Sunday, November 30, 2008

..billion year old carbon.

I haven't done one of these in a while, an age, an era - whatever, but I happened across a song that made me put my nostalgia hat on.

I'd forgotten about her. It's been a good many years since I stopped and listened. Maybe 5? I don't know. The years have started blurring into each other. I guess I'd forgotten about her in part, because she, at the time of listening to her, brought out a more introspective side of me that I have, lately, tried to muffle (as you do). I can also say with great confidence that she was never a "favourite" or a "must have" on my playlist and easy to forget. But, I do remember a phase I went through where I would only listen to her and in particular this song.

Woodstock - Joni Mitchell

You know it.
If you don't... you should. If you do, chances are you already hate it. I can see how the song would inspire an uneasy feeling. Its anguished and haunting, the vocals jarring and pitched just above the comfort level, half yodeling and backed by a lonely electric piano. It's not an easy listen, or an easy sell for that matter, and yet so many musicians have cited her as an inspiration and this song in particular as poetry. It's probably one of the most amazing pieces of music I've ever heard.

Joni Mitchell never went to Woodstock. She wrote the song after seeing the events unfolding on TV, crying and wishing was there. I love it because the song is bigger than her and bigger than music, bigger than people who made the event happen. It's a representative of something bigger than life even: Collective consciousness, universal truths, spiritual awakening, soul cleansing, hope, modern miracles, wishful thinking, longing - read into it what you will - it all applies. I think it's a powerful representation of the mentality of the era, or perhaps a projected mentality. It doesn't matter, there's a kind of truth to it that goes beyond the words.

I originally found the song sometime in the mid-90s, in an old documentary I've since watched too many times to count Message to Love: The Isle of Wight Festival (1970) in the UK. Joni Mitchell performs the song, amidst angry protests and shouts. The IOWF being, of course, ironically the antithesis to the Woodstock Festival. She tells the crowd to have a little respect, that they are acting like "tourists" and somehow tames them into submission. It's pretty amazing. I was mesmerised by the song and purchased the album soon after seeing her performance.

Something in the lyrics is so powerful to me. I doubt everybody at the end of the hippy decade saw a trip to Woodstock as such a journey into spiritual transcendence, however I know that there were those that did. And I, myself do see music as a spiritual or sacred experience because it gets, like nothing else can, right to the soul. But furthermore and most importantly, something about the song flips a switch in me. I understand it, without actually being able to articulate how. I get its meaning, without thinking about it. I feel it without touching. I knew this song, before I actually heard it. There's not many songs I can say that about. Or any others actually.

It's no mistake I happened upon the song today.
I think it's time to start being more aware of myself again.
...get myself back to the garden, if you will.

Woodstock - Joni Mitchell

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