Ahead of the 50th anniversary of Blue, Joni Mitchell discussed her 1971 masterpiece, the album’s enduring legacy and the state of her singing voice in a rare new interview conducted by Cameron Crowe for the Los Angeles Times.
“Like all of my albums, Blue came out of the chute with a whimper. It didn’t really take off until later. Now there’s a lot of fuss being made over it, but there wasn’t initially,” Mitchell told Crowe.
“The most feedback that I got was that I had gone too far and was exposing too much of myself. I couldn’t tell what I had created, really. The initial response I got was critical, mostly from the male singer-songwriters. It was kind of like Dylan going electric. They were afraid. Is this contagious?”
Prior to the interview, Crowe opens with an anecdote about one of “Joni’s Jams,” private, all-star jam sessions that occur occasionally at Mitchell’s Los Angeles home. At a recent gathering, Mitchell — who hasn’t perform publicly since 2013, two years before she suffered a brain aneurysm that impacted her ability to speak and walk — sang Blue’s “All I Want” alongside Brandi Carlile, one of that jam session’s guests.
“It was a fun evening,” Mitchell told Crowe. “I wasn’t sure I would be able to sing. I have no soprano left, just a low alto. The spirit moved me. I forgave myself for my lack of talent.”
Elsewhere in the Los Angeles Times interview, Mitchell talked about the “real” Laurel Canyon — as opposed to the community depicted in recent documentaries — as well as recording Blue, the real-life inspiration behind the album’s “Carey,” and her breakup with Graham Nash that inspired much of the LP.
“I thought with Graham and I, our relationship was very strong. I thought that it was the last one I’d have,” Mitchell told Crowe. “And so I disappointed myself when that wasn’t so, and that’s why I was so sad at that time.”
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In May, Mitchell made a rare appearance at Clive Davis’ virtual Grammy party to talk about her early career, songwriting, and her legacy.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Blue this week, Mitchell will release her The Reprise Albums (1968-1971), the next installment of her Archives series, with this set focusing on Blue, Song to a Seagull, Clouds, and Ladies of the Canyon. The liner notes for the latest collection were penned by Carlile, while Crowe wrote the notes for the Archives series’ first volume.