchell and Cary Raditz became inseparable for a while.


Mitchell live on stage in 1983

Trance Meeting
Tracked down in 2014, Raditz recalled his time with Mitchell, admitting that he was referred to in the song as 'a mean old daddy' because of his grumpy demeanour toward the entourage of hippies that began flocking around the celebrity in their midst. He also remembered hearing her compose songs. 'She liked to try out these chords on her dulcimer, playing them over and over again like a mantra until she figured out where she wanted to go with them. She'd go into a kind of trance, and things would come out of that.'


Poster for a concert in 1974 at New York's Avery Fisher Hall

A Taylor To Tell
Mitchell repeatedly told Raditz that she wasn't planning to remain in Greece too long, and although her holiday paramour also features in 'California' as a 'redneck on a Grecian isle' (Raditz was a southerner from North Carolina), that song was written, despite the title, in Paris by Mitchell after she had begun her journey back west. The reasons for her departure are also referenced in 'Carey' when she sings of how 'It's really not my home... I miss my clean white linen and my fancy French cologne'.


Press shot from 2007

'My hair was matted from washing it in seawater for months', she told Myers. 'I was flea-bitten – this was very rugged living. I also realised I was still heartbroken about my split with Graham.'In a 1971 interview with Rolling Stone she also explained that things were getting increasingly less free and easy in Matala: 'The cops came and kicked everyone out of the caves, but it was getting a little crazy there. Everybody was getting more and more into open nudity. They were really going back to the caveman. They were wearing little loincloths… The Greeks couldn't understand what was happening.'


Mitchell top-hatted in 1977

After her stay in Paris, Mitchell returned to the US in 1970. She promptly fell into another intense relationship, this time with singer-songwriter James Taylor. This romance would be referred to in the title track of Blue, making reference to Taylor's heroin and methadone addiction.


On stage at the Universal Amphitheatre in August 1974

The Truth Hurts
Meanwhile, when writing Blue she still had another man very much on her mind, as evidenced in the track 'My Old Man' and the line 'We don't need no piece of paper from the City Hall', perhaps referring to her reluctance to put her artistic freedom second to being a wife to Graham Nash. And although no one knew it in 1971, Mitchell harboured another source of agony that seeped into these grooves on tracks such as 'Little Green' – she had given a child up for adoption in 1965.

She told the story to the Los Angeles Times in 1997: 'Soon after I'd given up my daughter for adoption I had a house and a car and I had the means and I'd become a public figure. The combination of those situations did not sit well. So I kind of withdrew from music and began to go inside. And question who I was. Out of that, Blue evolved'.


Promo shot that appeared on the sleeve of her 1976 album Hejira

All this personal turbulence found its way memorably to the ten songs that made up Blue when it was released in June 1971. So starkly personal were the songs, that Joni's friends and contemporaries were, frankly, worried for her. In a 1979 Rolling Stone interview, she admitted, 'At that period of my life, I had no personal defences. I felt like I had absolutely no secrets from the world and I couldn't pretend in my life to be strong'. She later recalled, 'When [Blue] first came out, I played it for Kris Kristofferson, who said, "God, Joan, save something of yourself". He was embarrassed by it… in a certain way it was shocking, especially in the pop arena.'

Many other singer-songwriters have since followed in Joni Mitchell's confessional wake, and now it's sometimes almost taken for granted that such artists will lay their heart bare on the page for all. Her pain was our gain...