I Went to Woodstock/My Joni Mitchell Obsession


So during my gorgeous trip to the Catskills (Middle-of-nowhere Pennsylvania Poconos mostly) for a family reunion last week, the fam and I took a detour to visit the site of Woodstock. [The flower power/oldies-inclined part of the family]. YES, the sacred Bethel, New York 1969 site of hippiedom, mud, rampant acid, and Jimi Hendrix. Above is a picture of myself and my lovely cousins facing the “stage”–one of my all time dream destinations and a pretty dope experience. We met this cool dude named Duke Devlin, who was our “tour guide” and a Woodstock alum himself. He even met his wife there, and apparently never left. You would “feel the vibes”, Duke positively warned us. And we sure did.

So a week after the Bethel/Woodstock pilgrimage, I find myself totally entranced by all the music of the 1969 lineup, YouTubing Santana’s tripped-out guitar spaz session, CSNY’s electrical-problem laden set…and in particular, a performer that couldn’t make it: (Joni Mitchell). My girl Joni, who I never liked due to her yodel-type tone and roller coaster vibrato, is actually a guitar-wielding goddess. Seeing as she wrote “Woodstock” about 6 months after the experience, lamenting her absence and reflecting on the cultural movement, I dove into her earlier stuff from 1968–particularly the “Song to a Seagull” record. It’s SO….calming. Spiritual and beautiful music, with mostly acoustic production and Joni’s own lyrics. She’s so for independence, too…as signified in “Cactus Tree”:

“There’s a man who sends her medals
He is bleeding from the war
There’s a jouster and a jester
And a man who owns a store
There’s a drummer and a dreamer
And you know there may be more
She will love them when she sees them
They will lose her if they follow
And she only means to please them
And her heart is full and hollow
Like a cactus tree *
While she’s so busy being free”

….WOAH. A hippie-female-independence song but also depressing at the same time–’cause as Joni explains, a lot of time our “freedom” is really a facade for our rejection of love/inability to love another person. It’s a fascinating paradox of setting ourselves free but binding ourselves at the same time. I could analyze her music forever. This is the kind of depth I’m talking about here. You can also meditate on a mountaintop to pretty much any Joni Mitchell song out there. I continue to feed my obsession ..

Sigh…I should’ve been born earlier.

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