I wish I had a river
I could skate away on…
Bows and flow of angel hair
Ice cream castles in the air
Feathered canyons everywhere
Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As every fairytale comes real
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
Tears and fears and feeling proud
Say it loud! Right out loud…?
Oh, songs are like tattoos you know
They’ve been to sea before
Been away to war
They crown and anchor me
Oh, let me sail away
Blue, here is a song for you
Ink on a pin
Underneath the skin
There’s always one more space to fill in
Like holy wine
Blue, here is a shell for you
Inside you'll hear a sigh
A foggy lullaby
Another shell for you
Inside you'll hear a cry
Teach my feet to fly
There is a song for me
Round and round
And the seasons go round and round
Yesterday a child came out to wonder
Fearful when the sky was full of thunder
He skated over frozen streams
And promises of "someday" make his dreams
Oh, a child’s dream, those old dreams lose some grandeur coming true
Well, everybody's saying that hell's the hippest way to go
But I don't think so
I took a look around it though
Acid, booze, and ass
Needles, guns, and grass
Lots of laugh
I remember that time you said
You said, "Love is touching souls"
Surely you touched mine
'Cause part of you pours out of me
In these lines from time to time…
Teach my feet to fly
- lyrics by Joni Mitchell, rearranged and edited
Song Notes: I consider Joni Mitchell's Blue (1971) to be one of the greatest albums ever made. Every song a gem, weaving into an astounding whole. Plus, it came out at the most impressionable stages of my life. I had previously arranged "Blue" as a jazz instrumental duet for piano and sax. Several of those passages were addapted to this sung version. The intro bass line is a swung version of the original bass line Joni uses on her version.
I didn't learn until decades later that Joni was singing about James Tayler in this song (and many others on Blue). It altered how I look at the album, how I looked at many of her songs. I thought back to James Taylor singing along with the backing chorus on "Circle Game" (Ladies of the Canyon, 1970). Naturally, I started singing some of those lyrics as I was arranging this tune. That's how the idea of dropping in lyrics from through Joni's early works was born.
You will find quotes from "Circle Game" as well as "River" (Blue), "Both Sides Now" (Clouds, 1969) and "A Case Of You" (Blue), woven into the basic structure of "Blue" (Blue). Some of the lyrics aren't exactly right, but that is how I've been singing them for years and just realized while I looked up the lyrics for this project, after recording. Oh well.
The music is haunting, vaguely jazzy, full of cyclical sadness and rebirth, with an overall sense of overcoming and hope. Just like Joni's lyrics.
Please watch the video (above). It is illustrated by tattoos, each chosen to accentuate a particular lyric.
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