Music that means something – Day 5 – Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell wasn’t at Woodstock and neither was I. She missed it because of a TV appearance, I missed it by being born about a decade too late and on the wrong continent. But I remember vividly watching it on the news and realising, without understanding, that somehow, I was watching the world change.

Those changes were echoed in the charts. Dinner-suited crooners shared the airwaves with long hair, flowers and psychedelia. There is always a constant shift from past to present going on, but usually they slide into each other quietly… I wonder if there was ever a time when the contrast was so stark? It was, said the songs, because …

When the moon is in the Seventh House
And Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars
This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius

I had to ask about that one and my grandfather sighed, sat me down and explained the Precession of the Equinoxes… my first lesson in astrology.

Joni Mitchell wrote Woodstock immediately after the event that she had missed, somehow capturing the spirit of the shifting times. She sang it at Big Sur a few weeks later. It was recorded by her friends, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, but made its real impact on the charts a year later when it was released by Matthews Southern Comfort. This version, although with its corners smoothed for popular consumption, is probably the one those of us around at the time remember best.

It wasn’t the music that got me though, it was the lyrics. Bombers turning into butterflies is a wish we might still have, nearly half a century later. But three words were the eye-opener for me. We are stardust. Such a simple phrase, yet the abstract images it conjured in my young mind still remain. After all the years of Sunday school and the obligatory religious observance of ‘assembly’ every morning in school, it was this one phrase that brought home to me the realisation that we are born beyond the stars…

It was the first time I heard anyone outside of organised religion singing about the soul and its journey…and in a way that made sense to me. The song might use Christian imagery, but it never struck me as a Christian song. It seemed to go beyond such appropriation of divinity and touch something wider and vaster …and that was our home, both the ‘garden’ and the ‘star’ from whence we had come.

It is odd, really. Popular music, perhaps especially in the wake of rock ‘n’ roll, has often been blamed for turning youth away from God. Yet it was, at least in part, through the ideas that arose from this one song that I found mine.

I came upon a child of God
He was walking along the road
When I asked him where are you going
This he told me.

I’m going down to Yasgurs farm
Think I’ll join a rock and roll band
I’ll camp out on the land
I’ll try to set my soul free.

We are stardust, we are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.
Then can I walk beside you
I have come here to lose the smog

And I feel just like a cog in something turning.
Well maybe its the time of year
Or maybe its the time of man
And I don’t know who I am

But lifes for learning.
We are stardust, we are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.
By the time I got to Woodstock

They were half a million strong
Everywhere there were songs and celebration
And I dreamed I saw the bombers
Riding shotgun in the sky
Turning into butterflies
Above our nation.

We are stardust, we are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.
We are stardust, we are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.
We are stardust, we are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.

Joni’s live version at Big Sur, just weeks after Woodstock, and the Matthews Southern Comfort version the following year. Take your pick…I love them both.

My very real thanks go to Willow for including me in this challenge that made me think, far more than I expected, to find five of the very many songs that I love and which hold meaning for me.

The rules of the challenge:

Post a song a day for five consecutive days.
Post what the lyrics mean to you.  (Optional)
Post the name of the song and a video.
Nominate 1 or 2 bloggers each day of the challenge.

Today, I’ll ask Alienora if she would care to join in. 🙂

About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She has written a number of books, both alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at scvincent.com and on Twitter @SCVincent Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email: findme@scvincent.com
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50 Responses to Music that means something – Day 5 – Joni Mitchell

  1. Pingback: Sue Vincent Music that means something | Rose English UK

  2. alienorajt says:

    Love it, Sue – and, yes please! xxx

    Like

  3. Ritu says:

    Wonderful choice and end to the challenge Sue!

    Like

  4. davidprosser says:

    Ouch at the ‘Born a decade too late’ Sue, great reminder thanks. Brilliant choice whoever sang it but my vote goes to Joni for writing it too. You’re not putting a foot wrong with your ‘Pick of the Pops’.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

    Like

  5. willowdot21 says:

    I can empathise with everything thing you have said here Sue, like you I was born on the wrong continent, I would of been 16yrs in 1969. I remember the cultural upheaval it made and I loved it. I love the Joni Mitchell version of Woodstock it is so pure and beautiful. When I hear it I wonder where I would of been if I had followed my dreams. Ah! But I was already engaged and my life path was set. 💜

    Like

  6. memadtwo says:

    I was playing Joni’s CD with “Woodstock” and it was the only time I remember my daughter coming into my work room and demanding to know who was singing. Still gives me shivers. (K)

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  7. Joni’s writing and her live rendition…priceless, bombers into butterflies. I could have been there, I was a few hours away. But I was caught up in one of those cogs she speaks of…working in a factory that made hand grenades for Vietnam soldiers. I was poor, broke and saving for college, but the irony was never lost on me.
    Your 5 music choices evoked so many memories for me…a soundtrack of my youth. Thanks for that.

    Like

  8. trentpmcd says:

    We are stardust, literally – every atom in our bodies was created by a supernova… and, of course figuratively, our destinies above the Earth. I know the CSNY version best (I used to play it a lot as a teen and twenty-something) and love Joni Mitchell’s versions, but I have never heard Matthews Southern Comfort version. Maybe I was too young when it came out? Don’t know.

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  9. Jennie says:

    I love this post, Sue. Takes me right back, as if were just a few years ago. I had the pleasure of sharing my old and beloved record albums with our children. Kind of like passing the torch.

    Like

  10. dgkaye says:

    Another great choice Sue. Ironically, the planets are working now as we enter the age of Aquarius – the new age. Old always becomes new. ❤ 🙂

    Like

  11. Oh, this brought back some memories and made me think. I always remember,

    ” Don’t it always seem to go
    That you don’t know what you’ve got
    Till it’s gone”

    she was so reflective and thought provoking

    Like

  12. Lyn Horner says:

    Reblogged this on Lyn Horner's Corner and commented:
    About a time and a song I remember fondly.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. adeleulnais says:

    wow, I’d never heard of this but I love the lyrics, beautiful just amazing. xx

    Like

  14. Lyn Horner says:

    One of my favorite songs from the flower power era. I love Joni’s version best. As someone else said, it’s so pure. It enthralls me every time I hear it. Thanks for reminding me of a time when hope still lived, despite a terrible war, flag burning and all the rest we witnessed constantly on the news.

    Like

    • Sue Vincent says:

      I firmly believe that hope will live as long as humanity itself, Lyn… but there was an energy then to ‘do something’ about the dark times that we somehow seem to be lacking at the moment.

      Like

  15. A really great singer and that was one of her best. She still sings, though not on stage. And she writes.

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  16. paulandruss says:

    What a beautiful choice Sue. and I loved the reference to Hair’s Aquarius too – first musical I ever saw when I was a youngster… my parents would have choked if they knew what it was about!

    Like

  17. Widdershins says:

    Wrong continent and a decade too short here too … but I would’a loved it! 😀

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  18. I had heard this song before, but never knew that Joni Mitchell wrote it, nor the significance fo the lyrics 🙂

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  19. I didn’t know this was written by Joni Mitchell and, having listened to both versions now, I’ll stick with Matthews Southern Comfort – it feels more melodic, even if they do look as if they’re ready to nod off! Good choice, though – and not an obvious one.

    Like

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