It’s hard to write about a musician that’s had such a long-lasting and multifaceted influence over my life, from when I first heard her music when I was 17, getting my hands on a CD of Blue to chancing upon a dogged-eared vinyl of my favourite album of hers, For the Roses.
Blue, the album, came in and out of my life from my late teens throughout my early twenties. I learnt how to sing, play the guitar and passably piano because of it. I was also very shy in my relationship with my music. Still, I harboured a slow-growing intensity through my connection to her music, witnessing the emotional power she held through it. I had never felt so envious, protective or inspired by someone, and it was exciting to feel all those emotions simultaneously.
It’s hard to choose one song off that album that I love most, but I feel very close to “Blue” — I just love that intro! When you look at the lyrics, she uses all these metaphors that seem so over-cooked these days. Still, because of her sincerity, seriousness, and semi-conversationalist approach, it always feels fresh and clear-eyed, unlike many other songs from that period. “Songs are like tattoos” is one of my favourite lines, especially looking at her life and the way I feel all of us who love her feel we’ve been witness to it and her emotional perceptions. I often think of her when I feel I need to open up more and remember reading that Chris Kristofferson told her to dial it down a bit when he heard the album — that she was ‘too’ vulnerable. I suppose it made him feel uncomfortable, but I think the best music does that, no? There are different kinds of discomfort, of course. Still, her music, whether you’re listening to the lyrics, the melodies, or instrumentation, feels to me like it’s always trying to break through something, get uncomfortably close and personal. It’s hard to feel that looking back on it because things just tend to become classics through time, but, in my experience, connecting to Joni and her music is something you can’t do lightly.