On August 6th of this year, I came home on a rainy early evening from work to a message from my sister that our middle school music teacher had passed away. I was shocked. It didn’t seem plausible, the man was only a few years older than my mom, in relatively good health, and as far as I could remember had no underlying conditions. Upon reading his obituary, I discovered it was labelled as a peaceful passing, which made me feel a bit less morose. However, my heart was overflowing with sadness as I put on some music and crumpled in the shower, softly crying. There are people lucky enough in this world to have been changed and touched by the ones charged with their care and mind molding as adolescents; our teachers. I decided that this month I would dedicate my Femme Pick to Mr. David Beaverson, the man who taught me how to play the flute, loved jazz, made us watch The Grapes of Wrath at least ten times a year, and who loved Joni Mitchell. I hope you can see this, Beav, because this one’s for you.
Upon deciding this month’s Femme Pick I was immediately dismayed when I discovered that not only did I not own any Joni Mitchell on vinyl, but I could only really think of one song that I knew by name that was hers. That song being “Refuge of the Roads“, which to this day is quite possibly the only tune I can pathetically pipe out from a flute. I think I didn’t own any of Joni’s albums because she wasn’t much played in my household growing up, and if she was, it was before my time or when I wasn’t around. Regardless, I had to procure at least one of her albums, so I set off on an adventure to find the one album I knew the name of, Hejira.
Now the main reason I purposefully wanted to feature that particular album was because of that one song that holds immense sentimental value. Sadly, I could not find it in my crate diving endeavours.
I did happen to come across upon a copy of Dog Eat Dog and I was immediately intrigued. When I think of Joni Mitchell, I don’t particularly imagine her like she appears on the cover of this album. My brain didn’t know what to think, and I wondered if maybe I had accidentally picked up a Madonna album instead. Yet there was her name, clear as day. I decided right then and there: that was going to be my pick for this month and I regret nothing.
I have to come and see you
Maybe once or twice a year
I think nothing would suit me better
Than some downtown atmosphere
In the dance halls and the galleries
Or betting in the OTB
Synchronized like magic
Good friends, you and me
That is the first verse to the opening song of the album; “Good Friends.” I bounced up and down with excitement when I heard this, because I actually DID know this song. I had heard it so many times in my life but I suppose I never really connected it to Joni Mitchell or maybe no one ever told me it was her. It is always exciting when you find you know more about something than you thought you did. I listened to the rest of the album with great interest and my final verdict was that I was probably going to listen to this at least twice a week now. I absolutely adore this album.
While I didn’t do the album I initially wanted to, I believe Mr. Beaverson would appreciate and approve of this pick. You could always tell when he was in the music suite in my middle school, because you would hear music echoing through the halls, music that more often than not was Joni Mitchell. I will forever associate her with positive and happy memories of this amazing and joyously soulful man, whom I shared a love of classical novels with and who also taught my sister how to waltz.
Whilst “Good Friends” was the only song on the album I recognized, a few of my personal favorites include:
- “Tax Free”
- “Impossible Dreamer”
- “The Three Great Stimulants”
This album gave me a whole new perspective on the talented and truly iconic Joni Mitchell. Truly bittersweet in the end. I know this probably is known well by a great many of my fellow vinyl junkies, but for me it was a first time experience that I will never forget. Beav left a lasting imprint on my heart and I will always do my best to carry his memory and lessons with me, though I may pass on watching The Grapes of Wrath ten times a year. This particular quote from Amanda Palmer in her book, The Art of Asking, which she uses to describe someone close to her that she lost, adequately sums up the essence of my beloved teacher, as my words are starting to falter and fail, my emotions erupting:
“He regaled me with tales from the ‘60s that made my heart ache to turn back the clock and live in a time when everybody hitchhiked and smoked hash while listening to Joni Mitchell on crackly vinyl records.”
Who exactly is Joni Mitchell? Well, Jason Ankeny described her as:
“A confessional singer/songwriter regarded as the finest of her generation, with poetic, emotional, and insightful lyrics.”
Read more about her in his biography: https://www.allmusic.com/artist/joni-mitchell-mn0000270491
Want to listen to the album? Here are some links!
Stay tuned for next month’s showcase!
Enjoyed this album showcase? Check out the full archives of our album review series, Vinyl Femmes & RPMs, by Erin O’Dell, here: https://vinylwritermusic.com/vinyl-femmes-rpms-archives/