Wednesday, 2 September 2015

'You stood out like a ruby in a black man's ear...'

'I met you on the Midway at a fair last year
And you stood out like a ruby in a black man's ear'
That Song about the Midway
Joni Mitchell

I love this vivid evocation of Joni Mitchell's meeting with Leonard Cohen from 'That Song About the Midway'.  As hugely talented fellow Canadian singer/songwriters, they were destined to meet and fall in love (they actually met at the Newport Folk Festival in 1967).  Leonard became the inspiration for several of Joni's songs although, intriguingly, her inspiration for these particular lines probably came from Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet'

'It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiop's ear'

Music holds our memories.  I only have to hear Joni Mitchell singing to be transported to another time and place.  When I listen to 'The Gallery' or 'Rainy Night House', both attributed to her relationship with Leonard, I am 20 years old again and back in my room perched high above a ravine in my student house in Leeds, sharing with four girlfriends and learning to negotiate the complexities of life, love and relationships in between studying and voraciously reading everything I could get my hands on.  Literature, along with music, has always been a passion and this was the music that formed the sound track of those years. 

Listening to Joni's 'A Case of You', also thought to be about Leonard Cohen, instantly has me back on the overnight train from Madrid to London, travelling alone after a disastrous holiday with a college boyfriend who was studying there (but at least I got to see the Velazquez's at The Prado, so it was worth the trip in the end!), but the face I drew on a map of Canada during that endless, uncomfortable night, was that of my first love, lost to the charms of Montreal, never to return to the UK. 


15 comments:

  1. Marianne, perhaps one day we might actually meet. I think that we would have much to discuss.

    Meanwhile, may I tell you a little tale. I regularly enjoy listening to BBC Radio via my laptop, and when I get home from work on Saturday evenings, listen to BBC 5's Dotun Adebayo's program that features a virtual jukebox that listeners fill with a new selection each Saturday. My most recent addition, earlier this summer, was Joni Mitchell's "A Case of You." I nominated the entire Blue album and let the host pick the particular tune.

    Isn't it a beauty?

    xo

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    1. That would be lovely Frances - let me know if you are visiting the UK. I fear it is unlikely that I shall visit New York again, but who knows?

      So we are both having a Joni Mitchell moment - telepathy across the water...

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  2. You touched me! Their music is always a part of my life and me.

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    1. We must be the same vintage! I am really enjoying finding out more about this period and the people whose lives influenced a generation.

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  3. Hi Marianne,

    I am so enjoying these last few posts of yours, a little for the Canadian content of 'choral' characters, a little for the nostalgic romance of people and places, and a lot for how you have used particular songs to landmark some of the paths of your own journey of treble and bass clefs so far. I am not very familiar with Joni Mitchell's music, but was hypnotized by a cover of one of her songs called 'River', sung by one of my favourite female artists - Madeleine Peyroux, in a duet with another Canadian crooner - k.d. lang. If you haven't heard it, please do, here:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QE2d7GCVNQw

    Madeleine's smooth and silky sound is not Canadian, but it sure is cool.

    In addition, you may also be interested in Ms. Peyroux's version of our beloved Mr. Cohen's 'Dance Me to the End of Love'.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ch6h278GEpA

    Enjoy, and happy weekend to you.

    Poppy

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    1. That's good to hear, Poppy. I am enjoying revisiting that time of my live and reacquainting myself with the music and people that influenced me then. Lots of talent in Canada - my mother was born there so I always feel a link. I shall check out your recommendations. Happy weekend!

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  4. I am a fellow Cohen fan - his 10 New Songs is his top album for me, but the back catalogue (and indeed the forward catalogue) are much played too. It's always Elvis Costello who brings me back to my own youthful train-rides, though.

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    1. Now, that is a surprise, Mise! My current favourite is his 'Live in London CD' as the music, his band, and his voice, are all absolutely perfect. However, I do have to keep my Leonard Cohen habit under wraps, together with my passion for dark chocolate. A girl needs some secrets.

      Elvis Costello passed me by in a haze of nappies I think.

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  5. I was living and working in the US during my twenties and don't really remember the music that I listened to, but I seem to remember being a big fan of Dire Straits. Many years later at my wedding, my friend on meeting my husband for the first time, remarked that he looked like Mark Knopfler.

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  6. I was living and working in the US during my twenties and don't really remember the music that I listened to, but I seem to remember being a big fan of Dire Straits. Many years later at my wedding, my friend on meeting my husband for the first time, remarked that he looked like Mark Knopfler.

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    1. That sounds interesting Ann - look forward to hearing more about it. My children have been put off Dire Straits for life as I spent far too many school runs playing Alchemy to them. They also have a thing about Joni and used to call her 'squealing pig' - well she just wasn't their taste. (I did play children's tapes in the car too... ).

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  7. The squealing pig! What sacrilege! Loved Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen too. Clearly our generation.

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    1. Not their thing, but I love Joni, still do (and Leonard of course). I feel bad now about putting them off, but it did pass the many, many hours I spent on the school run! My middle son is getting into Leonard Cohen now, so some things cross the generation line which is wonderful and keeps some amazing music alive. Thanks for dropping by, Elizabeth.

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  8. Love, love and have always loved Leonard Cohen. The Great Dane and I had one of our first dates in 1973 at Queen's University in Kingston - Leonard Cohen in a class room - we two, not 10 feet from him where he sat on a folding chair and sang every song we could think of. I'll never forget it. I can't believe I haven't told you this - but perhaps I have if you have written about our love for Leonard before.

    Last week we saw the musical "Chelsea Hotel" here in Victoria. It was wonderful, and if it ever tours, it is worth seeing. You'd have loved it.

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  9. For me, he transcends every other musician and I have only to hear his voice to stop whatever I am doing and listen to him. He is amazing, isn't he? I saw him at Leeds University in the early 70s, like you in a small room, so close, and wish I had caught him at the O2 when he was last in London.

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading his biography recently and found it very interesting and would certainly recommend it, Pondside.

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