Library of Articles

  • Library: Articles

Joni Mitchell's 'For the Roses' is the perfect balance of love and breaking up Print-ready version

by Ray Levy Uyeda
National Catholic Reporter
September 3, 2022

Editor's note: Contributor Ray Levy Uyeda uses poetry to explore the love and ache in Joni Mitchell's 1972 album "For The Roses."

how does a breakup happen? / what is broken / split down the center / newly defined space between you and another / not the love that's broken, but everything that holds the love together: the time, the words, the attention / everything real and unholdable / unlike their body / everything you can't get back / all the wreckage /

she is in love / still / Joni Mitchell with James Taylor / as of the writing of "For The Roses" / her fifth studio album / 1972, written in the months after / you get the sense he wanted the breaking / you get the sense she didn't /

breakups are all backward / and backward looking / "Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire" / "Lesson in Survival" / "Let the Wind Carry Me" / "Electricity" (input output electricity) / "Blonde in the Bleachers" (you can't hold the hand of a rock 'n' roll man very long)

breakups are all questioning what life looks like for that person without you / "Blonde in the Bleachers" (it seems like you've gotta give up such a piece of your soul when you give up the chase) / "See You Sometime" / "Woman of Heart and Mind" / "You Turn Me On, I'm a Radio" (I know you don't like weak women, you get bored so quick, and you don't like strong women, 'cause they're hip to your tricks)

12 songs / 12 breakups / 12 perfect songs / one breakup / the arrangements in "For The Roses" are more complex than those in her previous album / the one everyone says is her best / the one that sounds like a whisper / "Blue" / "For The Roses" has more woodwind and reed instruments, jazz melodies, interludes and a hit track

1971 / she / Joni / went away / away / away / back to the woods to read / philosophy and write / the songs for her next album / she was / down / depressed blue / in love and trying not to be /

the love is everywhere in / "For the Roses" / in the care Joni takes to describe Taylor's heroin addiction / Some turn to Jesus and some turn to heroin, Joni says / "Come with me / I know the way" / the song's siren, Lady Release, says / she says "It's down, down, down the dark ladder"

or the love in "Lesson in Survival" / with its lyrics that fall into each other / or the heavy / pauses that precede / You and me / Deep kisses / And the sun going down / later, in the second verse: I'm gonna get a boat / And we can row it / If you ever get the notion / To be needed by me and / to close / the words that comfort the breaking / I will always love you

with the breaking up / there is a wrestling with the wanting / and trying to not want / how not to want / when all you can do / is want / allows the wanting to eat within you / and there's / wanting for answers / wanting for love / or for the past to pull herself into the present / for the present not to ache so strongly / but the ache is strong / I will always love you / wanting can be / a fast way to lose yourself

or wind can bring you elsewhere / if you want / in "Let the Wind Carry Me" / she / Joni / sings And I want to settle / And raise a child up with somebody / only that the want / passes like the summer / I'm a wild seed again

did you become a lover / and how / and / where did you learn to love / from your parents / from your mother / from your father / what they did and did not do to each other / what they would not let you see / what they demanded you witness / how did you learn to talk

Joni sings through a character in / "Blonde in the Bleachers" / a figure who tapes her regrets / To the microphone stand / and sings / "You can't hold the hand / Of a rock 'n' roll man / Very long" / who is the man / who is "she" / she wants us to / Show 'em you won't expire / Not till you burn up every passion / Not even when you die / (how to be so alive that death will not come for you?)

after all / all words / in song and poetry / are just a way of making different sounds / with the body / what is the sound of breaking up /

"Woman of Heart and Mind" / she is coming out of the breakup / she is finally broken / enough / to see things / her past / her self / clearly / you don't even try / Joni sings / to us

Copyright protected material on this website is used in accordance with 'Fair Use', for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis, and will be removed at the request of the copyright owner(s). Please read Notice and Procedure for Making Claims of Copyright Infringement.

Added to Library on September 4, 2022. (545)

Comments:

Comment using your Facebook profile, or by registering at this site.

You must be registered and log in to add a permanently indexed comment.