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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


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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