Tuesday, June 22, 1971

Joni Mitchell released Blue


Joni Mitchell

Released: June 22, 1971

Peak: 15 US, 3 UK, 9 CN, -- AU

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 0.6 UK

Genre: folk


Song Title [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to charts.

  1. All I Want [3:34]
  2. My Old Man [3:34]
  3. Little Green [3:27]
  4. Carey [3:02] (9/4/71, 93 US, 27 CN)
  5. Blue [3:05]
  6. California [3:51]
  7. This Flight Tonight [2:51]
  8. River [4:04]
  9. A Case of You [4:22]
  10. The Last Time I Saw Richard [4:15]

All songs written by Joni Mitchell.

Total Running Time: 36:15

The Players:

  • Joni Mithell (vocals, piano, guitar, Appalachian dulcimer)
  • James Taylor (guitar on “All I Want,” “California,” “Carey,” “A Case of You”)
  • Stephen Stills (bass and guitar on “Carey”)
  • Sneaky Pete Kleinow (pedal steel guitar on “California” and “This Flight Tonight”)
  • Russ Kunkel (drums on “Carey,” “California,” and “A Case of You”)


4.270 out of 5.00 (average of 26 ratings)


“The quintessential confessional singer/songwriter album” – Jason Ankeny, All Music Guide


(Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

“‘Write about what you know’ is advice few have followed as thoroughly as Mitchell did on this set of laments” BL in which she “exposes a fragile, battered heart in an exquisitely sad and lovely song cycle.” UT Joni said, “Blue is partly a diary…It’s me moving through the backdrop of our changing times.” MM-22 These were “stories of self from a time when she had no defenses at all.” MM-37 It “was about as personal as songwriting had ever been.” MM-47

“From the bare arrangements of acoustic guitar and piano with maybe a hint of dulcimer, to the lyrics – ‘All I really want our love to do/ Is to bring out the best in me/ and in you, too,’” TL her “songs are raw nerves” AMG which “paint a picture of a vulnerable and pained woman.” RV “Mitchell whittles her journal entries and melodies down with poetic economy and relies on her falsetto to add the dramatic tension.” TL

These are “tales of love and loss (two words with relative meaning here) etched with stunning complexity.” AMG She broke up with Graham Nash in 1970 and “took her damaged heart to Europe, where she wrote some sad songs, most likely for Nash, and some love songs, most likely for James Taylor,” MM-11 who she had started dating. He also plays guitar on the album.


The title cut is “a hymn to salvation supposedly penned for James Taylor.” AMG “It’s hard to think of a more emotionally naked song…where Mitchell exposes her pain like a folk-inflected Billie Holliday.” RV “For Mitchell, blue is more than an emotion or a style of music, but also the nickname given to her lover.” RV “Even tracks like All I Want, My Old Man, and Carey – the brightest, most hopeful moments on the record – are darkened by bittersweet moments of sorrow and loneliness.” AMG

”A Case of You”

“A Case of You” was written in part for Leonard Cohen, with whom Joni Mitchell had a romance before either had released an album. He is “the only songwriter other than [Bob] Dylan who Mitchell admits as an influence.” MM-97 She said, “those two are my pacesetters.” MM-97 On “her most truehearted recording” MM-103 she scoffs at Cohen’s portrayal of himself as “constant as a northern star.” MM-104 Whether or not you enjoy this album as a whole depends “entirely on your tolerance for sincerity, but even cynics concede the greatness of lines like, ‘I could drink a case of you and still be on my feet.’” TL


The “European trip…deeply resonates through Blue, and incorporated aspects of the Mediterranean into her music.” MM-85 She discussed the song “Carey” at a BBC radio concert in October 1970, saying “This instrument is an Appalachian mountain dulcimer. You can tune it any way you want to. I’m going into a tuning now that I call Matala tuning, because I found it as well as the song I’m going to play in Matala, Crete.” MM-85

”All I Want”

“All I Want” is “an aural postcard from the edge of feeling,” MM-24 featuring “more raw emotion and nerve than anything Mithcell had done before." MM-24 It “highlights Mitchell’s desire to escape loneliness in the arms of someone who loves her. Mitchell and James Taylor provide flamenco-flavored accompaniment as she describes her perfect mate: ‘I want to talk to you, I want to shampoo you, I want to renew you again and again.’” RV “you might think you hear a rhythm section. It’s actually just Mitchell alone, slapping her dulcimer’s strings in a calypso beat while a drone adds a tinge of contemplation.” MM-23


The song has practically become a Christmas standard being covered by the likes of James Taylor and Sarah McLachlan. Mitchell longs to “’quit this crazy scene’ of sunny snowless Christmastimes and skate away on the frozen river of her youth.” MM-86 She had left her native Canada in 1968 for Laurel Canyon in California at the encouragement of David Crosby.

”Little Green”

In 1965, Joni had a child with a man who flew the coop. After an agonizing six months, she decided to give the child up for adoption because she didn’t have the means to provide for her. She wrote “Little Green” in 1967 about the experience.

”The Last Time I Saw Richard”

Critics and fans alike have assumed that this is a reference to Mitchell’s first husband, Chuck Mitchell. While some lyrical details fit – like him staying in Detroit a few years after Joni left – she “never said anything about the song referring specifically to Chuck.” MM-112 She said, “It doesn’t matter who the guy is…Too much attention is put on the gossip an d not the art. It doesn’t matter who it is.” MM-112


“She was only 28 when she recorded Blue, but she shaped the songs of decades to come” RV with this “brutally bleak masterpiece.” VB It is “the quintessential confessional singer/songwriter album;” AMG it “redfined autobiographical songwriting.” MM-3 When country singer/songwriter Kris Kristofferson heard the songs, he said, “‘Joni, save something for yourself.’ It was advice she chose to ignore.” BL

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First posted 6/22/2012; last updated 2/28/2024.

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