Joni Mitchell Jacoba Atlas - Essay

Jacoba Atlas

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Joni Mitchell is a poet whose time has come. Because she uses the vehicle of music, her words and thoughts reach out to countless minds. With Joni, there is no restriction of reading or schooling; she sings her poetry and brings it to the people…. Joni has emerged as a major force in music. Her songs, once the exclusive property of a few, have become the catchword of many….

Her songs are reflections of a very feminine way of looking at life. All too seldom in music, and indeed in any art form, is the female view of the world set down. Joni does just that.

One critic suggested that women think in a complicated manner and speak in simple terms. This could certainly be said of Joni's material; but her simplicity reveals a sensitivity and awareness that few composers possess today. With phrases like "know that I will know you" and "while she's so busy being free," we are given an entire picture of a woman's mind and heart at work….

Like many poets, Joni insists that her lyrics be worked over until every word is absolutely necessary and cannot be altered….

Her ability to understand and transform has made her almost a legend…. Critics and listeners alike rhapsodise over her songs and her psyche. She is fulfilling something of a "goddess" need in American rock, a woman who is more than a woman; a poet who expresses a full range of emotions without embarrassment.

Her legend is beginning to obscure her work; because she is virtually without competition … she is without comparison. Her work for now, goes almost totally without question, without debate.

Jacoba Atlas, "Joni: Let's Make Life More Romantic," in Melody Maker (© IPC Business Press Ltd.), June 20, 1970; p. 24.