Craig Cummings Music

Joni Mitchell – Why She Matters To Songwriters, Part IV
April 9, 2015, 9:36 am
Filed under: Musical Notes | Tags: , , ,

Craig at El Nopalito_rev

Everything comes and goes
Marked by lovers and styles of clothes
Things that you held high
And told yourself were true
Lost or changing as the days come down to you
Down to you
Constant stranger
You’re a kind person
You’re a cold person too
It’s down to you
It all comes down to you

Joni Mitchell – from Down To You

Age brings perspective, and this with this lyric, Joni brings a dose of reality and a message of encouragement. Keep in mind that this record (Court And Spark) was a huge departure from her previous 2 albums (Blue and For The Roses). While those 2 recordings were “confessional” albums that revealed Joni as a highly sensitive writer exploring the darker sides of relationships, Court and Spark was one of the first records to merge folk, jazz, and rock music while more often looking at the lighter side of life and love.

“Everything comes and goes, marked by lovers and styles of clothes. Things that you held high and told yourself were true, lost or changing as the days come down to you.” In this song, it seems that she is letting us into an internal conversation with her ego. Joni hints that she may be moving on from a more melancholy place, and trying on a more upbeat, positive approach. She admits to being a stranger…to others, to herself, or maybe both? Perhaps this stranger is her newer persona – a singer in a band, where she is just part of the show.

Great songs speak to universal truths. Listeners recognize these truths when they hear them, and they matter. They provide legitimacy to the song and help listeners relate to the message. In this song, Joni provides that universal truth – “It’s down to you,” – (i.e., it’s all up to you), that songwriters want to tell in the context of writing a memorable song. She tells listeners, its up to us – we can make the best of what life brings or we can wallow in the misery of what we lack, what we’ve lost, or what we’ve never had.

Most great songs address some universal truth…

  • ”I can’t make you love me, if you don’t.”
  • “I get by with a little help from my friends”
  • “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”
  • “God bless the child that’s got his own…”

Songwriters are always trying to find new and interesting ways to share these universal truths with listeners. Joni shows us how to do it and make listeners want to sing along. Try listening to the choruses of Both Sides Now or The Circle Game and not singing along:

I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all

Joni Mitchell – from Both Sides Now

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look
Behind from where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

Joni Mitchell — from The Circle Game


This is the last part of the series of posts discussing why Joni matters to songwriters. As I said at the outset, I could write a book. All one really has to do to know why Joni matters to songwriters is listen.

Peace And A Cold Beer,



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