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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

 
The best Blue America contest ever featuring Joni Mitchell, Lee Rogers and a poet philosopher named Alan Grayson

Guest post by Howie Klein


This week, we're pushing against the Fox and Koch smear campaign directed at Orlando progressive Congressman Alan Grayson. What we're doing this week, is giving away 4 Joni Mitchell 18" x 24" art prints-- images she painted for her albums-- one print each to four people who contribute to Alan Grayson and Lee Rogers. Alan asked that we help Lee's campaign as well. The basic rules are the same as always: just contribute any amount to Alan and Lee on this special Joni Mitchell page-- or, if you're strapped for cash and want a chance to win, send us a post card telling us so at P.O. Box 27201, Los Angeles, CA 90027. Everyone has a lot better chance to win one of the rare, collectible Joni prints-- four times better-- that have never been offered for sale for any amount of money.

Since you're already on this mailing list, you probably already know why we think Alan Grayson is the most essential-- the best-- Member of Congress. But what you probably do not know is why Alan Grayson counts himself among the world's most devoted admirers of Joni Mitchell's work. He picked the prize and this little essay he wrote will help you understand why:

170 Beautiful Words
by Alan Grayson


Howie Klein asked me to explain to his Blue America audience my fondness for Joni Mitchell songs. I decided to explain by example. Here are the lyrics-- just 170 words-- for one of Joni’s less famous songs, “For Free,” from her album Ladies of the Canyon (1970):

I slept last night in a good hotel.
I went shopping today for jewels.
The wind rushed around in the dirty town,
And the children let out from the schools.
I was standing on a noisy corner, waiting for the walking green.
Across the street he stood, and he played real good,
On his clarinet, for free.

Now me, I play for fortune, and those velvet curtain calls.
I've got a black limousine and two gentlemen, escorting me to the halls.
And I play if you have the money, or if you're a friend to me.
But the one man band, by the quick lunch stand,
He was playing real good. For free.

Nobody stopped to hear him, though he played so sweet and high.
They knew he had never been on their TV’s, so they passed his music by.
I meant to go over and ask for a song, maybe put on a harmony.
I heard his refrain, as the signal changed.
He was playing real good. For free.


Here are some reasons why I love this song, all 170 words of it:

(1) I can see it. I can picture Joni Mitchell standing on that noisy corner, waiting for the walking green.

(2) With just a few images-- “hotel,” “jewels,” “limousine,” “escorts”-- Joni paints the enormous perks of success, matter-of-factly, without bragging.

(3) With one single sentence, Joni succinctly draws the Venn diagram of everyday life for the today’s successful people-- “I’ll play if you have the money, or if you’re a friend to me.”

(4) Joni concedes that success, including her success, is not always deserved, nor is anonymity. “They knew he had never been on their TV’s, so they passed his music by.” Fame begets fame, with or without talent. (If you don’t believe Joni on this, then ask Kim Kardashian.)

(5) A random meeting, a chance encounter. You notice something beautiful that other people seem to be overlooking. A man playing the clarinet. A pretty cloud in the sky. A clever bumper sticker on a car. The lines in your own palm. Are you open to that, or are you just too busy?

(6) I wonder what happened at the end. Did Joni ask him for a song? Did they put on a harmony? I’m not sure, but I don’t think so, because those would have been forms of payment, and he was playing real good-- for free. But as I said, I’m not sure what happened at the end-- and I really would love to know.

Well, my exegesis on the song is now considerably longer than the song itself, so I’ll stop. But here’s the thing-- all of Joni Mitchell’s songs are like this. Dense. Poetic. Brimming with deep and yet casual insights into the way people are. And that’s putting aside the gorgeous musical compositions, and Joni’s surreal voice.

What is the meaning of life? I’m not sure, but I sense that it’s somewhere in there, suffusing the songs of Joni Mitchell.
Again, here's where you can support Alan Grayson and Lee Rogers and enter to win one of the 4 Joni Mitchell prints.

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