Quantcast
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Joni's Hejira

Stranded on a desert island, I'd find relief from the blazing sun in the wintry imagery of Joni Mitchell's album Hejira. Just gazing at the black-and-white album cover would start cooling me down: Joni in a fur coat and beret, the Goddess of Wanderlust, floating above an iced-over lake skirted by snow-dusted trees. Hejira would also bring to mind the dead of winter because that's the time of year I first listened to it, on a snowy day in 1976, soon after the album was released. I was 15 and had gotten it as a Christmas present. With four older sisters who adored Joni Mitchell, I'd heard all of her previous eight albums endlessly, and I loved them. But those were records of the past, Joni's hippie-chick past, and, physically, the LPs betrayed their age in pops and scratches and skips. With Hejira, however, I met Joni in present tense. The vinyl was pristine. And when I put needle to record, she didn't even sing at first. Instead, she spoke the opening line of the first song: "No regrets," Joni said.

She sounded unlike anyone I'd heard before. For myself, raised in a strict Catholic household where the six Hayes children were constantly saying, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry," asking forgiveness at every minor slip, it was radical to hear Joni Mitchell, someone I worshipped, be so unapologetic. It was a shocking statement made more so by the insouciant way she said it, as if she'd just ambled up to the mike and announced: "OK, folks, things are going to be different from now on." She wasn't blue anymore. She wasn't writing conventional folk, pop, or rock songs. She could no longer hit the high notes (no doubt due to the "smokes" she sings about), and she didn't give a shit. It was the attitude of a bohemian romantic, someone who'd been places and done things I could only imagine. I wanted to lead a life just like hers.

I loved everything about this album, and I still do -- not only the evocative cover and Joni's smoky vocals but also its sophisticated literary quality. Hejira, named after an obscure word meaning "a journey undertaken to seek refuge," documents a solo cross-country road trip as she leaves behind a failed relationship and, along the way, does the kind of soul-searching that only comes from time spent alone. In her lyrics, at once confessional and unsentimental, Joni addresses mistakes and choices she's made and considers what the future may hold. Listening to the album, you can actually trace her journey, both deeply personal and geographic, as one hypnotic song flows into the next. Throughout the music is driven by a propulsive bass that constantly pushes the narrative -- and her travels -- forward.

Holed up in my bedroom at age 15, I would daydream of joining Joni's hejira, like the subject of the fourth song, "A Strange Boy." The only boy in my family, living in the small town of Spokane, and, as I was coming to realize, gay (though I'd never spoken of this to anyone), I was already stranded on my own personal island. But Hejira represented to me the possibility of triumphant escape. As witnessed in the album cover photo -- in which Joni's coat opens to reveal a two-lane highway -- the way out lies inside of you.

This then is the final reason I would choose Joni Mitchell's masterpiece as my "stranded" album. Just as Hejira helped me bide my time in a place where I felt stuck, it would be my soundtrack as I try to figure out some way off this damn desert island.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

"We had to get canning quickly"

In response to covid, these small brewers now offer beer in cans for the first time
Next Article

Dead Cross cover Black Flag’s “Rise Above” in solidarity with Black Lives Matter

Jonny Tarr, Dead Cross, Electric Mud, Howard Blank’s Outsiders, Trees

Stranded on a desert island, I'd find relief from the blazing sun in the wintry imagery of Joni Mitchell's album Hejira. Just gazing at the black-and-white album cover would start cooling me down: Joni in a fur coat and beret, the Goddess of Wanderlust, floating above an iced-over lake skirted by snow-dusted trees. Hejira would also bring to mind the dead of winter because that's the time of year I first listened to it, on a snowy day in 1976, soon after the album was released. I was 15 and had gotten it as a Christmas present. With four older sisters who adored Joni Mitchell, I'd heard all of her previous eight albums endlessly, and I loved them. But those were records of the past, Joni's hippie-chick past, and, physically, the LPs betrayed their age in pops and scratches and skips. With Hejira, however, I met Joni in present tense. The vinyl was pristine. And when I put needle to record, she didn't even sing at first. Instead, she spoke the opening line of the first song: "No regrets," Joni said.

She sounded unlike anyone I'd heard before. For myself, raised in a strict Catholic household where the six Hayes children were constantly saying, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry," asking forgiveness at every minor slip, it was radical to hear Joni Mitchell, someone I worshipped, be so unapologetic. It was a shocking statement made more so by the insouciant way she said it, as if she'd just ambled up to the mike and announced: "OK, folks, things are going to be different from now on." She wasn't blue anymore. She wasn't writing conventional folk, pop, or rock songs. She could no longer hit the high notes (no doubt due to the "smokes" she sings about), and she didn't give a shit. It was the attitude of a bohemian romantic, someone who'd been places and done things I could only imagine. I wanted to lead a life just like hers.

I loved everything about this album, and I still do -- not only the evocative cover and Joni's smoky vocals but also its sophisticated literary quality. Hejira, named after an obscure word meaning "a journey undertaken to seek refuge," documents a solo cross-country road trip as she leaves behind a failed relationship and, along the way, does the kind of soul-searching that only comes from time spent alone. In her lyrics, at once confessional and unsentimental, Joni addresses mistakes and choices she's made and considers what the future may hold. Listening to the album, you can actually trace her journey, both deeply personal and geographic, as one hypnotic song flows into the next. Throughout the music is driven by a propulsive bass that constantly pushes the narrative -- and her travels -- forward.

Holed up in my bedroom at age 15, I would daydream of joining Joni's hejira, like the subject of the fourth song, "A Strange Boy." The only boy in my family, living in the small town of Spokane, and, as I was coming to realize, gay (though I'd never spoken of this to anyone), I was already stranded on my own personal island. But Hejira represented to me the possibility of triumphant escape. As witnessed in the album cover photo -- in which Joni's coat opens to reveal a two-lane highway -- the way out lies inside of you.

This then is the final reason I would choose Joni Mitchell's masterpiece as my "stranded" album. Just as Hejira helped me bide my time in a place where I felt stuck, it would be my soundtrack as I try to figure out some way off this damn desert island.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

How to get to the river path from Sports Arena Boulevard

Maybe you shouldn't try
Next Article

How to get to the river path from Sports Arena Boulevard

Maybe you shouldn't try
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer News — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close