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Management Expert Sydney Finkelstein on Joni Mitchell’s ‘All I Want’ Print-ready version

Why he gave two women the same album, ‘Blue’

by Marc Myers
Wall Street Journal
September 27, 2016

Joni Mitchell in 1968 PHOTO: JACK ROBINSON/HULTON ARCHIVE/GETTY IMAGES

Sydney Finkelstein, 58, is the Steven Roth Professor of Management at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. He is the author of "Superbosses" (Portfolio/Penguin). He spoke with Marc Myers.

My older brother, Simon, and I shared a room growing up in Montreal. Simon is 11 years older than me, and in the early 1970s he had quite a few albums by female singer-songwriters. One of my favorite songs was Joni Mitchell's "All I Want," which opens her 1971 album "Blue."

Hearing records then by artists such as Carole King, Linda Ronstadt and Joni taught me quite a bit about women before I knew much about them. And unlike many rock artists, their voices tended to be crystal clear, allowing you to appreciate their lyrics.

In 1980, when I was 22, I left Montreal to attend the London School of Economics for a year. As I boarded the plane, "All I Want" was in my head: "I am on a lonely road and I am traveling / Traveling, traveling, traveling / Looking for something, what can it be."

I wasn't thinking about school as much as the experience of living in Europe and having a chance to travel. My eyes were open to new things, and I was looking forward to seeing what I could do when completely unfettered.

In London, I lived at a boarding house run by an older English woman. I bought "Blue" and listened to "All I Want" when she wasn't around. She didn't care much for the album.

Soon I began to look at the song differently. I had a girlfriend for a short time and introduced her to "All I Want." Her reaction was that it was both beautiful and sad, which was accurate: "Do you see, do you see, do you see how you hurt me baby / So I hurt you too / Then we both get so blue." Months later, before she left for Italy, I gave her a copy of the album.

Back in the States, I gave "Blue" to my new girlfriend, Gloria - the woman I'm married to today.

I'm not sure why I gave "Blue" as a gift. I think I wanted the women I knew to truly know me. I'm still like this today - forever searching and grateful to be alive. I sing the first line of "All I Want" to myself almost every day.

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