A Case of You

Joni Mitchell: A Case of You

Quiz by Sharon Michiko Yoneda

artist:  Joni Mitchell

songwriter:  Joni Mitchell

date released:  1971 by Joni Mitchell

Roberta Joan Anderson, better known as Joni Mitchell, was born in Fort McLeod, Alberta in 1943.  Her mother was a teacher and her father, an officer of the Royal Canadian Air Force.  She was eleven when her family moved to Saskatchewan which Mitchell regards as her home province.

At the age of nine, Mitchell contracted polio, and in her long hours of convalescence, she developed an interest in singing.  Her first remembrance of performing in public was singing Christmas carols very loudly in the hospital ward to irritate the boy beside her.  

As a teenager, Mitchell taught herself to play the ukelele and the guitars.  These skills led her to play in coffeehouses and other venues in Saskatoon, and eventually to busk in the big city of Toronto.

Joni Mitchell achieved mainstream success during the years of 1970-1974 with her release of songs such as "Big Yellow Taxi" and "The Circle Game."  From this early start in folk music, Mitchell went on to expand her talent into the genres of rock, jazz and the visual arts.

"A Case of You" was written in the painful aftermath of Mitchell's romantic relationship with fellow Canadian artist, Leonard Cohen.  They met at a music festival in Toronto in 1967. After becoming intimately involved, they began a tutorial relationship in which Cohen became Mitchell's poetic Svengali.

The song opens with a conversation between two lovers.  The narrator's partner claims to be as constant as the northern star drawing a stiff rebuttal, "Constant in the darkness, where's that at? If you want me I'll be in the bar."  Given Cohen's longstanding reputation as a ladies' man, it was natural that Mitchell should scoff at the idea of Cohen's constancy.  Their affair lasted a few months and ended not without a little rancour.  On her next album, Clouds, Mitchell went on to portray Cohen as a manipulative collector of women.

At the end of the day Mitchell acknowledges Cohen's ongoing influence in her work in the line, "cause part of you pours out of me in these lines from time to time."  Cohen was indeed, in her blood "like holy wine": religion and sexuality were commonly entwined in Cohen's work.

Later, when Cohen was asked to choose a group of his chosen songwriters, he added Mitchell's name to the list and qualified it by saying: "Like the Talmud says, there's good wine in every generation."

Most recently, jazz luminary, Herbie Hancock released a CD called, "River:  The Joni Letters" in tribute to Joni Mitchell."

Many platinum albums, awards and accolades later, Joni Mitchell was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.  In 2002, she received the prestigious Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award which celebrated her as "as one of the most important female recording artists of the rock era."  

In Canada, Joni Mitchell was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1981 and received a star in Canada's Walk of Fame in 2001.  Her greatest honour in the country of her birth was being appointed a Companion of the Order of Canada in 2002 which is Canada's highest civilian honour.