Wednesday, June 12, 2013

"Help Me" by Joni Mitchell

The Thomas Ford Memorial Library is celebrating songs on its blog Thommy Ford Reads this year. I wrote this piece recently for Thommy Ford's Playlist.

By 1974, Canadian singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell had plenty of loyal fans and had won much praise from music critics for her inventive lyrics and strange chords. Young women admired her feminist stand and her ability to perform and record mostly alone. Her five albums had charted well, but she did not have a top ten hit record. Whether she really cared about the charts is debatable, but her studio was certainly interested. With backing of musicians from the jazz band LA Express, she worked for a brighter sound on her sixth album Court and Spark. She succeeded and the album was both a critical and commercial hit. It also included her biggest single ever “Help Me” which peaked at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The sound of “Help Me” might have been new but Mitchell stuck to the message she had been touting since her debut album Song to a Seagull. She was interested in love but not as much as her freedom. It was a seductive anthem that played well in the 1970s. More than any other Mitchell album, Court and Spark had a consistent theme, that being a look at life in Los Angeles. Listeners will notice that the next track “Free Man in Paris” has almost the same tone and again romanticizes freedom. It also ridicules the seeking of pop music fame, exactly what the producers of her album wanted for her.

In addition to the compact disc of the album, my library has a small book about it, Court and Spark by Sean Nelson. Mitchell fans wanting to learn more about the individual songs and the place of the album in the artist’s chronology will want to check it out.

4 comments:

Savvy WorkingGal said...

I caught a portion on CBC's interview with Joni last night. I find her philosophies fascinating. I especially enjoyed how she thinks money played a role in the Catholic church's stand against birth control. (If I heard it correctly) Can you recommend any books or articles about her where I can learn more.

ricklibrarian said...

I have Girls Like Us by Sheila Weller on my to-read list. It tells about the careers of Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and Carly Simon.

Anonymous said...

Joni is a great artist both musically and artistically - however to properly evaluate her as person one needs to take into account ....Kilauren Gibb was born as Kelly Dale in February, 1965. Ms. Mitchell married folk singer Chuck Mitchell for a time, but when it did not work out she put her daughter up for adoption. ....In January, 2000, Ms. Mitchell allegedly slapped Ms. Gibb during a quarrel in which police were called to the singer's S$9-million Bel Air villa in Los Angeles. Ms. Gibb, who called for help, refused to press charges but wanted the alleged assault reported. A Los Angeles Police Department report states officers were there to investigate a "battery."

ricklibrarian said...

I usually do not read about favorite musicians' personal lives anymore, because they all turn out to be people with problems like the rest of us - or worse. Fame and privilege seem to warp senses. Of course, I say that right after suggesting that I want to read Girls Like Us. Being consistent is difficult.