Broaching the subject of Joni’s masterpiece “A Case of You” is pretty daunting, and I almost said no to writing about it — out of reverence for Joni and her impressive catalogue of transcendent works (and I don’t use those words lightly.) I worry that this song is moving into “Hallelujah” territory. We’ll need to call for a moratorium to save it from the same fate as Cohen’s composition — death by overplaying.
But, of course, I love this song. It belongs in the canon of Best Songs Ever Written with its soaring melody and the perfectly uttered lyrics that transport you inside her life story in a way that bestows ownership of it directly into the listeners’ possession. That’s you in the bar, that’s you doodling on a coaster, tortured by the face of a soon-to-be ex-lover. And it’s you wondering how you ever believed in love when you knew it could never be easy.
I had a life-altering experience aligned with that song while at the North Country Fair many years ago (an Alberta musician rite of passage!). It is probably too personal to share and not relevant here because I suspect that is precisely the magic of this song. Everyone has a story, a sense of memory directly connected to it. It opens a portal between you and Joni and something much greater and universal. So you feel that it is yours, and yours alone. It couldn’t possibly be as unique to other people as it is to you because it reaches inside of you and wrenches your heart, just so.
I think that’s the biggest lesson from Joni. Don’t just write or sing a pretty song. Open a portal.
Or maybe I’m wrong about all of this, but dang, that’s a pretty melody.